Treating acute flare-ups of atopic dermatitis with wet dressings

The following seven steps for application of wet dressings can be used to provide relief of the severe itching and redness from acute flare-ups:

  1. Apply the steroid cream to the affected areas of your child's skin.
  2. Take one pair of child's sleepers and soak it in warm water.
  3. Wring out the sleepers until only very slightly damp.
  4. Put the damp sleepers on your child and cover with a pair of dry sleepers. Do NOT cover with plastic. The dampness MUST evaporate.
  5. Make certain the room is warm enough.
  6. Your child may complain at first, but be firm.
  7. After the final wet dressing, apply emollient to the still moist skin to seal the water in the skin before it evaporates.

Wet dressings work through several means. The steady evaporation of water results in constant stimulation of temperature-dependent sensory nerve endings in the skin. This constant cooling sensation prevents itch sensations. The wet dressings restore humidity to the dry skin surface and enhance the effect of the steroid ointment. Your child will have less access to their skin, and damage from scratching or rubbing can be avoided. Wet dressings can be used continuously for 24 or 72 hours for severe flares or can be used just nightly for one or 2 nights or up to 5 to 10 nights if necessary to clear up badly eczematous skin.

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