Recognizing Childhood Stress Flare in Childhood Eczema


Dermatologist experts have known for many years that emotions can play a large part in flare-ups of eczema symptoms. In fact there is an entire branch of medicine called psychodermatology which studies and measures the impact of emotions on skin disorders and diseases.


Stress is the result of demands placed upon us and our ability or inability to meet those demands. With that understanding it’s easy to see that anyone can feel stress, even very young children. Some stress is okay. Challenges are what help us to grow and progress, but our children need to have age and developmentally appropriate stress only.

By learning to observe your non-verbal infant or toddler, and learning to recognize the stressors that may cause eczema symptoms, you could significantly reduce the number of flare-ups your child experiences. Some signs of too much stress are clinging, hiding of the face, whimpering, thumb-sucking as a comfort mechanism, and over-attachment to an item (blanket, doll, pacifier), person (mom, dad, sibling), or place (their room, bed, or hiding place.)

Some common triggers for this sort of behavior are:

  • Too busy-children need more time for creative play than an adult does. It is essential for healthy brain and emotional development.
  • Adult anxiety- children who overhear fears and worries about more adult concerns, such as housing, employment, bills, etc. can trigger stress because it is something they have no power to change
  • Changes in household- divorce, illness, and death are stressful for an adult and are far more stressful for a child. We don’t always have to power to change these stressors, they are part of living, but as the adult in our child’s life we can model appropriate coping with these kinds of stress.
  • Childish things- Be extra cautious to not dismiss these triggers that may seem unimportant to us as adults; someone was mean, a caregiver was impatient, they didn’t go to a place they’d hoped to go, they didn’t get to play with a toy they wanted. These “little things” seem very unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but they might be a big deal to your child. You don’t need to meet every desire your child has, that’s neither feasible nor advisable, but you can be understanding when they express their disappointment. It helps your child to understand that you care about their emotions.

Adjusting Your Schedule

If you assess where your child is emotionally and begin to see a connection to scheduling triggers and your child’s eczema then you may want to consider changing your schedule to adjust to their medical needs. There is no need to apologize for taking care of your child’s emotional needs in this way, but explaining to friends and family why you are cutting some activities out can go a long way in helping to prevent any hurt feelings.

Children need extra time to become accustomed to new situations, people, or schedules. Don’t be afraid to do new things and meet new people, but be aware that your child may take more time to become used to the change than you do. If you really want to see your child able to take a tumbling or ballet class, attend play dates and birthday parties, try easing into them. Talk about the events in advance, help them get excited and looking forward to the new activity, and perhaps go early to the class or party to allow them time to adjust.

Adjust Your Expectations

Every child responds to social stimulus differently. Some children are gregarious and have never met a stranger. This can often be a cause of stress for mom or dad, but not necessarily the child. Other children still feel like they’re connected to mom with an umbilical cord. They never want to let go of mom, resist going to other adults, even ones they know well, and seem to only find comfort when mom or dad are holding them.

For children who are struggling in social situations it’s best to give them the chance to get used to new things on a slower pace. Don’t force relationships on them, let them grow into the relationships naturally. If you are anxious about your child’s inability to warm-up to a new person they can respond to YOUR stress with stress of their own. As the parent you have the most influence on your child’s emotions.

Increase Patience

Your response to flare-ups can determine a child’s future ability to deal with not only the eczema but other difficult experiences in their life. Use the difficulty as an opportunity to teach patience, perseverance, and empathy. Some of these skills are a faculty of higher cognition that comes with further brain development, but your child will see your response and will learn to copy your actions and attitudes. Those early life experiences can help form habits of positive problem solving which will benefit them later in life.

Learn to Slow Down

Social expectations can place many, many demands on our time. The modern world is hastening its pace, sometimes alarmingly, and the days of spending time just playing with your kids, rocking your babies, and spending time with family are often relegated to lesser importance than the essentials of earning a living, keeping social obligations, and caring for a home. Make sure that in doing all the necessary tasks of life that you leave yourself enough time to do the things that make life worth living.
Good medical care coupled with unequaled effective treatments of EczeMate along with emotional support for your child can turn an eczema nightmare into just a tiny ripple in the fabric of your happy home life.