How eczema can affect children at primary school

Eczema can impact a child’s education and their experience at school. This can affect their ability to sit still and concentrate as their skin can become itchy and dry. It’s important for school staff to be educated about eczema, the challenges children face and how this can differ from one child to another.

Ways school can support children and families

The parent or carer should arrange a meeting with the teacher to discuss how eczema affects their child, possible triggers and how it can be managed within the school. The school should suggest a Care Plan which is a document between the school and the parent detailing the health condition, medication and any possible triggers.

The child’s moisturiser or emollient may need to be applied whilst at school. They should be given privacy to apply this without feeling uncomfortable.  Younger children may need some help, this is something which will need to be discussed in the meeting. They may also need to be reminded by the teacher to apply the cream to the affected area.

“I remember when my son applied his emollient at school this was done in the office.  I was disappointed that there weren’t adequate facilities to accommodate him and discussed my concerns with the headteacher. I expressed the need for him having privacy and somewhere to wash his hands.” The disabled toilets were the only place they had, although not ideal, it was far better than the first option.”

Another thing that schools can do to support children is to ensure that children in the class are aware of this condition. One way this can be implemented is through PSHE, as not speaking about it could, possibly lead to bullying or the child not wanting to be at school.

For some children activities may be difficult to participate in if they have a flare up. Swimming can sometime worsen the skin as chlorine is an irritant and it can dry out the skin. However, for some children chlorine improves their skin.

Children will need to apply a moisturiser before entering the pool and should also be given enough time to have a shower afterwards. This removes all the chlorine from the skin allowing them to moisturise their skin.

You could suggest alternative activities that reduce excessive sweating, or other subjects or interests the child has which are allowed within the school. This is one of the ways of making the school inclusive.

Ways how parents/carers can support their children at school

It’s important for parents or carers to teach their child how to apply their own moisturiser or emollient. Some parents aren’t aware that it should be applied in a downward motion to prevent irritation, this may be because some dermatologist make that assumption that they already know.

Where possible try to get a moisturiser or emollient that’s in a pump as it makes it a lot easier to apply and prevents it getting contaminated by unclean hands.

Things that I learnt and experienced

There was a lack of empathy towards my son with certain teaching staff. I remember on one occasion when he wanted to grease his skin the teacher wouldn’t allow him and told him that he should’ve done this at lunchtime. I spoke to the deputy headteacher, I felt excuses were made for her colleague. I remember using the term “she’s not in his skin”.

I found that they didn’t take into consideration how swimming might affect him, despite his skin being clear at the time.

Also, the importance moisturising skin being, black and having eczema. For him to be able to shower afterwards to remove the chlorine. In the end I decided it wasn’t in the best interest for him to participate in swimming because of all the drama.

After many years of my son attending the school and me educating staff, they finally started to have empathy towards him.

Suggestions of what parents could ask the school

For the child to not be made to feel sad or uncomfortable to ask to moisturise their skin through fear of interrupting the lesson or this being made to be the focal point.

For hospital appointments to be arranged within school and your child not be marked down as being absent in the register.

If your child wants to go swimming, reasonable adjustments are implemented as reasonable adjustments are made within school for other children with health conditions.

If your child is unable to attend school due to sleepless nights and flare-ups for this not to reflect badly on their education and when they return to school support is given for them to catch up.

Reasonable adjustments made for uniform e.g. Some uniform is made from polyester or wool which can make eczema worse. For your child to be able to wear a cotton top similar to the uniform.

If you’re not happy with the way your child is being treated to complain.

If anyone has been affected by this topic or wants further advice you can contact me.

Written and posted by Amanda Roberts, the Founder of Icylda Skincare on 30th June 2020

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