The itching ans scratching attacks are really hard for us. When J. was very small he did not scratch much and given his bad skin I was always amazed how patient and well he endures his eczema. However, the scratching got much worse during the last year. He usually scratches at night, but he is sleeping in our bed so we can hold him and when we are quick enough he will stop scratching before he fully wakes up. This of course interrupts our sleep. I am not a very good sleeper anyway and after years of interrupted sleep I am very much drained. But this is not about me. After a while he started to scratch when falling asleep and waking up. And a few months ago, around the time when we had to change the daycare center and had the eczema herpeticatum infection, those very intense daytime scratching attacks started.
I find it very hard to bear standing helplessly next to my child which tries to tear off his skin. He becomes almost completely unresponsive, gazing into the empty space. Any attempt to intervene and stop him from scratching results in a loud screaming and even more intense scratching. This was completely new to us. When he wanted to scratch he would run away, hiding in some corner, taking off his clothes and we had to wait until he was exhausted and calmed down. I was and still feel very helpless in those situations. He starts to scratch as soon as we undress him in the morning or evening. For a while he would start to scratch as soon as we would come home after daycare.
Our pediatrician prescribed us an anti-sctratch overall (which the insurance payed – hurray!). This was a first huge improvement! J. basically stopped scratching at night. He is still not a very good sleeper and needs attention at night, but he almost stopped waking up at night from scratching. On the package of the overall was a very helpful recommendation, almost in small print, and an eye opener for us: do not interfere with the scratching. The child interprets the interference as an attack against him personally and any interference will increase the stress and with it the itch. Instead, the recommendation is damage-control. We try to cream him before he starts to scratch to lubricate his skin and we pay much attention to keep his fingernails as short as possible.
However, I find it very, very hard not to interfere and not to show him how much I feel stressed. The only thing we can do to either prevent him from scratching or to stop a scratch attack is distraction. We have a nice selection of cartoons which we will pull out if necessary. Luckily, the daytime scratch attacks are almost gone (except during undressing), he now rarely scratches when we come home from daycare and I guess this is manly because he feels now much more comfortable there. Also, I think we are now much better in preventively creaming him. Interestingly, he does not scratch at the daycare. This is, I guess mainly because there is so much distraction. But when he does feel itchy he tells to one of the educators that his skin feels dry and asks her to cream him, what she then does! But we still have a long way ahead to better deal with those scratch attacks…