It seems like I have been hearing a lot about eczema lately. Just in the last week I have had 3 moms ask me about eczema and if I knew anything about it. I'm not a doctor and of course, I always suggest they speak to one about their child's symptoms.
When I was a kid, I had eczema and I can still remember how itchy I was. My mom took me to the doctor and it was the first time I became aware of Vaseline. The doctor had my mom rub Vaseline on my skin. Yes, I know that it’s petroleum based but I have to say…I think it worked!! Or my body healed itself. Interestingly, I was just having dinner with a dermatologist and we started talking about eczema and she said she recommends Vaseline all the time. But here is another article of why Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think.
What to do? Here are some little known ways to deal with eczema.
First of all, eczema must be diagnosed by a licensed health care provider. In general, the skin itches and is inflamed, red and may become raw from scratching. Blisters may form, followed by oozing, crusting, and scaling. Eczema can affect any part of the body, can occur at any age and can last a short time or several years. Don't worry, it is not contagious.
Eczema can be a result of atopic or contact dermatitis. What's the difference? Atopic dermatitis - it's inherited and usually appears when an infant is two - three months old. This type is usually associated with other types of allergies. Contact dermatitis - can be from an infant drooling or licking their lips. In older children it can be from an allergic response to something the child came in contact with or ingested.
Also, emotional STRESS can make eczema worse.
Eczema is caused by a variety of factors, and each person may have different symptoms. Some of the causes include:
- allergies to certain foods
- metabolic disturbances
- faulty elimination
- inadequate diet
- a genetic tendency towards dry, sensitive skin and a susceptibility of allergies
You should know that...
Eczema in babies and children often clears up when all cow's milk and dairy products are removed from the diet. Children with eczema tend to be more prone to other allergies compared to other children. Your child may be suffering from an intolerance to a food rather than an actual allergy. The reaction may be delayed for 4 - 8 hours or longer. Unfortunately, when a baby or child scratches the eczema it irritates and inflames the eczema causing it to itch more and be sore.
The top 7 foods that are responsible for about 90% of food allergies are:
- Cow’s milk or milk products
- Wheat (Gluten)
- Nuts (peanuts)
- Shellfish and some fish
FYI - Tomatoes, citrus fruits and /or chocolate can also cause an eczema response.
A pediatricians recommendation
In his book The Portable Pediatrition, Dr. Sears recommends taking these foods out of the child’s diet for a month. It's called an Elimination Diet. If you are breastfeeding, follow suit. If the baby is on formula and using a milk-based, switch to an organic soy formula and if that doesn’t work switch to a hypoallergenic formula.
If you decide to take dairy and/or gluten out of your or your child's diet to see if they are the reason your little one is suffering from eczema here are dairy substitutions and gluten free grains your can try:
- Milk - a substitution might be fortified rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, homemade nut and seed milks, or coconut milk. Use rice milk if you suspect your child is having a reaction to nuts. But keep in mind that these are not nutritionally equivalent to dairy.
- Gluten - Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. It can also be found in oatmeal from cross cantamination but you can buy gluten free-oatmeal. What can you eat?? You can eat the following grains: amaranth, buckwheat, organic corn, millet, montina (Indian rice grass), gluten free oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice. However, gluten is in a lot of products so keep your eye open for it. Read nutrition ingredients.
If you're wondering what to cook that is dairy free/soyfree/gluten free you can go to my favorite website Whole Life Nutrition. There are a ton of recipes. I also cook from their cookbooks all the time and it is DELICIOUS! Also they have a whole program called the Whole Life Elimination Diet. An elimination diet is a simple experiment that helps you to discover which foods may be causing problems and which foods are not. They customize it for pregnant and lactating women as well as for children. I've done it and it was awesome! Check it out here.
Environmental factors - is there anything different?
- What was new when the first episode appeared?
- Did you feed your baby or child a new food?
- Are you using a new laundry detergent, fabric softener, or dryer sheets?
