It's still winter out there, and many of us are continuing to battle seasonal colds and stress. Plenty of adults also deal with dry skin in the cooler weather, and adhere to a strict regimen of creams and lotions. Children often have a harder time with dry skin than adults because they don't understand how to prevent it. Skin needs moisture to keep from getting dry, but kids tend to do things that decrease their skin's moisture, like going out into cold air with wet hands or licked lips. To compound this, the winter environment disrupts skin's moisture balance with forced indoor heating, wind, and hot baths. All of these things rob a child's skin of its natural moisturizing oils, and aggravates already dry and chapped skin. Below are a few tips for retaining the moisture in your child's skin during the colder months:
- Make sure they are eating a well-rounded, healthy diet. Basic nutrition like whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and protein, is essential. Also, avoiding sugary drinks will specifically boost bodily moisture.
- In addition to a healthy diet, water will help your child retain essential skin moisture. Beverages like milk and water are much better than sugar and sodium filled drinks, which do little for moisture, and hinder health teeth and weight. It is recommended that children drink between one and two liters of filtered (void of the chemicals in tapwater) water throughout the day.
- Don't allow prolonged exposure to the sun, dry cold air, wind, hot water, and forced air heating. These all suck away the skin's natural moisture, and worsen already damaged skin.
- Have them use gentle, alcohol free soaps and cleansers that offer moisturizing benefits.
- Encourage them to thoroughly dry their hands after washing them, and not lick their lips while outside.
- Apply quality lotions to their skin immediately after bathing to help lock in moisture.
- Keep your home humidified, either with electric humidifiers or bowls of water on heater vents or the stove. The idea level is 30-60% relative humidity.
- Tell them to wear their gloves when playing outside, and consider applying a protective balm to their lips before they go out of the house. Children's lips and the skin around them are often some of the most easily chapped skin in the winter.
If your child is genetically prone to dry skin, the following suggestions can help your family regain and keep a good skin moisture balance.
- Reduce your child's bathing to every other day, to minimize the washing away of moisturizing oils. Also, use warm rather than hot water, as hot water is tougher on oils.
- After baths, pat their skin dry. Rubbing dry is aggravating and painful to dry skin.
- Trade lotions for quality creams and ointments, as they are heavier and stay on the skin longer.
- Put a humidifier in your child's room, and keep it running overnight.
- Consider trying an over the counter hydrocortisone cream for red and itchy patches of skin.
- Try a wet-to-dry dressing regimen. This involves wetting your child's hands, and then applying a heavy moisturizing cream. Then you put their hands into wet gloves, which are covered with dry cotton or rubber gloves. The dressing can be left on overnight.
Seriously dry or chapped skin may require a visit to the physician. Signs that indicate this include cracked, peeling, bleeding, or infected skin. Look for swelling, pus, and other symptoms of conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Talk to your child about their skin, and enforce to them how important it is to care for it while they're young. And when the winter months are over, keep following the guidelines listed above, as summer comes with its own skin dangers.