From around 3 months old my daughter development eczema. As a baby she would scratch her skin in her sleep so badly that she would often wake with severe scratches. Scratch mits didn’t really help nor did keeping her nails short.
As soon as the eczema became apparent, I sought advice through orthodox medical professionals. Their support was slow going and she continued to suffer. She was prescribed hydrocortisone cream and Aveeno, a moisturiser. These creams helped but neither product actually got rid of her eczema completely. Moreover, she frequently suffered with infected eczema and was often prescribed antibiotics. Additionally, I was concerned that she was intolerant to dairy and wanted further investigations.
Following fairly determined requests to my GP, my daughter was referred to various specialists including a Pediatrician, a Dermatologist and a Dietician. She was tested for various allergies, monitored and placed on a diet, which excluded dairy, soya and egg. She also received a number of blood tests, which showed high intolerance to egg and dust.
There are groups on Facebook that offer parents support on dealing with exclusion diets. I found these groups invaluable. At first, it felt like she couldn’t eat anything but over time it gets easier and an exclusion diet becomes second nature to deal with. There are many alternative products, which can be picked up in supermarkets or health food stores, such as dairy free milk, egg replacer for baking, chocolate made with dairy free milk, dairy free ice cream and so on. I found coconut milk drink and coconut yogurt to be particularly helpful, plus they taste rather yummy!
Generally speaking most eczema sufferers struggle with dust mites. Sadly it’s rather difficult to avoid dust but it can be limited in its’ impacts. I was advised to hoover my daughter’s mattress once a week, change the bedding once a week, limit soft toys and place any soft toys she had into the freezer on a weekly basis. Freezing makes dust mites dormant thus their droppings; the enemy of eczema is greatly reduced.
I was advised to clean her toys regularly, hoover each week and limit her interaction with soft furnishings where possible. I was told to apply Aveeno cream following each bath and treat more severe eczema with hydrocortisone.
As time went on, I began to research eczema to find less chemically harsh ways to alleviate or, if possible, get rid of eczema completely. I worried greatly about using hydrocortisone on her delicate skin. In fact I was also concerned about all orthodox creams. The ingredients were often very harsh, some of which contain parabens, which have been linked to cancer. I was also uncomfortable with amount of times she had been treated with antibiotics for infected eczema.
I found a number of methods to alleviate her eczema naturally. Following a bath, I began to use coconut oil. I carried out a patch test first, to ensure she wasn’t allergic. I also discovered that powdered probiotics were helpful in alleviating eczema. These can be bought online or in health food store. They need to be suitable for a child’s age group.
Powdered probiotics can be added to food or a drink. I found adding the powder to a drink to be the most suitable method.
Following some advice from a friend, I began to make my own eczema cream, which contained natural ingredients. The ingredients were coconut oil, hemp oil, shea butter and tea tree oil. Basically I added one drop of tea tree to 2 tablespoons of shea butter, 2 of coconut and 2 of hemp. The coconut oil was melted (coconut oil is solid until warm). The exact amounts were fairly vague except that the tea tree was always just one drop. This is because tea tree is quite strong. I’d used cotton wipes soaked in tea tree and water previously so I knew my daughter wouldn’t react to the tea tree. The new ingredients were patch tested. However, it’s very unlikely for people to react to coconut oil, shea butter or hemp oil. I found this homemade solution quite helpful. It kept her eczema at bay, moisturised her skin wonderfully but it didn’t prevent flare ups completely.
As a further experiment I decided to add probiotic powder to coconut oil and rub this mixture into her eczema. I found that the coconut oil and probiotic mixture would heal moderately infected eczema. It was also quite helpful at completely removing flare-ups. However, I needed to act quickly before her infected eczema became worse. Any flare-ups that were particularly troublesome generally needed an orthodox cream such as Elidel (which is given on prescription in the UK).
Although my daughter is still prone to eczema following contact with dust or accidental consumption of products containing egg, she only has very mild patches and she very rarely has eczema on her face. Part of the improvement will be down to her age. Child eczema can improve greatly from around the 3 years old. However, a lot of the improvement is down to acting quickly upon flare ups, using natural remedies, consistently giving her probiotics and being prepared to use orthodox creams where necessary. My daughter remains on an egg free diet but now has dairy and soya.
Now that she is older, I don’t have to hoover like crazy nor do I need to put her soft toys in the freezer! Yet these processes did help when her eczema was much worse.
I only have to use Elidel on rare occasions and only for a few days. Then I can return to natural creams. I haven’t used hydrocortisone on her skin for well over a year.
Given the cost and time-consuming nature of my homemade eczema cream, I now use Weleda’s Skin Food on my daughter’s skin. This product is meant for adults but contains natural, organic ingredients and is an absolutely excellent moisturiser. I patch tested this cream first. I also use Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash for her hair and body. Again, this was patch tested. I have found that other shampoos and soaps aggravate her skin. Although this product is expensive, only small amount is needed and it works really well. I still use coconut oil and probiotic on flare-ups. I also use coconut oil, if I give my daughter a massage.
I have found that a mild laundry detergent is needed otherwise her eczema is affected. I use Ecover but other products, which contain less nasty chemicals, will probably be fine.
Essentially, as a parent, I believe that it’s a case of balancing the different expert opinions with your own experience as a parent. It’s also a case of balancing orthodox treatments with more natural, milder methods. Obviously our children’s skin matters. Just as we’d give though to what they eat, I think we need to give thought to what they have on their skin.