In Australia, 1 in 3 children and over 1 million Australians have eczema. For parents with children with eczema, it may be stressful when their child starts at a new school. Not only is back-to-school season stressful enough with having to make new friends, fit in, and settle in a new environment. Unfortunately, having eczema or flare ups can make this experience more daunting by making kids feel restricted and impacted by their condition. However, by being proactive, you can prepare your child for school and reduce some of the stress usually involved!
Talk To The School
It’s important to talk to your child’s teacher about eczema, and discuss options for decreasing the chance of flare ups while your child is at school. It would also be a good idea to provide the school with a list of your child’s eczema triggers and allergies; and offer suggestions as to how they can avoid exposure to these triggers.
Educating school staff and providing information in advance is key. For example, the child may have sleep issues from itching all throughout the night, which could be misunderstood as absences or tardiness if not properly addressed. Additionally, teachers staff at school should be aware of all prescribed medicines and the possible side effects.
If your child is scratching at home, you should ask school staff to encourage their child to rub or pinch their skin instead of scratching, to avoid damaging the skin and increasing the likelihood of infection. Parents should also give helpful advice for providing relief for kids itchy skin - such as applying cream or a cool washcloth to the itchy skin or drinking cold water.
Teach Your Child To Be Self-Sufficient
The best way to prepare your child for school is to demonstrate to them early on how to keep their skin clean, moisturised and medicated. They should be well educated about what eczema is, and how to identify their triggers. This may include:
- Soap and water
- Sweat - taking a few precautions during playground and PE time such as taking breaks to prevent overheating, showering off sweat if possible, and applying eczema friendly cream to the skin post-shower
- Temperature -for example, sitting near a draughty room or near a radiator or near window that hits the sun
- Wet and messy play - Eczema may be triggered by sand, paint, clay and other craft items, therefore wearing gloves before messy or wet activities would be helpful in minimising flare ups
A method to help your child become more self-sufficient is to put together an eczema self relief kit to keep in the classroom; with a few essential items including:
- Gloves (for handling materials that may irritate skin)
- C+ Cream
- Bath and Body Oil
- SunClear Sunscreen
- Antibiotic ointment
- Mild cleanser (if your child cannot tolerate the hand soap in school bathrooms)
- Alcohol-free hand sanitizer
- Adhesive bandages
- Gauze pads
- Spare bandages
- Protective clothing
- Written instructions on medications your child may be taking at school, triggers to avoid, limitations or special precautions on activities such as sports
Depending on the age, you should teach your child to apply their own creams and oils by themselves, or with the assistance of school staff. Also! Make sure you’ve applied enough cream before sending them off to school every morning so their skin is well hydrated.
Be Prepared For Possible Social Issues
It is common for children with eczema to experience disrupted sleep, which can lead to daytime irritability, inattention and moodiness. This may result in conflict socially with pupils and school staff. Also teasing and bullying is a possibility from children with eczema being singled out because of the visibility of their condition. This can negatively impact on a child’s self-consciousness, self-esteem and self-image, as well as increase their anxiety levels and willingness to take part in social settings. Therefore it’s important to encourage your child to communicate and express their experiences and feelings with you and establish healthy coping mechanisms. Parents should ask their children directly if they are being teased, bullied, excluded or hurt by others. Children often don’t often report bullying, unless they are directly asked. If you find it difficult to approach your child and create an open space for communication, it may be helpful to receive guidance from a qualified counselor or therapist.
NEA’sEczema: Tools for School Guides provide information and advice to foster a positive experience for children with eczema, including strategies for raising disease awareness in class, recommendations for building an eczema school care kit and a list of books and movies aimed at raising self-esteem, promoting positive thinking and encouraging understanding of people who are different. An educator guide also offers a useful work page for teachers and parents to develop an action plan to support the student with eczema at school.