Helping Your Child Cope With Eczema at School
It’s a good idea to discuss your child’s eczema diagnosis with the teacher at the start of the school year. A teacher who is familiar with eczema can help your child cope with the practical aspects of the condition and any social or emotional issues that may arise in the classroom.
To help the teacher make your child’s school experience as normal as possible, set up a meeting to discuss your child’s eczema and what you have learned about coping. Below are some topics you may wish to cover in your meeting.
If your child is taking prescription medications, consider meeting with the school nurse
Some states may only allow a nurse or the child (under adult supervision) to apply topical steroids. Therefore, if topical steroids need to be applied in school, it is best for the child to apply the medication themselves. Check with the school administration about the rules governing application of topical medication. For anyone who applies topical steroids, they must be sure to wash their hands before and after application, as topical steroids can be absorbed through the skin.
If the teacher will be giving your child oral medication, discuss when the medication should be taken and details such as whether it should be taken with food.
Your child may have to limit certain activities, such as sports, or take special precautions.
You can suggest alternative activities to the teacher for your child that don’t involve sweating, such as: music, art, writing, acting, filmmaking, or computer work.
For a child with eczema interested in sports, sports reporting may be an alternative to prevent discomfort.
Sometimes children with eczema experience problems at school (teasing is one possibility). Talk to the teacher about your child’s experiences and ways to avoid and prevent problems from recurring.
The symptoms of eczema may impact your child’s behavior. For example, nearly 30 percent of children with atopic dermatitis experience disrupted sleep five or more nights a week, which can lead to daytime irritability, inattention and moodiness. Explain to the teacher that this is possible and may contribute to tardies, absences, and sleepiness in class.
If your child scratches let the teacher know and share distraction strategies you find helpful. Understanding and sympathy from your child’s teacher can minimize emotional distress.
Ask the teacher to avoid telling children not to scratch — encourage rubbing or pinching instead so as to not damage the skin and increase the potential for infection
Let the teacher know that applying moisturizer or a cool washcloth to the itchy area or drinking a glass of cold water may provide the child some relief.
Set up a signal and action plan — for many students it is helpful to have a signal that the teacher can give to them (or they to the teacher) during a particularly itchy period. The teacher can give the agreed upon hand signal to the student which reminds the student that they can take a previously agreed upon action to help bring relief (such as applying moisturizer, going to the school nurses’ office for 10 minutes to place a covered ice pack on a particularly itchy spot, or taking another previously agreed upon action to help lessen the itch).
Eczema school care kit
You can make eczema less of an issue — and make school easier — by putting together a kit with everything your child may need during the school day.
Suggestions for an eczema school care kit include:
- Gloves (for handling materials that may irritate skin)
- Moisturizing cream or ointment
- Antibiotic ointment
- Mild cleanser (if your child cannot tolerate the hand soap in school bathrooms)
- Alcohol-free hand sanitizer
- Adhesive bandages
- Gauze pads
- Spare bandages
- Protective clothing
- Written instructions on medications your child may be taking at school, triggers to avoid, limitations or special precautions on activities such as sports
504 plans for children with eczema
In severe cases, a 504 plan may be considered for a student. A 504 plan is a provision of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based upon disability. A 504 plan can be used to address physical, medical, or learning issues. All schools, school administrators, and teachers must comply with a 504 plan.
In developing a 504 plan, parents discuss and map out with the school all of the details regarding a child’s disability. You might talk about which activities your child needs to opt out of or what can be done to help your child to accomplish a certain goal or task (for example, if a child has severe hand eczema, putting a plan in place where a laptop can be utilized for testing when needed instead of pencil and paper). Every 504 plan is unique, as it is based on a particular individual’s needs.
Learn more about one family’s experience with a 504 plan.
Download your copy of Eczema: Tools for School for Parents and Educators.