In Part One I discussed scratch protective eczema clothing, which is a lifesaver at night, when scratching can disrupt sleep, and for “emergency” itch attacks during the day. Though it’s not ideal to keep children’s hands covered for too long during waking hours as it could cause development delays. Children learn with their hands and it’s critical we don’t restrict this educational growth. When their hands are not covered, distraction techniques can be a great way to keep your children from scratching.
Part Two: Distraction Techniques
Tristan’s skin didn’t really start itching until a few months before he turned three. Although his skin had gotten progressively more red and inflamed, we were lucky he wasn’t itchy as well. Then one day the itchiness hit and was the worst at night. We kept his hands covered with ScratchMeNots while he slept and many times we’d be up half the night trying to soothe him enough for sleep to reach his tired little body. Things were better during the day, but some days were better than others.
The distraction techniques we tried were:
- TV – This was like magic. I’m not a big fan of TV for children, but it was the only thing that would work when we were using wet wrap therapy. He’d watch it as we dressed him up in the wet and dry layers and finish up the one show he was allowed during the beginning of his two-hour wrapping therapy.
- Physical activity & games– We’d literally have to pick him up, carry him out the front door and make him walk to the park. After a few minutes of walking he’d be looking forward to the park and no longer thinking about the itchiness. Hide and Seek is one of Tristan’s favorite games. If he was scratching, usually offering to play this game would snap him out of his trance. Blowing and catching bubbles is great too. If your child has a favorite really active game, maybe it could help as a distraction as well. Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, and Tag are great for older kids.
- Cooking – My little guy loves to cook. I sure hope he keeps his fascination with the kitchen as it will sure win him points with the ladies when he’s older Measuring out ingredients, stirring, and taste testing are loads of fun for toddlers and great methods for distraction.
- Tickling – Gently caressing his skin really helped him. Although, we started doing this at night to help stop the thrashing about and screaming (the itching was pretty severe at times) and quickly Tristan started to expect (demand is probably the more accurate word) the tickling. He started throwing fits when we tried to ease back on the tickling. We tried to teach him to tickle himself and that helped him probably because it gave him some control, but of course it was better when mama or papa tickled. Obviously :)
- Phone apps & kids computer games – Children of all ages love phones (home phones, cell phones, any and all phones). All they seem to want to do is get their little hands on a phone. Add to that the fact that there are some amazing games and apps available, many of which are quite educational, for children of all ages to play and now you have the most easily accessible distraction tool possible.
Mei from Eczema Blues has some great distraction tips as well on her blog. By the way, if you haven’t checked out her blog before, you really should. She has a lot of great information about eczema. It is the most thorough eczema mom’s blog I’ve come across. Really great stuff over there!
Here are some great techniques I found and commented on from Mei’s blog. Read her full post here.
- Sign Language – Mei has a full post about the benefits of signing in general and how it specifically helped her daughter Marcie. Read the full post here. This is not something we ever tried with either of our children, but I’ve heard rave reviews from parents that have tried it. My Smart Hands is a mom-owned company that has some really great teaching tools – local classes, downloadable videos, flashcards, books, phone apps, etc.
- Cold Teether – For 5-7 month olds, let them play with a cold teething ring. Babies and most toddlers are fascinated with cold items. With a teether, they may gum on it a bit (also helping with teething) and for older children cold beverage bottles could be a good distraction as well. I’ll add ice to this as well. Both my kids love to play with and eat ice.
- Paper – Why do children, particularly babies, love to tear paper? Have you seen the Youtube video of the baby that goes into a hysterical laughing fit when her dad tears up paper? Hand your baby a magazine, newspaper, pamphlet, tissue paper and let them go to town. Warning – make sure the paper is suitable for immediate recycling after your baby is done with it because you sure won’t be able to read it once your baby has had his way with it!
- Food – This one is debatable, like TV. I don’t really believe that food should be used as a reward or a distraction, but occasionally it’s probably fine and if you’re desperate and out of options, I say go for it. It’s better than the alternative, shredded skin. The best foods will be those that will occupy the child for a long time like teething biscuits for babies. Popsicles are also great choices and go along with the cold/ice idea above.
- Books – The best are those that will involve your child’s hands like flip-up books or touch-n-feel books. Kids love to turn the pages, so that’s an added hand distraction bonus. Children’s books about eczema are great too.
- Toys – For babies, hammering or pound-a-ball toys are great because they develop great hand and eye coordination and for eczema babies they require constant use of the hands. For older kids, maybe it would help to keep a special toy hidden away and on reserve for use only when a distraction is greatly needed. Legos, train sets, Lincoln logs, and similar toys would all be good choices.
What distraction techniques have you used for your eczema baby? What helped? What didn’t?