It’s excruciating to watch your little one struggle with eczema. It affects her mood, her sleep, her quality of life—that’s a lot for a little person to deal with. Thankfully, there are ways you can help to improve her symptoms—and her life—during a flare-up. Read on to learn about tips and natural products that can soothe your child’s eczema. (Psst—they’re helpful for any child with sensitive skin, not just one with eczema!)
Eczema - the basics
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can occur in babies, kids, teens and adults. A simple way to describe it is to say it’s a compromised skin barrier: the skin can’t keep moisture in or irritants out. Children develop eczema due to a combination of inherited genes and environmental triggers. The affected areas of their skin become dry, itchy, red, raised and inflamed.
If you’ve seen your child scratch himself until he bleeds, you know how uncomfortable and painful eczema is for him. So let’s look at the options among natural treatments and alternative therapies that can ease his symptoms.
But remember, this advice— as with any advice about your child’s health—is just that: advice, not a medical prescription. If you have any reason to suspect your child’s eczema is severe, abnormal, or infected, it’s time to see a doctor. If affected areas become bloody, wet or weepy, crusty, pus-filled, yellow or brown, alert your child’s doctor.
Eczema triggers in the home
Unfortunately, several of the environmental irritants that can trigger eczema flare-ups are common throughout most homes.
Try to limit your child’s exposure to:
- Dust, mold, pollen, animal dander, tobacco smoke
- Air fresheners, incense, candles, fragranced products
- Furniture polish, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, abrasive detergents and soaps
- Perfumes and colognes, certain skincare and hair products
- Anything that contains botanicals or essential oils, including natural products
- Upholstery, bedding and clothing made of polyester, wool, or coarsely woven materials (try cotton and other soft, natural fibers instead)
Your child’s dry skin will be grateful for a little moisture in the air throughout your home, especially during the winter. When it comes to cleaning and laundry products, those labeled “fragrance-free” and “hypoallergenic” are the gentlest on irritated skin.
Natural remedies for children with eczema
You wouldn’t normally associate acupuncture with a child, but many kids have experienced relief from their eczema symptoms thanks to the treatment. Not only has it been known to reduce itching and inflammation, but it can help a child to relax and sleep better.
Experts advise that it’s better to get your child on a wholesome, nutritious diet (and we have some advice about that here) than tinker around with his diet in search of specific food triggers. A child with eczema often has food allergies as well, but there’s no evidence that a food allergy leads to eczema or vice versa. Unless you’re certain your child has an allergy to a specific food, it’s best to avoid omitting foods or food groups from his diet. Otherwise, you could run the risk of malnutrition.
While it’s not clear how gut health and eczema are linked, it is clear that there’s a strong association between the two. Eczema is often accompanied by digestive issues. This could be because a weakened immune system causes a vulnerable skin barrier (which causes eczema) as well as a permeable gut barrier (which leads to digestive disorders).
Studies have even shown that the gut bacteria in kids affected by eczema is different than the bacteria in non-affected kids. Kids with eczema tend to have a more diverse range of gut bacteria and the types of microbes in their microbiome are typical of the strains found in adults.
Keeping your child on a vegetable-rich, gut-nourishing diet is the first step toward populating her gut with healthy, immune-boosting bacteria. The second is to get her on a child-friendly probiotic that will strengthen her overall wellbeing.
A 10-15 minute soak in a warm (not hot!) oat bath can moisturise and soothe your child’s irritated itchy skin. The lipids in oats replenish oils and reduce dryness. The beta-glucans deeply moisturise while the antioxidants calm redness and itchiness.
Fill a fine mesh bag with a large handful of oats— flakes are fine but you’ll maximise the benefits of the bath if you’re able to freshly mill whole oats in a food processor. Hang the filled bag from the bath tap so that the warm water passes through the oats. Once the bath is full, squeeze the bag to extract all of the oat tincture. Let your child relax in the milky water. It’s just as good for her nervous system as it is for her skin.
It’s important to treat your child’s skin as gently as you can. That means no scrubbing in the bath. Afterward, a gentle pat down with a towel is the best way to dry her. Apply an emollient (we recommend a few below) soon after she leaves the bath using long, sweeping motions that follow the direction of her body hair.
Aloe Vera Leaf Gel
The gel from an aloe vera leaf contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and polysaccharides which may stimulate the healing and regrowth of skin. The most beneficial time to apply aloe vera to the affected areas of your child is after his bath but before the moisturising emollient.
If you can get your hands on an aloe vera plant, all the better—the gel straight from the leaf is more potent that what comes from a tube.
And if he’s never been exposed to aloe vera before, it’s a good idea to do a patch test on a small area of his skin. Watch for an adverse reaction over the next 24 hours.
Natural products for kids with eczema and sensitive skin
1. Salcura Bioskin Junior
The Salcura Bioskin Junior range is designed to support the homeostasis—or natural balance—of your child’s skin. The line is made for kids who have very dry and sensitive skin, as well as all sorts of skin conditions, eczema included. The rescue cream specifically targets flare-ups while the conditioner, body and face wash, bath milk, and nourishing spray provide the daily nutrients your child’s skin craves.
2. Weleda for kids
Weleda makes some lovely products to use during and after bathtime to bring comfort to babies and kids with sensitive skin. The calendula range harnesses the anti-inflammatory properties of calendula oil to relieve the discomforts caused by eczema. The white mallow range brings cooling, restorative mallow to baby skin that's hypersensitive. Both lines feature nappy change creams which are a must-try for babies prone to rashes and flare-ups.
3. Pure Potions Skin Salvation Ointment
If you’re still looking for an emollient strong enough to nurture your child’s dry, irritated skin, it may be time to try Pure Potions Skin Salvation Ointment. This completely natural intensive moisturising ointment is full of nourishing oils which coat the skin and hold in water. Its formula is particularly beneficial to anyone with eczema.
4. Green People
For children who have sensitive scalps and skin but don’t necessarily need products with therapeutic benefits, Green People make gentle, natural hair products and a sun lotion that are kind to young skin.
5. Doctor Mahers Vitalize Cleansing Bar
Most soaps aggravate eczema, that’s why it’s so important to choose a cleanser that cleans but doesn’t harm. Thanks to therapeutic ingredients, the Doctor Mahers Vitalize Cleansing Bar goes one step further by helping to restore and revitalize distressed skin of all ages. Keep one on hand for all your child's bath, shower and handwashing needs.
You're doing great!
You’ve probably become frustrated by how unfair it is that your child has to deal with childhood eczema. The thing to remember is that you’re not helpless—there are actions you can take to bring her comfort and help alleviate her symptoms. And it’s so important that she sees you take responsibility for her health in helping her to form health-supportive habits now, while she’s young. It will set her up to feel empowered and to be proactive about the choices surrounding her health from now on.