You may not totally stop eczema flare-ups from occurring during vacations, but you can certainly reduce their frequency.
SHOULD your child have atopic eczema, special care and consideration must be taken whenever you plan a vacation.
There are a number of things that can be done to prevent a flare-up, and should one occur, you must be prepared beforehand to deal with it. Otherwise, you risk turning your vacation into a disaster.
Atopic eczema flare-ups may not have a clear-cut cause. Hence, it is especially important that you teach your child good skin care habits as part of their daily routine.
However, there are some additional precautions that need to be taken when you go on a family vacation. While these precautions may not totally stop eczema flare-ups, it does help reduce the severity and frequency of the flare-ups.
Atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition. If you child has atopic eczema, his skin will become itchy, reddened, cracked and dry.
While atopic eczema typically affects children, it can also continue into adulthood, or it may start later in life.
The word eczema originates from the Greek word ékzema (which is derived from ekzein, which means “to boil out”). This was how ancient physicians described any fiery pustules on the skin.
So, what can you do to prevent flare-ups during a vacation? The first thing to do is to familiarise yourself with your child’s condition in order to avoid the things that can cause a flare-up. You will need to know his sensitivities intimately if you are to avoid aggravating his condition.
Other precautions that you can take to minimise any potential flare-ups include the following:
·Choose your accommodation wisely. Avoid hotels with dusty carpets, beddings or curtains, or poorly maintained establishments.
These hotel rooms may be infested with house-dust mites that can aggravate atopic eczema.
·In hotter weather, you may find that a less greasy emollient will be better during the day as some children find a very thick greasy emollient makes them hot and itchy.
When used correctly as a daily skin care regime, emollients become effective “active” treatments. Emollient therapy is not just about products, but understanding how and when to use them.
·Ensure that your child drinks enough water. Always bring water with you to keep him hydrated.
·Bring your own towels. The towels provided by the hotel may be cleaned using harsh detergents that could potentially aggravate his sensitive skin.
·Bring your own bedding or get an anti-allergy travel bedsheet to place over the hotel’s bed. This will reduce the possibility of harsh detergents, bed mites or any other allergens irritating his sensitive skin.
·Limit baths to 10 minutes. Bring and use your own soap/cleanser as the ones provided by the hotel may not suit his sensitive skin.
·Find out what types of food are available at your destination. This is especially important if he is allergic to certain foods (e.g. shellfish, seafood, etc) as it could cause a flare-up.
·Learn more about environmental factors. It is a good idea to be aware of things like temperature and humidity. Avoid extremely dry or hot places as it could lead to a flare-up. Even exposure to air-conditioning that is too cold for comfort can make your child’s skin dry and aggravate his atopic eczema.
·Keep his skin moisturised as often as possible. Use any fragrance-free moisturiser to prevent skin irritation. Don’t be afraid to apply it liberally and to reapply as often as needed.
·Pay careful attention to your child’s skin care both before and after swimming. Chlorinated water can dry the skin and therefore, cause skin irritation. Ensure that you apply a thick layer of emollient before your child enters the pool to create a “chlorine barrier”.
After your child is done with the pool, shower him pronto to rinse off the chlorinated water and apply more emollient once you have dried him off.
·Use the right type of sunscreen. Many sun creams will irritate the skin. Reading the ingredients list on the label is essential. You need to find one that is fragrance-free, protects against UVA and UVB, and is labelled hypoallergenic and paraben-free.
Testing a sun block should be done gradually, in advance of the holiday. Try it on an area of the child’s eczema-free skin and expand the coverage area after a few hours if there’s no reaction.
Generally, an SPF 30 or over is recommended for children. Put on the emollient, and then, put on sun protection around half an hour later (but before the child goes under the sun).
Reapply the sun block every two hours. Check with your dermatologist/paediatrician on which types to use.
Managing a flare-up
A lot of skin irritation is due to undertreated eczema rather than something in the sun block or an environmental factor making it worse, so make sure you treat your child’s skin properly before you go away.
If your efforts to prevent a flare-up are unsuccessful, there are still some things you can do to mitigate the problem.
First of all, keep your child’s skin properly moisturised. This will help minimise the itch. There are many types of moisturisers, so pick one he is comfortable with.
Other things you can do to help your child manage his condition include:
·Keep eczema medication close at hand. If necessary, fill up small travel bottles with your child’s eczema medication. This way, you can easily access it in case of any flare-ups during the flight or any part of your trip.
·Apply medication whenever necessary. Always bring your child’s eczema medication with you on vacation. If you run out, make sure you know exactly what type of medication he uses so that you can get some from a nearby pharmacy.
·Use wet wraps to soothe itchy skin at night. Let him soak in a lukewarm bath for around 10 minutes, then pat dry his skin before applying some moisturiser or medication. Moisten some clean gauze bandages with water and wrap the affected area. Next, cover it with a dry bandage/towel to help seal in the moisture.
·Use a cold compress for itch relief. To make a cold compress, just use a cold and damp piece of cloth. Alternatively, you can wrap an ice pack or a cold canned/bottled drink in a soft towel.
·Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing. Pick cotton or cotton-blends, and avoid wool or other synthetic materials that could further irritate the skin.
Whether your child’s eczema flares up during your vacation is not an issue. What’s important is that you are ready for it and go for your holiday prepared, fully equipped to deal with any contingencies.
In this way, you will be able to fully enjoy your vacation.
> This article was provided in conjunction with National Eczema Awareness Month 2014, supported by a grant from A. Menarini Sdn Bhd.