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Can a child with eczema attend gym class and play sports?

Heat and sweat are common eczema triggers. With a few precautions, most kids who have eczema can attend gym class and play sports.

If heat, sweat, or clothing triggers your child’s eczema, taking a few precautions can help your child participate in physical education classes and even play sports.

To prevent a flare-up, dermatologists recommend the following:

Dress for success: Your child should wear loose-fitting cotton clothing.

Some kids need to wear a uniform to attend gym class or to play on a sports team. If the uniform is made of polyester or another rough-feeling fabric that can irritate the skin, here are a few things you can do to reduce flare-ups:

  • Get a loose-fitting uniform.

  • Remove tags.

  • Cover seams, which can irritate the child’s skin, with silk.

  • Wash all new clothes and uniforms before your child wears them.

Take precautions

Taking a few precautions can help your child participate in physical education classes and even play sports.

kids on basketball court

Wash clothes to prevent flares: Whether wearing a uniform or cotton clothes, you can help prevent a flare-up by following these guidelines:

  • When washing your child’s clothes, use laundry detergent that is fragrance free and dye free.

  • If you use fabric softener, use one that is fragrance free.

  • Dry the clothes in a drier rather than on a clothesline. This leaves clothes feeling softer.

Important note

Before your child begins a new physical activity, it’s best to check with the child’s dermatologist.

Beat the heat: To prevent overheating, your child should:

  • Take a break or reduce the intensity when feeling warm.

  • Drink cool water often.

  • If possible, wear a wet T-shirt soaked in cool water.

Shower off sweat: Your child should shower after every PE class, practice, and game. This will remove sweat, a common eczema trigger. To prevent a flare-up from showering, your child should:

  • Take a brief shower in warm (not hot) water.

  • Use a gentle eczema friendly cleanser rather than soap or a body wash.

  • Gently pat the skin dry with a clean towel, which was washed at home.

  • Apply eczema friendly moisturizer to all the skin.

Eczema can be stubborn: If your child still has flare-ups while following these tips, be sure to ask your child’s dermatologist for help. 

It’s also important to know that it may be necessary for your child to skip a few physical education classes, practices, or even games. It’s best to sit it out when your child has a:

  • Skin infection

  • Open sore or raw skin

  • Eczema flare-up

At other times, kids who have eczema should exercise.

Related AAD resources

Abramovits W. “Atopic dermatitis.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Jul;53(Suppl 1):S86-93.

Sidbury R, Tom WL, et al. “Part 4: Guidelines of Care for the management of atopic dermatitis. Part 4: Prevention of disease flares and use of adjunctive therapies and approaches.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Dec;71(6):1218-33.