Caring for a child with atopic dermatitis (AD) can feel intense and there’s more demand on your time. Not only are you doing your best to protect and support your child, but you’re also juggling the daily tasks of family life. This can cause some people to feel guilt or worry that they’re not doing enough.1 If you’re one of them, don’t put pressure on yourself – we’re sure you’re already doing a great job.
AD can impact many aspects of family life such as sleep, time together as a family and future plans.2 It’s ok to need support too, and you’re not alone – AD is the most common form of eczema and affects 15–20% of children worldwide.3
If your child’s AD isn’t controlled, finding the right treatment to manage it will help lighten the load. Talking to a dermatologist is the first step, and we’re here to help you through it.
Our caregiver guide is here to help you and your child better understand AD, and the ways you can manage it. From spotting the signs and symptoms to approaching conversations with your dermatologist, it’s packed full of useful information for you and how to get your child the care they need.
Inside we cover topics such as:
When we talk about uncontrolled AD, we don’t just mean lesions and itch. When a child’s AD isn’t controlled, it affects their quality of life beyond physical symptoms.4
Here are some signs your child’s AD may be uncontrolled:4
As a parent or caregiver, it’s only natural to want to find a solution for your child’s AD. You’ve likely already spent a lot of time searching for advice on how to ease their discomfort – online, through friends and family, and from your doctor and dermatologist.
Recognising the signs and symptoms of AD can help you understand what your child is going through and, as a result, better support them. As your child’s condition develops, their signs and symptoms can change. It’s important to tell your doctor about any changes, however big or small – this will build a clearer picture that can help them better manage your child’s AD.
85% of AD develops before a child reaches the age of 5. But it can affect them at any point in their life.5
Caring for an infant with AD has its own unique challenges. You may find it frustrating since, at this age, they’re unable to properly understand or communicate with you. You might wonder why your child has AD, why it won’t go away and if they’ll ever grow out of it.
Remember, both the immune system and genetics play a part in AD.6 An imbalance in the immune system causes persistent underlying inflammation throughout the body, and so even though your child’s skin may appear clear at times, there is still inflammation beneath the surface.6 That’s why flares can be unpredictable and often reoccur.7,8
Children diagnosed with AD as babies are likely used to a daily routine of applying creams and ointments.9 It’s never too early to get your child involved in their daily routine. There are ways to make it fun for them, such as treating application like a ‘spa’ or massaging them, which could help.10 Engaging your child in their routine may help prepare them to become more independent both at home and school.
Letting your child get involved in their routine could also help relieve some of the pressure. As they begin to articulate themselves, you can find ways to communicate with them about their AD. You could try introducing new words or use touch-and feel books to help your child express how their skin is feeling.
Adolescence can be a challenging time in your child’s life, full of physical and psychological changes. They might lose confidence in how they look, have lower self-esteem or find it more difficult to talk about their feelings.4
It’s also a period where your role changes. Your child, who was once dependent on you, is now gaining independence. Letting them have more control over their treatment and regimen, while still being there to offer help and guidance, can help make the transition from childhood to adolescence easier for everyone.
Appointments with your child’s dermatologist can be key milestones on their journey to long-term control, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example:
During the appointment, your child’s dermatologist may discuss treatment options – so it’s worth getting clued up on them beforehand. Treatments include:
Topical treatments are applied to the surface of the skin to ease the symptoms of AD. They include emollients, topical corticosteroids and topical calcineurin inhibitors.9,11
If your child has tried a number of topical treatments and they haven’t worked to get their AD under control, their dermatologist may prescribe a treatment beyond topicals.9,11 This could be a biologic, a JAK inhibitor or immunosuppressant depending on how old they are.9 Treatments beyond topicals work from within the body and are taken either as a pill or an injection under the skin.9
Being a parent or caregiver can feel overwhelming at the best of times. So here’s a few important things to remind yourself of throughout your journey.
So at your next appointment, talk to them about managing your child’s AD for the long-term. Together, you can find the control your child deserves.
Have you ever wondered what causes your AD? It might be time to think about it from a new perspective.Discover more
Feeling lost in a sea of terminology? Our glossary can help you feel confident when you discuss your AD.Expand your vocabulary
Feeling like you ve tried everything to manage your AD? Don't lose hope. We've got the tips, tools and information you need to get closer to control.Go to Managing AD
Chamlin SL et al. J Investig Dermatol 2005; 125(6); 1106–1111.
Eichenfield LF et al. Paediatr Drugs 2022; 24(4): 293-305.
Nutten S et al. Ann Nutr Metab 2015; 66(suppl 1): 8–16.
Zuberbier T et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006; 118(1): 226–232.
Fishbein AB et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract 2020; 8(1): 91–101.
Al-Shobaili HA et al. Int J Health Sci 2016; 10(1): 96–120.
National Eczema Association. Atopic Dermatitis. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/atopic-dermatitis/. Accessed October 2022.
Bieber T. Ann Dermatol 2010; 22(2): 125–137.
Wollenberg A et al. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2022; 36(9): 1409–1431.
Teasdale E et al. Children 2021; 8(2): 158.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Atopic eczema in under 12s: diagnosis and management. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg57. Accessed October 2022.