I'm once again sat on the toilet trousers round my ankles and simultaneously scratching both my legs. "aagghhh that feels so good" and there is no one around to tell me to stop, BLISS. This was a typical scene for me as a kid!
The worst words a kid can hear from an adult is "STOP SCRATCHING" or even worse, them trying to hold your hands to physically stop you!
You see telling someone especially a child not to scratch isn't going to help. We know that telling someone to not do something makes them want to do it more so where does this leave your kid. Well for me I chose to hide and scratch, often I would spend a long time in the bathroom having a great leg scratch while my trousers were down! Or hiding behind sofa's or under tables doing it.
If you have ever had an itch and tried not to scratch it then multiply that feeling by 1000 and put it all over your body you might get the understanding of how impossible it is to stop. Even when we have physically broken the skin and blood is coming out the itch is still there and we will need to scratch it.
So where does this leave the parents/carers of these poor little souls who are tearing themselves apart. In a tough spot, that's where. When someone else is scratching we have the innate need to stop them because we can see that they are damaging themselves but this will only frustrate someone with an itch as intense as you get with eczema.
For a parent or carer the best thing you can do is to try and alleviate the itch with some soothing topical applications. While comforting the child so that they know that it's not their fault for wanting to scratch but that if they continue they are going to hurt themselves more. For me it always helped when I had someone around that suggested practical ways to reduce the need to itch but didn't tell me to stop scratching.
This might sound counter intuitive but I had identified at an early age who would tell me to stop so I just made sure I did my best to hide from them, I still did the scratching and caused the damage to myself though, and had no idea how to help stop the itch from occurring, which was what I really needed help with!
Kid's are resourceful, and kids with eczema need to scratch so giving them techniques to help alleviate the itch rather than continually telling them to stop scratching is going to be more helpful.
Some itch relief techniques you might find useful are:
- Pushing down on the area that itches rather than scratching it, often the itch does move but it can help sometimes.
- Mix some peppermint essential oil with some coconut oil and apply to the itchy skin, the peppermint has a cooling effect and can help to cool down the area
- Grab some basil leaves and crunch them in your hands and rub them on the area of the skin that itches. Camphor and thymol, the anti-itch compounds are found in these leaves and can help relieve the itch
- Oat or seaweed baths can help to reduce the inflammation and need to itch.
- Dead Sea Mud while messy can also be great fun for kids to slather on themselves to cool down the skin and reduce the itch (might not be much fun for you to clean up though!)
- Distraction is always a good one, if kids get bored they will often start scratching even without an itch! So talk to them, engage with them or play with them to help take their mind of it.
Most of all be understanding, deep down we don't like the pain of the result of scratching but just can't stop.