- Are you washing your baby or child with a new soap or shampoo?
- Is the weather dryer than normal or more humid?
- Is your baby suddenly crawling on new carpet or did you have it recently cleaned?
- Did your child start at a new school? What cleaning products are being used in the classroom?
- Did you change cleaning products in your home?
- Has your baby or child recently played on grass for the first time? Sometimes chemicals are put on grass that might be irritating to your child.
- Are they using a new toothpaste?
- Are you using a new sunscreen? Here is a list by EWG on the "safest" sunscreens to use.
Some other eczema triggers can be:
- animal dander
- dry winter air with little moisture
- allowing the skin to become too dry
- certain harsh soaps and detergents
- certain fabrics (such as wool or coarsely woven materials)
- certain skin care products, perfumes, and colognes (particularly those that contain alcohol)
- tobacco smoke
- emotional stress
- excessive heat
- Keep skin moist, give them a lukewarm bath and apply an organic, hypoallergenic lotion on them immediately after the bath. This can be done several times a day. You can even add 2 - 3 drops of essential oil (Lavender or German Camomile) to the bath. You can also add 1 tablespoon of oil (coconut, almond, grapeseed, sunflower or olive oil) to your child's bath but BE CAREFUL because they will be slippery and so will the tub. The oil will float on the surface and moisturize your child as they come out of the bath.
- Avoid regular soap – use a natural soap that is made with moisturizing lotion, free of perfumes or fragrance.
- Massage the skin with organic raw coconut oil, calendula lotion, vitamin E (especially natural D-alpha tocopherol with mixed natural tocopherols ), olive oil, or almond oil. (organic is best)
- In your child’s bedroom, use a warm humidifier at night because dry weather can irritate the eczema.
- Aloe vera gel, especially when mixed with vitamin E oil, is a useful symptom remedy. Gels from freshly cut aloe vera leaves are optimum.
- Oatmeal baths can be soothing. Grind up 2 cups of oatmeal and add it to your child’s bath. Another option is to put a cup of organic oats in a small piece of muslin. Tie it and place it in the bath.
- Epsom salt bath can help relieve the itching.
- Evening Primrose Oil – capsule can be broken open and rubbed into the skin to help with inflammation.
- Expose your child to fresh air and moderate amounts of sunshine. Be careful that they do not burn.
Avoid skin irritants
- Parabens - use PABA-free
- Anything that says perfume in the ingredient (Phthalates )
- Fragrance or scented. (Phthalates) Essential oils are okay just not the synthetic.
- Use a organic, natural, infant or hypoallergenic laundry detergent. Do not use dryer sheets or fabric softeners. They leave a residue on the clothing.
- Double rinse, sheets, clothes, towels etc.
- Use cotton clothing (organic if possible) and bedding. Synthetic materials can irritate the skin.
- Install a water filter in the shower or bathtub. It filters out many of the chemicals in the water which can irritate the skin.
- Probiotics taken in liquid, powder or pill. Probiotics are important to immune function and may lessen allergic reaction.
- Omega 3's - help decrease inflammation and keep skin healthy. Dr Sears recommends children eat a fist full of wild caught salmon from Alaska 2 times a week plus take a omega 3 supplement . For example-
1 year old – 100 mg.
2 year old – 200mg a day.
3 year old – 300mg a day,
4 year old – 400 mg a day.
5 year old- 500 mg a day.
An adult should take at least 1000 mg a day. (Make sure the fish oil - omega 3's are free of heavy metals, dioxins and PCBs)
How do you know if you are getting the right amount of omega 3's?
One the front of the bottle it may say 500 mg but we are looking for the total amount of DHA and EPA. Look on the back of the supplement. Look for DHA and EPA and that should add up the amount you are looking for. DHA + EPA = how many mg is really in the supplement.
FYI: Fish is a good omega 3 source but it's important to eat fish that are lowest in mercury.
