Dealing with eczema

March 14, 2006 at 12:22 pm (Blog & Websites)

I posted part of this article a month ago…today I submitted next month’s articles, so I’ll share the full eczema article here, now! πŸ™‚

Allergic or Not, Here Comes Eczema
Eight tips for getting rid of the itch that won’t quit

By Go-To Mom Leslea Harmon, New Albany, IN
Mom Know-How


About Leslea:
Leslea Harmon is the host of the Allergy News, a podcast and blog, and proprietor of


Three different boys, three different skins. If you have multiple children, like me, you might experience a similar phenomenon in your household: one child has perfect, smooth, supple skin, another has “normal” textures all over his body, the third has dry patches that often turn red or pink and, worst of all, itch.

Consult your doctor to make sure, but chances are good that the child with the itchy red patches has some form of eczema. Eczema is very common, and a lot of children with allergies get it. It can be an allergic reaction itself, or it can just be one of those nasty little things that “happen” from a variety of causes.

Unfortunately, eczema is one of those allergy-related topics that doctors don’t agree on widely. Take a cruise around the web and you’ll find myriad opinions and treatments listed, each promising to be better than the rest. Elimination diets, creams, added foods, steroids β€” the gamut ranges from everything medical to everything homeopathic. Some sites just outright say you need to moisturize, as if a little hand lotion is going to save the day.

My personal experience with eczema was mild, thankfully. My oldest developed it as a baby, and we used a steroid cream prescribed by our pediatrician. As he got older, we switched to a nonsteroid cream as soon as it came on the market. When we discovered our oldest had food allergies and we cut out the allergic foods, his eczema cleared up entirely.

Friends of mine have not been so lucky. I’ve been privy to photos of babies whose faces are red, puffy, and raw all over like hamburger β€” babies who’d never had a life without large portions of their skin itching like mad. You think those mothers didn’t try it all? They were constantly searching for a solution to their children’s skin problems, hoping to hit upon a fix for the discomfort.

I’ve got some suggestions for you if your child is experiencing the dry, persistent itchiness of eczema on some portion of his or her body. This probably won’t be a cure-all, but it should help:

1. Save on the hot water bill. Bathe your child as little as possible. When you’re itching, cleanliness is not next to godliness. Can you get by with just washing the “important” parts? Then do that. Water, even when it isn’t steaming hot, dries your skin. It’s the last thing that itchy rash needs. And soap and detergents are additional irritants. A creamy, unscented baby cleanser, used sparingly, may be the best bet.

2. Drown that itchy skin. Eight glasses of water a day will hydrate your child’s body from the inside out. So make sure your child drinks that much. If you have to wean her or him off juice to do so, do it gradually, by watering down the juice in increasing increments.

3. Say “baa-baa” to the itch. Invest in some lanolin. That’s right! Unless your child is allergic to lanolin, the same natural wonder that helped your painful chapped breasts when you were nursing is GREAT for eczema. Use it whenever you think about it. Sure, it’s sticky, but slather it on. It works, and it’ll make your hands softer while you’re at it. If your child’s skin is splitting open, do not apply topical treatments unless you have consulted a doctor. Open skin is an invitation for infection.

4. Put yourself on a diet. Is your child nursing? He or she might be reacting to foods you are eating. Proteins in your milk can create eczema in nursing children. Elimination diets are challenging to parents who’ve not dealt with food allergies and the “strict avoidance” policies they require, but if you can keep a log of how and when your child reacts and of what you eat each day, you might get a bit closer to discovering a connection β€” and a solution.

5. Eat good bugs. Beneficial bacteria that help our intestines process foods β€” instead of recognizing them as allergens β€” can get flushed from our system with use of antibiotics. If your child’s eczema has come on after a bout of illness and subsequent medication, check into beneficial bacterias at your local health food store. While you can ingest some of these good bugs nutritionally, like acidopholus β€” found only in yogurt that lists live Lactobacillus acidopholus on its label β€” supplements are far more reliable. Many parents add them to their children’s cereal.

6. Avoid risky drugs. In 2000 and 2001, two nonsteroidal creams called Protopic and Elidel, respectively, were put on the market and hailed as highly effective against eczema. But as of January 2006, the FDA required that a “black box” warning be placed on both prescription drugs. This classification indicates that all other possible methods of treatment should be used first because the medication is known to cause cancer. So while the drugs were created to avoid the risks of topical steroids, they are ultimately more dangerous β€” especially for children. Be sure to question any recommendation for the use of these drugs.

7. Persevere. Is your doctor treating the symptoms instead of the underlying problem? If your intention is to get to the root of the rash, you might need someone with a different approach. Check the archives of your local newspapers’ health section for articles on allergies, skin rashes, or eczema. You’re sure to find a good doctor quoted there. If you currently see a homeopathic doctor or herbalist, perhaps you can supplement those treatments with some traditional medicine. Don’t give up: keep looking, and keep an open mind until you find a solution.

8. Outlive it. Most kids eventually do grow out of this affliction, thank heaven. As long as you can keep your child’s skin clean and free of infection, this is most likely a temporary situation.

My oldest outgrew his eczema rapidly, but now his little brother, our middle child, has outbreaks of dry, painful, itchy skin all over his body. Lanolin in hand, I chase him down and rub him down wherever and whenever his wriggling body allows. I’m personally quite thankful to realize that he will outgrow this someday, probably sooner than later.

Beautiful skin on your child is more than a sign of being well-cared for, more than a mark of beauty β€” it’s something that can genuinely make your child more comfortable, healthy, well-rested, and happy. It’s definitely worth the effort.

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