Eczema: Coping with Eczema

What is eczema (atopic dermatitis)?

Father drying son after bath Father drying son after bath

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic (long-lasting) skin condition that comes in many forms. It is also called eczema.

With eczema, the skin becomes dry very itchy and rash may appear. There are usually times when the condition is worse, and times when the condition is better. When the condition worsens, this is called a flare-up. Flare-ups often occur in the winter months when the air is drier, but it can happen any time throughout the year.

Coping as a family

The daily care routine for eczema can be very stressful to you, your child and the rest of your family. It is very important to maintain the routine and be committed to it to manage your child's eczema. The care schedule of bathing, applying medicine and moisture can be very time-intensive. This can be very stressful as there are many other things that require your time as well, such as work and family responsibilities. This may require a lot of scheduling to be able to take care of other children and meet their needs so they do not feel neglected.

Also, there can be a lot of stress that goes along with always being asked "What is wrong with your child's skin?" or "Why is your child always scratching?" These questions will often arise from family, friends and others who are in contact with your child.

Remember that you are not to blame for your child's eczema

  • Try to find ways to deal with your stress and cope. You could share the household chores with your partner, friend or relative; you could take turns taking care of your child with someone you trust; and try to find some time for yourself.
  • It may be helpful for you to explain to other people what eczema is. This may decrease the number of questions people ask. It will also help others understand some of what your child is experiencing.
  • You could contact recognized support groups in your area, such as the one organized by the Eczema Society of Canada. You can find more information in the Resources section of this page. Talking to other parents or families may be helpful as they will have similar experiences to you and understand your concern and frustrations. Make sure you ask your child's doctor about advice other parents may give you. Sometimes they do more harm than good. Your doctor can help you tell wrong from right.
  • Family counselling may be used to help the family cope. Let your family doctor know if you think you need help.
  • If you have access to people who are willing to help you, ask them. They could help you manage your time schedule and help you cope with your stressors.
  • As your child gets older, they may feel self-conscious or uncomfortable with their skin. Talk to your child about their eczema. Explain to them how important the routine and treatment are.
  • Have your child help out with their treatment. This helps give your child ownership of their condition. It also empowers your child to care for themselves more and more as they grow up. Make sure that the tasks you give your child are age-appropriate.

The role of your child's health-care professionals

Your child's health-care professionals are there to answer any questions that you may have about your child's eczema and treatment. They can also address any concerns that you may have.

  • You should take the time to discuss your child's treatment with the doctor or nurse. They will give you the information you need to know about any medicine or treatment for your child. They will also explain how to use these medicines properly, such as how to apply an ointment and where to apply it.
  • You should provide a complete medical history about your child. This should include a list of any allergies that your child and your family members may have.
  • Talk to your doctor about your routine and family structure. For example, are you a two-parent household or a single parent? Do you or your partner work? Is someone home during the day? Does your child attend school or daycare? By talking to your doctor about these things, your doctor will have a better understanding of how eczema affects your life, your child's life and your family's life.
  • It may be helpful to make a list of questions before you attend your child's next appointment. This way, you are less likely to forget when you get to the appointment.
  • Tell the doctor how often your child has flare-ups, how severe they are and how you manage them. With more information, your doctor or nurse can give you some more tips to help control the flare-ups.
  • Never make changes to your child's treatment plan without talking to the doctor first.


Key points

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a chronic skin condition that comes in many forms. There will be times when the skin is worse or better. Skin becomes dry, very itchy and a rash may appear.
  • Caring for a child with eczema can take a lot of time and can be very stressful. Use all the resources available to help you cope.
  • Your child's health care professionals are there to answer any questions and address any concerns that you may have.
  • Never make changes to your child's treatment plan without consulting the doctor.

Miriam Weinstein, MD, FRCPC

Jackie Su, RN


DermNet NZ. []. Hamilton, New Zealand: DermNet NZ; 2008