If you’re the parent of a child with eczema, allergies, or any other issue that causes itching, chances are
you’ve noticed that things can be much worse at night than they are in the morning and early afternoon.
While most people think this has to do with medications wearing off, fatigue, or heat – there’s actually a
lot more at play. It turns out that hormones and other important body chemicals operate on a 24-hour
clock, and they have times when they’re more effective and times when they’re almost completely gone
from the system. This clock is meant to give our bodies time to rest and recuperate, but for kids with
skin issues it can cause all kinds of extra problems.
Cortisol & Cortisone
Our bodies make two hormones – cortisol and cortisone – that work hand-in-hand to help control and
fight inflammation. These hormones are essential for a healthy immune and inflammation response, and
in most people they’re not something ever thought about because they work silently to do their jobs.
It turns out that both cortisol and cortisone are most active in the system right after a full night of sleep.
This high level of morning anti-inflammatory control diminishes as the day goes on, and in most people
there can be nearly none left by bedtime.
For kids with itchy skin, this can translate to less control over inflammation in the body at night which
causes symptoms like itching, wheezing, swelling, and pain to increase.
Chances are you recognize this word as part of the anti-histamine drugs many kids take to deal with
asthma, allergies, and eczema.
Histamine gets released during allergic and inflammatory reactions making things worse – anyone with
seasonal allergies can tell you all about it! In kids with issues like eczema, the presence of histamine can
make a reaction or a flare up last longer and be more aggravating.
Histamine may sound like the bad guy, but it actually has a super important job. It helps our brains know
when it’s time for sleep and waking, and it plays a role in a healthy sleep cycle. This means that there’s a
change in how much histamine is in the body when it’s time for sleeping and when it’s time to wake up.
If you’ve ever had to use an Epipen, you’ve already come in close contact with adrenaline. This hormone
is one of the best helpers in fighting severe and even life-threatening allergic reactions, but there’s a
problem. It is also attuned to our sleep cycles and it tends to take a break at night during sleep since it’s
usually not needed much when we’re resting.
The lack of adrenaline in the body at night can result in longer allergic reactions, more severe eczema
flare ups, worse asthma attacks, and more intense reactions to desensitization therapies (which is wjhy
they’re usually done early in the day).
What To Do About It
The best thing you can do for aggravated nighttime symptoms is to follow the cycle. If your child has
anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, or other medications that help with their allergies, try taking a dose
later at night to help compensate for the changes in hormones.
If you use techniques like wet wrapping, moisturizers and ointments, or humidifiers, try using them at
night during sleep.
Have you found that your child’s allergies or eczema gets worse at night?
What have you done to help keep things calm so your child can get the healing sleep they need?