For a list of the safest fish- visit http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx?c=ln
Fish oil brands I like: Carlson’s or Nordic Naturals
- Avoid processed foods and eat fresh vegetables and fruits, with an emphasis on seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame, to ensure an adequate supply of vitamin F. Also include foods rich in Vitamin A and betacarotene, those are your red, orange, yellow vegetables and fruits. Eat lots of berries because they have a lot of natural anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids in them. Make a vegetable soup with garlic and onions and loads of other vegetables. If your little one is a finicky eater, feed them the broth with noodles, rice or barley.
- Avoid GMO's foods - genetically modified foods have been linked to allergies as well as a host of other issues. There are eight GM food crops. The five major varieties - soy, corn, canola, cotton, and sugar beets.
To learn more about GMO’s - http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com
The best way to avoid GMO’s is to eat organically.
- Eat Organic Produce - pesticides have been shown to cause health effects in children and adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing the exposure to infants and children.
Avoid pesticides in dairy, produce and meat. Eat organic whenever possible.
To learn about the dirty dozen and the clean 15 you can go to - EWG’s 2014 Shoppers guide. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
- Vitamin C, zinc and selenium all help heal wounds. You may want to talk to your pediatrician about giving your little one a vitamin.
Products to try
These were the least toxic products I could find on the National Eczema Association website but there are more:
- Weleda White Mallow Body Lotion and Weleda White Mallow Face Cream which are mild, fragrance-free, made with 95% organic ingredients. They moisturize sensitive skin and relieve itching caused by dryness. They're approved by the National Eczema Association. Keep in mind that they do contain Coconut Oil, Sesame Seed Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil and Sweet Almond Oil, so if your little one has a nut allergy I would try something else.
- Kiss of Nature Oh My Baby natural soaps are animal-free and crafted from the highest quality plant oils without damaging or harsh detergents. They have 3 products that the National Eczema Association has approved:
- Fragrance Free Liquid Castile Hand Soap
- OH MY SASSY BABY!! Moisturizing Castile Bar with Goat Milk - NEA
- OH MY BABY!! Moisturizing Castile Body Bar - NEA
- Also check out Dr Bronner's Unsented Baby-Mild Castile Soap. I have seen this sold at health food stores.
- Exederm is a line of products designed especially for children with eczema and/or dermatitis. They have been formulated to avoid harsh chemicals and unnecessary additives that may irritate and cause a rash on sensitive skin or trigger an eczema flare-up. Exederm is also approved by the National Eczema Association.
- Dry eczema can benefit from calendula ointment.
The Enviornmental Working Group has a data base of skin products that are also approved from eczema and they are rated according to their toxic level. Check it out - EWG Skin Deep
Always talk with your pediatrician about any health issue your child is experiencing. There are over the counter medications as well as prescription medication available.
If you find this information useful please feel free to share it with your friends and loved ones. Don't forget to share and leave a comment below! Can't wait to hear from you.
Whole Grain Council- Gluten Free Whole Grains- http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/gluten-free-whole-grains
Sears M.D., W, Sears, RN, M, Sears M.D., R, Sears M.D. J, and Sears M.D. P (Feb. 2011). The Portable Pediatrition (1st Edition). New York,NY: Little, Brown and Company
Sears M.D., W. (Aug. 2012). The Omega-3 Effect. (1st Edition) NewYork, NY Little Brown and Company
J Zand, N.D,L.Ac., R. Rountree M.D., and R. Walton, MSN, CRNP, (2003), Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child (2nd Ed). New York, NY. Penquin Group (USA) Inc.
Eczema skin care products http://www.exederm.com/standard.html?gclid=COCQlYXR67UCFVSVMgodiloAUw
For more info-
27 Natural Alternatives for Eczema (atopic dermatitis) Posted on: Sunday, June 3rd 2012; Written By: Pat Robinson http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/27-natural-alternatives-eczema-atopic-dermatitis