Marked -- that's how kids with eczema feel. Sitting in a classroom while being stared at, feeling ostracized by fellow classmates or being picked on by bullies can be very rough. On top of all the social worries, the student feels lousy because everything itches. It's not easy being a child with eczema.
Eczema is a broad term for several skin conditions (dermatitis). Symptoms include red, crusty and itchy skin, and the discomfort caused by itching can make it difficult to sit still in class. Topical corticosteroids and antibiotics are often prescribed. Triggers can be everyday allergens, as well as perspiration, heat, certain fabrics and stress. Many children who suffer with eczema have asthma or have a family history of asthma. Fortunately, many children who develop eczema grow out of it by kindergarten. And even if your child doesn't fully grow out of eczema, it can be managed.
Teach your child about avoiding triggers that could cause a flare-up. Help teach your child how to take deep, slow breaths as a relaxation technique if feeling stressed, as an example, when the teacher throws a pop quiz. The competition of school sporting events as well as the heat and sweat of exercise can also bring on an eczema episode.
Parents should meet with their child's teacher and other school personnel to make sure that they are informed and to discuss ways to help the student get through the school day. Young children may need assistance to use topical medications to stop the itch. An older child can learn to use these creams by him or herself but often will need a private setting to take care of this. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 encourages schools to make accommodations for people with disabilities or other conditions that might affect their participation, and for teachers, parents and staff to become part of the support team.
There is a terrific booklet from the National Eczema Society that helps teachers and parents educate staff and schoolchildren about the condition, it is available for free download at https://www.eczema.org/eczema-at-school. It covers why schools need to know about eczema, possible triggers, dealing with the itching, treatments, emotional effects, checklists and classroom activities. When teachers and parents unite, it is easier to make the child's school years enriching and fulfilling.
Other suggestions for the classroom include allowing a student to wear special gloves when painting to avoid skin irritation, letting the student cool off or avoiding some activities in gym class, or taking extra care in the lunchroom so that the child does not come in contact with potentially serious food allergens. Parents are advised to pack their child's school lunch and arrange for the student to store his lunch in an available refrigerator.
Packing an "eczema kit" for school can help in making sure that your child is taken care of promptly and that any disruption to the school day is minimal. The kit should include a fact sheet about eczema, moisturizing creams, hand sanitizer (alcohol-free), gauze pads and adhesive bandages along with anything else you might use for an eczema flare-up at home. The kit should remain with the teacher or the school nurse. If your child suffers from severe allergies, speak to your pediatrician about EpiPen or generic equivalents and leaving one in the school kit.
Educating classmates can help make life a lot easier for the child who suffers with eczema (or other skin conditions). Consider working with teachers on adding educational books that can be read as part of classroom storytime. There are books for young kindergarteners, as well as for older children. "Emmy's Eczema," by Jack Hughes, is for young children. Emmy is a dinosaur with itchy skin. "Camille's Itchy Twitchy Eczema," by Candis Butler, is recommended for older children. (This also addresses bullying.) And "Can I Tell You About Eczema?", by Julie Collier, is for those in fourth grade or older. It is a factual and personal account of living with eczema.