If you’re living with eczema or you have a child who does, then you know that itching and scratching at night can be a major problem. Dry, itchy rash from an eczema flare-up can drive you to scratch in your sleep, leading to skin damage or even a skin infection between the time you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.
There are a number of ways you can handle the itching and scratching that often come with eczema, including atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema. Here’s what you need to know about one solution: eczema scratch mittens or gloves.
Eczema can interfere with sleep in some major ways. People who live with eczema may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of discomfort from their itching. Their sleep may also be more turbulent and less restorative.
This can become even worse if they get into the itch-scratch cycle. In this cycle, something causes itching. Scratching the itch causes even more inflammation, which makes the itching worse. The cycle goes on and on until the skin is damaged.
Members of MyEczemaTeam have experienced this. One said, “Night itching is the worst thing I have ever experienced. It comes with no sleep and a great amount of distress and anxiety.”
Another explained, “I will wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. The itch is so bad, there is no sleep after that.”
Parents also find that eczema prevents their children from getting quality sleep. One shared, “It’s been a long night. My son screams and scratches all night long.”
Another added, “My daughter is scratching nonstop — and I mean nonstop — every night, and she, my wife, and I don’t sleep because of it.”
Getting more sleep should be a major focus of people living with eczema or for parents whose children live with it. Sleeping better will raise your sense of well-being and your quality of life.
Scratch mittens, also called scratch mitts or scratch gloves, are hand coverings that you or your child can wear at night. Keeping them on as you sleep can prevent damage to skin with eczema from unconscious scratching.
Researchers have not studied the effectiveness of these mittens. However, some MyEczemaTeam members believe that they help. One said, “I’m so tired of the itching and bleeding because I can’t quit picking at it. I put honey on it and then gloves.”
Another said, “I got the larger blister clusters on my right hand under control this time with a combo of calendula cream and InfiniteAloe cream and cotton gloves at night.”
One member put it succinctly: “Gloves help with scratching.”
Health experts agree. According to the National Eczema Association, “Cotton gloves or cutting fingernails short can help protect the skin from nighttime scratching.”
There are other clothing options, such as onesies, for babies and very young children who may be unable to keep gloves on at night.
It’s impossible to know whether scratch mittens will help you or your child until you try them. You or your child:
However, trying them may be worthwhile if you’re experiencing out-of-control nighttime itching and scratching.
If you or your child can’t sleep well due to eczema, scratch mittens could be the solution you need.
Start by buying some simple cotton mittens or gloves. These are available online, from medical stores, or in some drugstores. Your dermatologist may also have samples of certain brands that you can try.
Gloves come with an individual pocket for each finger. With mittens, you put all of your fingers (except the thumb) into one pouch. Note that mittens may be more likely to cause sweating because your fingers will be pressed together. This can be a trigger for eczema in some people. If this describes you, choose gloves instead.
You may also want to choose a pair that has some sort of band around the wrist, which makes them more difficult to remove at night. You don’t want a tight band, though, because that could limit blood circulation, thereby causing more problems.
If you’re working with a child, have them try on the gloves or mittens during the day. Explain why you bought them, using age-appropriate language. If they seem willing to try the gloves or mittens, put them on at night. You might want to create a ritual out of this, like making sure you always have them on before you read your bedtime story.
If the gloves or mittens are for you, try them on before you use them at night. Make sure they fit, are comfortable, and don’t irritate your skin or any eczema that’s on your hands. Then, put them on your bedside table or somewhere else where you’ll remember to put them on. Go through your normal skin care routine for eczema. Just before you get into bed, put them on.
Wearing the gloves or mittens in bed may feel weird at first, but having them there also may provide you some relief, especially if you feel anxious about how much you might scratch in the night. Another potential benefit — wearing them may help the topical medication creams on your hands work better and more effectively.
From there, see what happens. The gloves may help you or your child avoid scratching, or you or your child may take them off in the night without knowing it. If this happens, you might want to keep trying them to see if you or your child can get used to wearing them.
If the scratch mittens don’t help, don’t worry. There are other ways to prevent scratching.
If eczema is interfering with your or your child’s sleep habits, seek medical advice from a dermatologist as soon as you can. A lack of sleep can disrupt your life in many ways — including mentally, physically, and emotionally — and you shouldn’t have to experience these issues.
Your dermatology team should be able to help you find a solution to the itching that will work for you. They may recommend you use a scratching tool, which can satisfy the itching without being as likely to damage your skin. They may also suggest:
If your chosen treatment doesn’t help, don’t give up: Keep trying until you find something that works. You or your child deserves to live a life without unbearable itching, and figuring out how to achieve that is worth the effort.
On MyEczemaTeam — the social network for people with eczema, and their loved ones — more than 49,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.
Are you looking for ideas that will help you or your child sleep better with eczema? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.