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Caring for the Siblings of Kids with Atopic Dermatitis

When a child has a chronic condition like atopic dermatitis (AD), they need a lot of extra care from parents or caregivers to keep symptoms manageable and prevent flares. Bathing, putting moisturizers on the skin, and applying medications all takes significant time and attention, and siblings of children with AD may be jealous of the extra care their brother or sister receives. And if the chronic itching and scratching is causing sleep loss for the child with AD, the whole family can be impacted and may also be having their sleep interrupted. Loss of sleep can lead to crankiness for everyone, causing additional strain in the family.1

Tips for caring for siblings of kids with AD

  • Maintain equal expectations. Kids need boundaries, and yet they push and test them constantly. While a child with AD may have special needs that create differences in discipline, having equal expectations for all children can keep resentments and perceptions of favoritism from overwhelming the family dynamics.
  • Set aside one-on-one time. Giving all your children some individual attention can help them know they are important to you. It also gives you time to focus on the hobbies or activities that are significant in their lives.
  • Create good sleep habits. If possible, let the child who has AD sleep in a separate bed and preferably, in a separate room to allow others to get the best sleep. And if your child with AD frequently climbs into your bed in the night to get comfort, try setting rewards up for them to stay in their own bed. It’s difficult to be your best at parenting when you’re exhausted. Ask your doctor for additional ideas, or try some of our tips for helping a child with AD sleep better.
  • Get the siblings involved in the skin care regimen. Everyone likes feeling needed and valued, and older siblings can help with the skin care regimen for a child with AD by applying moisturizer, such as after a bath, or distracting the child while you put on the medications or wet-wraps.
  • Share moisturizers, but not prescribed medications. Siblings of kids with AD have an increased risk of developing AD themselves, as one of the biggest risk factors for the condition is having a first-degree relative who has it. Some research has shown that application of emollients early in life can prevent AD from developing, especially when applied daily beginning early in life. While siblings can benefit from the use of moisturizers, prescription medications should only be used for the child they were prescribed for.1,2
  1. Siblings of Children with Eczema, Nottingham Support Group for Carers of Children with Eczema. Accessed online on 7/14/17 at
  2. Simpson EL et al. Emollient enhancement of the skin barrier from birth offers effective atopic dermatitis prevention. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Oct;134(4):818-23.