On Eczema

Eczema is often the first sign that your child will have allergies as he or she grows.  Mild baby eczema is normal and common, but sometimes it’s a little more than what you would say is “normal”  My son’s eczema started when he was still an infant, first as a reaction to the scent in Pampers swaddlers and later for completely unknown reasons.

I will tell you as he got old enough to control his arms, he used to wake himself up at night scratching.  We tried everything, socks on his hands, bandages, he took them all off in his sheer desperation to scratch.  The only way I could keep him from destroying his skin was to file his nails down to nothing every night before he went to bed.  It is a process I am still doing 4 years later.  For many months my husband and I would sleep with him between us, and we would each hold an arm down as we all slept.

When my son developed eczema, I was determined to do everything I could to help him “naturally”.  I had this idea of how I would care for him, only organic, no chemicals in his lotions or shampoos, trying to find natural remedies.  I won’t even bother listing them, I tried them all. Eczema in babies can be really scary, you want to help but it’s hard.
Let me save you a little heartache, and money.  They do not work!  My pediatrician did not send us to a specialist when his eczema started,  she suggested cortisone ointment mixed with Aquaphor.  I didn’t like the idea in the least, but my poor son needed something, so that was how it began.

When we found out about his food allergies and found our new doctor, this doctor was more concerned about his eczema than the allergies.  You see eczema is treatable, and he took one look at our son and said we needed to stop his suffering.  He was right, I recently read an article that followed children with asthma, epilepsy and eczema, the study was attempting to determine they quality of life these children felt they had.  The ones who felt they had the worse quality of life were the kids with chronic eczema.  So, after grilling him about the side effects of steroid creams, elidel, and oral medications.  I reluctantly decided we would follow his suggestions.  I figured we could always take him off of all the meds if something went wrong.  We would start with the strongest steroid cream and go down a level every couple of months.  That first year I think we were in his office every six weeks.  And you know what, if you saw my son today, you would never know he had eczema.  His skin is perfect.  4 years later our doctor is still marveling at the progress we made.  It was really hard for me to make the decision to let my 2-year-old be on all of these medications.  The doctor made one other very good point.  When a child has eczema, they are like one giant skin test.  Skin is a person’s barrier to all outside irritants, eczema breaks that barrier down and lets all of the allergens right in.  So you need to assume that your child is allergic to dust, because even if they’re not (and they probably are) all of the dust mite junk is getting right into their blood stream through their broken down barriers.  So, put allergen covers on all pillows and mattresses.  You need to put a HEPA air cleaner in your child’s bedroom, and keep it dusted regularly.  You should also remove as many dust carriers as you can, extra pillows, curtains, stuffed animals.  We have a new rule in our house, everything gets washed in hot water, and dried in the hot dryer.  That is the only guaranteed way to kill the dust mites.

We did decide that as he got older we would try to wean him off of the medications.  Some children begin to grow out of their eczema starting at age 5.   At 5 we took him off of one oral medication all together, hydroxizine. Then we were able to switch his antihistamine to Allegra which has less side effects then Zyrtec and stop the Elidel.  More recently we are down to a very mild steroid cream once or twice a week!  We are still doing great!