Five Tips For Kids From Kids: How to Feel Confident With Eczema in New Situations
By Steve Nelson in collaboration with Understand AD
Published On: Jan 3, 2022
Last Updated On: Jan 4, 2022
Being a kid isn’t easy: homework, chores, not enough ice cream. Add eczema into the mix and life can get even more complicated, especially when you’re headed to a new place like camp, school or sports practice.
To help our kids with eczema feel more confident, NEA partnered with Understand AD, a program supported by Sanofi and Regeneron in collaboration with the National Eczema Association (NEA), to createa new children’s book called “My Ecz-ellent Day at Camp,” which follows Taylor, a child living with eczema, who is heading off on the first day of camp. We also talked to the real experts — kids with eczema — who shared their advice on how to feel confident and stick to their skincare routines when starting new adventures.
Tip #1: Bring everything you’d normally need (even if it fills up your backpack)
In the book, on the first “ECZ-ellent” day of camp, Taylor wear a favorite outfit — a long sleeve shirt and long pants — even though it’s hot out. Taylor also pulls on the camp t-shirt over the long sleeve shirt to be most comfortable.
Cooper is a third grader with eczema who lives in New Braunfels, Texas. Whenever Cooper finds himself in a new situation, he has three things on his checklist to remember before leaving home: “My mom and dad always make sure we have lotion and gloves available,” he said. “And I bring fidgets to keep my hands busy.” For Cooper, part of the challenge is remembering not to itch his skin. The fidget (a small, handheld spinning toy) helps him keep his hands occupied — and off his itchy skin.
Sawyer is a 13-year old living in Spokane, Washington. He mentioned one thing he brings with him wherever he goes: “A positive attitude”. Sawyer believes that having a positive outlook on his eczema can help him wherever he goes.
Tip #2: Get your parents and/or caregivers involved before your first day
Before the first day in a new place, it’s helpful for parents and/or caregivers to tell the new teacher, coach or camp counselor exactly what they need to know about your eczema. Because eczema is different for everyone, be sure to tell your parents and/or caregivers what’s most important to help you stick to your eczema skincare routine. This might require parents asking to bend the rules about what the kids can bring with them into a new place.
Much like Cooper and his spinning fidget, eight-year-old Chayse Jenkins, who lives in Texarkana, Texas, needs something to keep her hands busy when she’s feeling itchy. “I play a game on my iPad,” she said. “It’s so bad sometimes, how itchy it is. ”
Because every school, camp and sports coach will have their own rules about technology, it’s important for parents and/or caregivers to plan ahead and advocate for what their kids need to manage their itchy bouts of eczema. For Sawyer, it helps to bring a handheld Xbox to distract himself when he starts feeling the pain of an eczema flare. “I wish I could describe how much it hurts,” he said.
During the first “ECZ-ellent” day of camp, Taylor’s dad helps to “come up with ways at home and at school to help make each day a little easier,” and Taylor’s dad says hello to Alex, the camp counselor. Alex knows that Taylor won’t be able to participate in certain activities, but he’s quick to help Taylor find alternative eczema-friendly games.
Because many people don’t fully understand how serious eczema can get, it’s helpful for parents to find out in advance about what their kids can or cannot bring as part of their eczema skincare routine. “My mom always talks to my teachers before school starts,” Chayse said, “so everyone understands me.”
Tip #3: Be prepared to talk about your eczema with new friends
On Taylor’s first “ECZ-ellent” day of camp, another camper named Avery notices that Taylor would rather stay inside when all the other kids are going outside to swim. Taylor explains to Avery: “Well, I have eczema and my skin gets itchy if I sweat or go swimming.” As it turns out, Avery can’t go swimming either, because she has a cast on her broken arm, so the two new friends go for a nature walk instead.
Whenever kids ask Cooper about his eczema, he tells them: “It’s not contagious and there is nothing bad about it. Eczema is a skin issue that I was born with.” Chayse said something similar about her eczema: “It’s not a disease you can catch. It’s just really itchy.”
Carina is a nine-year-old who lives in Princeton, New Jersey. “Kids’ minds work a lot differently than adults,” she said. “Whenever someone says, ‘just stop scratching, it’s really annoying because you can’t.” Carina added that she helps other kids understand how hard it is to stop scratching by explaining that it’s like trying to stop yourself from sneezing, eating or even breathing: “Your hands have their own mind, and you can’t just stop scratching.”
Tip #4: You don’t HAVE to do what everyone else is doing
The first activity of Taylor’s “ECZ-ellent” day at camp is arts and crafts. The kids all gather around the table, where the counselors spread out paint, paper, glue and colored pencils. Taylor hesitates; knowing certain types of glue can trigger the itching. Instead of following the other kids, Taylor plays with stickers and markers — two things that won’t cause itchy skin.
Isabella is a fourth grader who lives in Weston, Florida. When everyone in her class goes to the gym, she knows when it’s okay to take a break. “When I am in gym class and I start to sweat, my hands and arms and legs feel itchy,” she said. “That’s when I usually tell the coach that I need to go to the bathroom so I can put some water on my skin and cream afterwards.”
When Cooper finds himself in a similar situation, he likes to play board games. Cooper knows it’s okay to ask for help. He knows it’s okay to play a different game, to take care of his skin, even if the group does something else.
Tip #5: You’re not alone — and it’s okay to ask for help
Everyone needs a little help sometimes. During the “ECZ-ellent” day at camp, Taylor notices a boy named Evan sitting apart from the rest of the group during music hour. When Taylor asks him if he’s okay, Evan says: “I don’t know how to play these instruments.” Taylor comforts Evan by saying, “That’s okay, I can’t either. One thing today showed me is that there is always something new to learn at camp.” Taylor offers to help Evan by playing the drums.
After his first Eczema Expo, Sawyer was surprised at how many other kids had eczema: he wasn’t alone. He made new friends who had gone through similar challenges. “We understood each other in ways I never thought anybody else would,” he said. “Everybody understood when someone had to go inside for sunscreen, or if they couldn’t go swimming because the water stung their skin.” Sawyer added: “It was cool to know I wasn’t alone, you know? We were just playing and enjoying the moment.”
For more information, check out Taylor’s adventures at camp in “My ECZ-ellent Day at Camp.” It’s a perfect opportunity to sit down with your child and talk through some of the situations they might recognize. And it might get your child excited about some of their own upcoming outdoor activities.
Understand AD is an awareness program supported by Sanofi and Regeneron in partnership with the National Eczema Association (NEA). The program aims to shine a light on the everyday burdens that people living with or caring for someone with AD face and provide resources and support as they navigate these struggles.
It can be tricky for kids with eczema to feel confident going to school, camp or other activities. NEA partnered with Understand AD to develop a children’s book called “My Ecz-ellent Day at Camp” to help kids feel comfortable venturing into new environments.
Atopic dermatitis affects every aspect of our lives whether you’re living with the disease or caring for a child who has it. In our latest Understand AD video series, four atopic dermatitis insiders share their experiences navigating the common challenges faced by the eczema community.
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