Children have delicate skin which gets affected by the vagaries of weather resulting in dry skin. Skin is the largest organ in terms of surface area so it needs to be looked after well. Even when the children remain indoors during the winter, away from the cold wind, dryness can be seen on the skin. The air inside may not have the necessary moisture to make the skin supple.
A humidifier can be used to rectify this. Central heating, or the use of blowers and heaters, tends to extract moisture from the air. Humidifiers are devices which make up this loss. They should be placed in the children’s playing area during the day and bedroom at night.
Contrary to belief, bathing does not lead to dryness. Mild moisturising soap, free from perfume and harsh chemicals, should be used for children. Lukewarm water should be used for bathing children as hot water removes oils from the skin. It is said that moisturiser should be applied within three minutes of bathing to seal in moisture.
It is best to use oil rich creams rather than light lotions. It will help if children are given an oil massage in a warm room before their bath. Olive oil or milk cream can be used for this purpose. Try to use moisturisers which have natural ingredients as perfumes and added color may irritate the skin.
Cream should be reapplied several times a day for maximum benefit especially to the exposed areas like face and hands. Pure glycerine or petroleum jelly can be applied at night. They are rich in moisturisers which are well tolerated by the delicate skin of the children and can smooth the skin after a few applications.
Dry skin may cause itching and it is difficult to keep the child from scratching. To prevent injury and infection clip the nails of the child. Cotton gloves may be used at night. Soft clothing and bed linen can prevent irritation. Clothes should not be washed with strong and perfumed detergents and they should be rinsed very well.
If the skin develops scaly patches or is cracked, then eczema should be suspected. It may need anti-inflammatory ointment to cure it. It is advisable to consult a doctor because antibiotics may be needed in some cases to prevent infection. This will be characterised by swelling and redness.
Severe cases will require stronger medicines containing steroids. The doctor can also check if the child’s condition is due to allergic reaction. Parents should not try to treat the children by over the counter drugs but always be guided by medical advice.