Partnering with Your Child's School or Caregivers
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | June 2017 | Last updated: March 2023
Children with atopic dermatitis (AD) have extra challenges when starting school, whether preschool, elementary school, or even starting with a new caregiver for daycare. AD is common among children, and there are an estimated 1 million school-aged children living with eczema in the US. However, the condition greatly varies in its severity and individual triggers, so even if the child’s teacher has experience with eczema, the parents may need to provide information about their unique child’s sensitivities and treatment plan.
Understanding eczema triggers
It’s important for educators and caregivers to understand the basics about atopic dermatitis, especially that it is not contagious and is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Children with eczema frequently have allergies, which may act as triggers. Talk to teachers and caregivers about the known triggers and the importance of avoiding those triggers, including dry skin, heat, sweating, perfumes, particular foods, or other allergens, like pollen, pet dander, or dust.1
Eczema triggers to avoid in class
Avoiding triggers may require making alterations in the classroom or activities, such as:
- Soap: Since many soaps irritate skin affected by atopic dermatitis, children with AD may need to bring a moisturizing soap or non-soap cleanser from home to use at school, as well as a moisturizer.
- Temperature: Overheating can trigger itching and scratching, and young children with eczema may not be aware of this. Teachers can help by ensuring children stay out of the sun during the heat of the day.
- Sweat: Sweat that stays on the skin can be a significant trigger to atopic dermatitis. If showering is available after sports, washing the sweat off can reduce flares. In other cases, children with eczema may be better off with an alternate activity.
- Crafts: Many materials, such as sand, water, paint, clay, and some foods, can be triggers for children with eczema. Substitutions may need to be made, or children can wear gloves when doing crafts. Hands should be washed and moisturized after these activities.2
Understanding eczema symptoms and stigma
Atopic dermatitis is extremely itchy and causes a rash and dry skin. During acute flares of eczema, symptoms may also include blisters, bumps, and weeping skin. In addition to the physical symptoms, teachers and caregivers should understand eczema can also cause significant emotional and social challenges for children. It can be emotionally difficult to live with a chronic and visible condition like atopic dermatitis, and many kids experience teasing, bullying, or avoidance from their peers because of their skin’s appearance.1,3
Lack of sleep can affect productivity
The intense itch of atopic dermatitis frequently causes disruption in sleep, as children wake to scratch. The repeated waking and loss of sleep can cause fatigue and behavior problems in school. Children with eczema may be more likely to experience hyperactivity or poor school performance related to their sleep problems caused by the itch-scratch cycle.4,5
School resources for eczema
The National Eczema Association has created toolkits called Tools for School for parents and teachers that provide information on the causes of eczema, the emotional and physical consequences of living with eczema, and ideas for ways to foster a positive school experience for children with eczema.
The National Eczema Society (UK non-profit) also has an informational packet called Eczema at School that helps parents and teachers understand the needs of children with eczema while they are at school.