Dealing With Dry Skin Problems And Conditions In Children

Treatment for dry skin problems in children.

Dry skin is a common problem in children, especially during the cold months of the year. Outdoor wind and indoor heat can dehydrate skin and children are especially susceptible due to the sensitivity of their young skin.

Home Remedies

For mild cases of dry skin in children, it is relatively simple to remedy the problem at home.

While traditionally some people believed bathing would dry out the skin, most medical professionals suggest it is not a problem. However, it is important to avoid harsh soaps when skin is dry or sensitive; instead use gentle and moisturizing cleansers. Bath water should not be overly hot as this may exacerbate the condition. Adding colloidal oatmeal to bathwater can help lubricate the skin and control itching. After a bath, it is also important to use moisturizer immediately to coat the skin and protect it. This locks in the moisture the skin has absorbed in the bathing process.

When selecting a moisturizer for dry skin, richer is better. Creams and ointments are generally better than lotions as they provide a heavier coating and do not wear off the skin as quickly. It is wise to use fragrance-free skin cleansers and moisturizing products as perfumes may irritate sensitive skin further. Also look for moisturizers that do not contain added color. In addition to moisturizing after bathing, reapply moisturizer several times a day.

If the air in your home is extremely dry, consider adjusting the environment. Running a humidifier can lessen the drying effects of winter heating and can add much needed water to the air. Place humidifiers in a location where your children spend much of their time such as their bedrooms or playroom.

It is important to prevent children from scratching dry skin, since this may worsen the condition and invite infection. Keep children's fingernails clipped short to help prevent unconscious or nighttime scratching. Cotton gloves worn at night can also keep a child from scratching.

Make sure to dress your child in soft, loose clothing and use soft bedding. Rough or abrasive fabrics such as wool can aggravate the itching of dry skin. Wash fabrics in gentle, fragrance-free laundry detergents since the perfume residue can make skin conditions worse.


Severe itchy dryness with red scaly patches may be a sign of eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. Eczema may also cause cracked or blistered patches of skin. It is not contagious. Eczema is common in children, affecting as many as 20%. Some eczema will respond to moisturizer treatments, but in more severe cases it may be necessary to apply anti-inflammatory creams or ointments, as well. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can be used instead of moisturizer a couple of times a day, or as directed.

Prescription treatments

If your child's skin condition does not improve, it may be necessary to visit a medical professional. It is possible for severely irritated skin to become infected, in which case prescription antibiotics are required. Infection is often marked by increased redness and tenderness or by sudden swelling. Doctors may also prescribe strong steroidal creams and other topical solutions in the case of extreme dryness that resists over-the-counter treatments. Your doctor will also evaluate the child for possible allergies or other conditions that may be affecting or causing the skin condition. For children under a year of age with extreme dry skin, it is also wise to consult a doctor before using any treatments other than a mild moisturizing cream.

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