Beat the itch

Welcome to the beat the itch section!

This section will look at:

  • Why does eczema make my child feel itchy?
  • What does scratching do to their skin?
  • How can I make my itchy child more comfortable?
  • Practical tips that will help your child not to scratch
Itchy Boy

Why does eczema make my child feel itchy?

When skin comes into contact with things that it thinks are harmful, it releases natural chemicals, like histamine. These chemicals make skin feel itchy.

In children without eczema, these chemicals go away after a while and the itching stops. In children with eczema, these chemicals keep being released and you carry on feeling itchy.

What does scratching do to their skin?

Itching is made even worse by scratching or rubbing. This is because scratching makes your child’s skin think it’s under attack, which makes it release more chemicals. This makes your child feel even more itchy, which makes your child want to scratch more! This is called the itch-scratch cycle.

Scratching can also damage your child’s skin. This can make it bleed or let germs in so it gets infected. Damaged skin also lets things that cause eczema flare-ups to pass through easily, such as soap or washing powder.

Damaged skin can itch while it is healing. This can add to the itch-scratch cycle.

I noticed my child has creative ways to get to scratch an itch, and the more they scratch the worse the skin gets. So I am trying to find ways to make sure the skin is covered to reduce contact to give the skin time to heal.


How can I make my itchy child more comfortable?

Unfortunately, your child is likely to still get itchy from time to time, no matter how well you look after their eczema. The important thing is to make your child as comfortable as possible when they feel itchy, and helping them to not scratch and damage their skin.

This section will look at ways you can help your child to stop scratching and teach them to take a more active role in looking after their skin.

The best thing you can do to beat the itch is to get control of your child’s eczema.

You will need to use flare control cream if your child is having a flare-up. You can find out more in the ‘flare control creams’ section.

Moisturising creams will stop your child’s skin getting dry and dry skin leads to itchy skin. The right moisturising cream can feel soothing for your child. Also, gently stroking the skin will relieve some of the itch. Try keeping the cream in the fridge to see if they prefer this.

Top tips!

  • Stay cool – Use plain cotton or bamboo sheets and a thin duvet for your child at night. Loose fitting clothes will help keep your child cool. Some families find it helpful to keep the room cool at night for example not using heating in Australian winters have a fan or air-condistioner in the bedroom.
  • Keep them busy – Distracting your child with a book, toy or game can help them forget about the itch.
  • Try giving your child a cool bath or shower – Getting too hot makes itching worse. A cool bath or shower might do wonders to relieve the itch. Gently pat your child dry then use moisturising cream after the bath or shower.
  • Try pressing a cold cloth, cooling gel pack, or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel on the area of skin that’s itchy.
  • Another idea is to apply a cold compress.  You can use a clean wet cloth and apply to the skin for 5-10 minutes.

How can I stop my child scratching?

Here are some tips that may help you stop your child scratching:

  • Try putting on cotton gloves or mittens when your child is feeling itchy or at bedtime. In babies, putting scratch mittens or all-in-one sleep suit on can help stop scratching.
  • Keep your child’s nails short, making sure there are no sharp edges, to limit the damage to their skin when they do scratch.
  • It may be helpful to notice if your child scratches at certain times of day, like while watching TV, and help them find something else to do. Distracting your child with a toy or game, or holding their hand or applying extra moisturising cream can work.
  • Try not to tell your child to ‘stop scratching’. Most scratching is done without the child realising they are doing it. Instead, offer to help them put on their moisturising creams and turn it into a soothing action.
  • Try asking your child to make a fist for 30 seconds instead of scratching or try a short meditation on an app or breathing exercise with your child to break the itch scratch cycle.

My mum is always telling me not to scratch, which is really annoying! When someone tells you not to itch, it just makes you want to do it more.

  • Some families find it helpful to teach children something else to do, like hold the itchy area or press down on it rather than scratch. Some families also teach their child to ‘tap’ the itchy area with fingertips, or ‘waft’ cool air onto the skin with a fan or paper.
  • In older children, you could explain to them that scratching will make the eczema worse. Some parents have found it helpful to keep moisturising cream where their child can reach it and teach them how to use it themselves when they’re itchy.

Now my son is older he will sometimes cool himself down by wandering round the garden for a few minutes at bedtime. It helps to calm him down and I wish we had thought of it earlier. He also insists on sleeping with the window open.

  • You may find it helpful to go to the ‘stress and your child’ section to find out about some relaxation techniques you can use with your child to distract them when they are feeling itchy.
  • Your child is more likely to itch when they are not sleeping well. You may find it helpful to go to the ‘sleep’ section to get advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
  • You can find out more about antihistamines and whether they are helpful for itchy eczema in the ‘more about treatments’ section.