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Guidelines for Managing Eczema

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a dry skin condition. It is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes in many different forms. It is not contagious so you cannot catch it from someone else.

In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding. Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection. In severe cases, it may be helpful and reassuring for all concerned if a Care Plan is completed.

Eczema affects people of all ages but is primarily seen in children. In the UK, one in five children have eczema.

Atopic eczema is the most common form. We still do not know exactly why atopic eczema develops in some people. Research shows a combination of factors play a part including genetics (hereditary) and the environment. Atopic eczema can flare up and then calm down for a time, but the skin tends to remain dry and itchy between flare ups. The skin is dry and reddened and may be very itchy, scaly and cracked. The itchiness of eczema can be unbearable, leading to sleep loss, frustration, poor concentration, stress and depression.

There is currently no cure for eczema but maintaining a good skin care routine and learning what triggers a pupil’s eczema can help maintain the condition successfully, although there will be times when the trigger is not clear. Keeping skin moisturised using emollients (medical moisturisers) is key to managing all types of eczema with topical steroids commonly used to bring flare ups under control.

Common problems:

  • Dealing with allergies and irritants e.g. pets, dust, pollen, certain soaps and washing powders;
  • Food allergies can create problems with lunches and the cook having to monitor carefully what the child eats;
  • Needing to use a special cleaner rather than the school/setting soap, they may also need to use cotton towels as paper towels can cause a problem;
  • Changes in temperature can exacerbate the condition, getting too hot (sitting by a sunny window) or too cold (during PE in the playground);
  • Wearing woolly jumpers, school uniforms (especially if it is not cotton) and football kits can all exacerbate eczema;
  • Applying creams, a need for extra time and privacy;
  • Needing to wear bandages or cotton gloves to protect their skin;
  • If the eczema cracks they may not be able to hold a pen;
  • Eczema may become so bad that the child is in pain or is absent, due to lack of sleep, pain or hospital visits;
  • Sleep problems are very common. A nice warm cosy bed can lead to itching and therefore lack of sleep;
  • Grumpiness and lack of concentration can result due to tiredness.