I used to love summer. That was before I had a child with eczema. Suddenly I came to dread the summer months, as instead of improving Miss T’s skin (as everyone was sure it would) it became much worse in the warm weather and she would be constantly covered in eczema and hives.
The heat can make our children incredibly itchy and it’s often a real challenge to keep them cool. Although for many eczema sufferers sunshine improves their skin, for some the sun means big flare ups and itchy nights with little to no sleep at all. Children with eczema tend to be warmer than the average child. It’s as if their body’s thermostat is set slightly higher than normal and so keeping them cool is really important in trying to break the itch-scratch cycle.
We often get asked by parents how to keep their children cool in the summer months. Here are some of our suggestions, along with some innovative ideas that parents have suggested to us.
When the sun came out Miss T was desperate to run around with the other children outside. Bare legs were an absolute no-no as it would be only minutes before she had scratched them until they bled. Very lightweight pure cotton leggings and long sleeved tees really helped and meant that she could still wear pretty dresses and skirts over the top. Out of desperation for something pretty for her to wear, we also designed these lightweight ninja trousers.
The buttons on the cuffs were to try to limit her legs exposure to grass pollen and also to stop her being able to pull them up and scratch behind her knees!
We’ve always kept our emollients in the fridge during the summer months as applying a chilled cream can really help to soothe the maddening itch. One mum actually applies cream to the inside of her little ones pyjamas and then puts them in the fridge (inside a sealed bag) to help cool him down at bedtime.
Wet Wrap Therapy
Using Wet Wrap Therapy is a fantastic (and far easier) way to keep an itchy child cool at night and also a great way to add moisture back into their skin. First bathe the child to soak their skin and then pat dry and apply a heavy layer of cream or balm. Next dress your child with a damp layer of bandages or wet wrap suit and then add a light, dry layer of clothes over the top. As the water evaporates it has a cooling effect which can really help to relieve the itching.
With the warmer weather comes the added irritant of increased pollen levels. Try not to let your child play in freshly mown grass and keep their skin covered in a light material at all times. Pure cotton or bamboo fabrics allow the skin to breathe and are much less irritating than man-made fabrics. If pollen is a known trigger for your child then it’s worth considering drying washing inside, away from airborne pollen that can attach itself to clothes. Unfortunately dust mites also thrive in warm weather so washing bedding and sofa covers more frequently can really help too.
Splashing around in a paddling pool is a rite of passage for most children. However it can be far more challenging when your child has eczema. We would apply moisturizer an hour before we went out, followed at least half an hour later by sun tan lotion. As soon as we got home we would have to bath Miss T and reapply all of her creams. We found that Green People’s Organic Children’s sun tan cream is the only one that didn’t irritate her skin, but a lot of parents also swear by Sunsense Ultra.
A few years down the line and we are coping far better in the hot weather, although we still get flare ups, and a high pollen count is also a trigger for frenzied itching. Probably one of my most memorable summer days was the first time Miss T went out with bare arms and legs – such a simple thing for most children – but a turning point in her eczema and so a very special day for us.
For more tips on helping with eczema take a look at our Top Ten Tips.