Hand hygiene has always been important but this year it’s been especially emphasized. We know that good hand hygiene is essential for killing bacteria, viruses and fungus but it has to be done right. That means, lathering your hands for 20 seconds and rinsing with warm water.
I personally use hand washing as an opportunity to practice counting with my 3.5 year old but sometimes we opt to sing Happy Birthday – twice! My rule when we enter the house is shoes off and straight to the washroom to wash our hands. Depending on where we are coming from I might even insist on changing our clothes. For instance, if we just came back from the park or daycare, a clothing change is a MUST.
When we are out and about and don’t have access to a washroom, I always carry hand sanitizer. I know many people who do the same but this year, like hand washing, it’s become common practice.
I have had many patients and friends ask me what I’m using to keep my kids hands eczema free. The truth is, I have many tricks up my sleeve but since we also know that certain foods cause eczema flare-ups in our kids we do avoid those triggers. Regardless, the frequent hand washing and sanitizing is hard on their skin so we do rely on creams to help restore moisture, relieve dryness and itching, and improve any eczematous patches that might arise.
So what can you use to help your kids? Here is a list of my top 5 favourites:
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a safe and effective natural treatment for eczema. It’s multifunctional and most people already have a bottle in their kitchen. A 2013 study that focused on childhood atopic dermatitis concluded that the regular use of coconut oil to treat mild-to-moderate eczema over an 8-week period was superior to mineral based oils. Another study in 2018 found that the anti-inflammatory properties in coconut oil can help to protect the skin. Coconut oil is also antimicrobial so an extra bonus for cracked skin that are vulnerable to infection.
2. Calendula and Vitamin E Cream by St. Francis
This is one of my favourite products that I always keep at home. Calendula is known for its anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. It can help nourish and heal the skin and has anti-septic and anti-scarring properties that can activate tissue regeneration. This particular cream also contains aloe, myrrh and vitamin E. Together the ingredients can stabilize and repair cell membranes. It can be used to treat sores and abrasions and of course, chapped hands.
3. Barrier Cream by Medihoney
Manuka honey has become all the rage over the last few years but not all manuka has equal therapeutic effects. Medihoney products use active manuka, the most studied variety of medical grade honey. I always keep Medihoney products in my medicine cabinet and frequently recommend it to patients for a variety of ailments. The barrier cream can be applied to both intact and at-risk skin. And specifically works to prevent damage to skin caused by frequent hand washing. My other favourite Medhoney product is Dermacream and Wound Gel. I cannot recommend these products enough!
4. Kids Eczema Balm by SkinFix
One of the reasons I love this product is because it’s easy to find (think Shoppers Drug Mart). It contains colloidal oatmeal and emollient oils that can soothe dry, itchy, and eczema patches.
5. Biome-Friendly Moisturizer by Mother Dirt
Frequent hand washing and sanitizing strips the skin of the microbiome that is so essential for maintaining its integrity. Mother Dirt products contain Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria. These bacteria work by consuming ammonia and urea in your sweat glands and produce the necessary elements that keep your skin microbiome thriving. Discovered by MIT scientists, Mother Dirt products are a fantastic and therapeutic way of replenishing the skins microbiome.
I always say small changes can make big differences and this is true for preventing and treating dry skin. When it comes to hand hygiene, make sure your kids dry their hands properly! Moisture from excessive water use can definitely aggravate eczema so being mindful of proper towel drying can really help.
I also mentioned before, sometimes eczema is caused by a deeper, underlying concern. Creams can be AMAZING but to truly treat eczema, especially if it’s something your child has struggled with before you started increasing the number of times a day they wash their hands, or if its elsewhere on their body that isn’t affected by good hand hygiene, you may need to explore other potential causes including environmental pollutants, immune dysfunction, nervous system imbalance, impaired skin barrier and stress.