Infant eczema can be incredibly common and can be difficult to manage as your baby or toddler may struggle to express how they are feeling. Behavioural expert, Lorraine Thomas, has spoken to HELLO! to share her tips on helping infants deal with the inflammatory condition. From what products to use to help keep the condition under control to implementing distraction techniques to avoid scratching, read what Lorraine has to say.
Find a Routine
"Establishing routines can take time to begin with but in the long run they are always very helpful. Routines, structure and schedules are all really important for children of all ages. If they know their eczema treatment is followed by something they love like their favourite story book, you can say 'the faster we get your treatment done, the faster we can read together!' Help your child to take the treatment in their stride – by taking it in yours. If you make it a big thing – they will too. Try to make it as natural and normal a part of their routine as cleaning their teeth or putting on their pyjamas.'"
Use Cotton Sheets
"A child with eczema can find sleeping a problem as their skin will get hotter at night so keep their bedroom cool and use cotton sheets or a light, natural fibre duvet. If they are having a bath or shower, make sure it is warm water, not hot. Apply their ointment at least 30 minutes before they get into bed to allow it time soak in to the skin. Be aware that pets can make skin conditions worse, so keep them out of the bedroom."
Implement Distraction Techniques
"At a time when you are both relaxed, create a box of ideas for things to do when they are feeling itchy. Have fun brainstorming ideas and write each one on a piece of paper – it could be playing their favourite game, drawing, making something, having a fun dance. Then when they are feeling frustrated with eczema, they can pull one of the ideas out of the box to try. It may not take the itch away, but it will be a distraction and time with mum or dad – and this may help a lot."
Re-Frame Treatment Time
"Rather than the treatment time being a negative, re-frame it for them as a time when you can really be together. Your child's bedtime routine can be a great place for them to know that they have mum or dad's full attention. It will help them feel valued and secure and a time they look forward to rather than dread. If you have a baby, enjoy the massage. If your child is older, enjoy the 1-1 time with them. Sometimes re-framing things that must happen, like mealtimes, bath times, medication – can totally change your perspective and become something you enjoy rather than a task you have to get through. If she knows you are looking forward to it, she will too."
"It can be so hard to watch your child struggle and not be able to take the problem away. What is most important for your child is to know that you are there for him/her. Step into their shoes and try to understand what they are going through and how challenging it is for them. You can't take the irritation away, but you can empathise with them. Give them kisses and cuddles and help them to feel valued and secure. The key thing for you is that you stay calm and as positive as you can – when they cannot. This will help."
Use Visualisation Techniques
"Visualisation can really help – I worked with one mum whose son had very bad eczema and it was really having an impact on family life. He created his own 'superhero' who would help him battle the eczema when it was annoying him. He drew the superhero – basing it on a rugby ball – because he loved playing it. He decided what his hero would say to him when he was cross – 'Come on keep calm, you can do it', 'Think about scoring a goal instead', 'Kick the ball hard in your mind – and send the eczema into the crowd'. When he was cross with the eczema, he closed his eyes, visualised his hero and what he would say to him. Every child will create the superhero that means something to them and this can be very powerful – helping them to keep calm, not just with medical treatments but with fear and anxiety in all walks of life."
Demonstrate a Good Reaction
"The urge to scratch can be painful and frustrating. Children's brains struggle to process negative so give them clear directions. So rather than say, 'stop scratching' or 'don't scratch you will make it worse' – show and tell them what you want them to try to do. For example, give them something that they squeeze very tightly like a sponge ball, or play a clapping game with them as this will use their hands and hopefully distract them a little from the urge to scratch."
Look for Support
"It is important to get advice and support and not feel you have to go through all of this alone. There are lots of different kinds of support available. You can take a look at the expert advice on the Cetraben website, the UK's fastest growing emollient brand. If you are worried, talk to your health visitor or GP."
Products to easily incorporate into your child's routine
- Cetraben have just launched their new Daily Cleansing Cream for eczema prone skin. Cetraben Daily Cleansing Cream is a new 2-in-1 product for use as a cleansing soap substitute therefore perfect for using whilst bathing your baby without interrupting their routine. Available from Boots and Boots Online, £7.99 for 200ml.
- The Sleepyhead: Sleepyhead gives new babies a snug place to sleep. All parents with children with eczema will know that sheets and blankets have to be constantly washed to avoid it getting worse and all parts of the Sleepyhead can be washed at 60C, so it will stay hygienic and can even be taken into the maternity ward. This amazing product is currently being used in a hospital in North London and Majella Traveller, the matron on the acute peadiatric ward says: "I cannot recommend Sleepyhead Pods enough... We care for some very unwell babies and the sleepyheads provide much needed comfort, some of them will only sleep and settle in their sleepyheads. The parents have been wowed by their comforting powers. The fact that they are machine washable, breathable and harmful substance free is amazing."
- The ErgoPouch: Not only does this product have the best swaddle which helps babies sleep better and for longer but it stops them from scratching themselves whilst sleeping. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which work with ErgoPouch say: "It is important for us to ensure our babies are cared for with the highest regard for safety. We love that the ergoCocoon is fully organic and made from only the highest quality natural fibres which ensures the babies have a fully breathable and secure cover."
- ScratchSleeves: Eczema can cause sleepless nights but the days can be equally as difficult, with baby scratching non-stop. ScratchSleeves, "the mitts that really stay on" are an excellent option for children of all ages and for day and night. The outer silk mitts protect the skin while the inner layer of soft cotton allows full movement, they enable skin to heal, and reduce irritation and infection. And only soft cotton and silk touches your child's skin, so they are extremely comfortable."