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Four Tips from an Eczema Mom
-Guest post by Laura Hoffman
Before I had children, I thought the whole fuss over kids with allergies and eczema had to be exaggerated.
So perhaps it was my karma, then, to have a child who struggled with skin conditions and sensitivities from day one. A bit of cradle cap turned into food sensitivities that morphed into bad eczema with food and cosmetic allergies. It has absolutely rocked and taken over our world.
I’m an acupuncturist. I come from a family of doctors and nurses. In treating our son’s ailments, we’ve tried both Eastern and Western medicine, but four years in, we’re still very much still on our quest to figure out what works.
The Search for an Eczema Cure
There is no universal magic ointment or balm that heals all. As parents, we have to advocate for our kids and trust our instincts, and this is the number one rule for helping our children with eczema and allergies.
One very helpful dermatologist (we saw about eleven in just three years) made the analogy to a pot of water. He said children with allergies and eczema will always have some water in the pot. The goal should be to not have the water boil over. How can we do this? We have to sleuth out the triggers.
Fortunately, we’ve discovered a bunch of triggers and treatments that HAVE improved my son’s eczema, and I am happy to be able to share them with the Gimme the Good Stuff community.
Eczema Caused by Food Allergies
There are growing studies showing a link between eczema and food allergies. In fact, recent research link a subtype of eczema to food allergy.
Immunologists are beginning to believe that “food allergens may reach immune cells more easily through a dysfunctional skin barrier affected by atopic dermatitis, thereby setting off biological processes that result in food allergies.”
That said, dermatologists may not be quick to recommend a food allergy test. The first thing I always recommend to my friends and clients who have discussed issues with their baby’s skin, is to get a food test!
Upon a recommendation, we were slathering coconut oil on our son’s skin to help with his cradle cap. This seemed to make it worse, and were confused how a beloved and natural oil could cause any harm.
After finally getting a food test, we found he was allergic to all tree nuts. And yes, this includes the almighty coconut! While it might not cure all, omiting sensitive foods can drastically help bring down inflammation and reactions.
Cosmetic Skin Test
Having a cosmetic test is another recommendation I wish I didn’t have to make! It’s tough, as it involves multiple patches on the back, and having to go in repeatedly to the doctor for one week. But only by doing this did we learn that Wyatt had two allergies, to propylene glycol and cocomide DEA. Note from Maia: Nothing we call Good Stuff has these ingredients, ever.
Upon further investigation, we read that these are two very common triggers for kids with eczema. Furthermore, if propylene glycol is used as a flavor or color for food, or carrier or solvent instead of a direct ingredient, it is considered an indirect ingredient and therefore not required to be listed on the nutrition label by the FDA.
Really reading labels and ingredients is a must. It’s daunting, to look at a label and see there are twenty plus ingredients, some of which have scientific names with six or more syllables. But take a pen, make a list, and start getting to know their names. There are repeated offenders which are sadly in many products that are triggers for eczema.
I do wish this could all be shared and discussed openly by dermatologists from the get go. We immediately saw a connection between when our son used these ingredients and having reactions. Systemic, generalized dermatitis has been reported after eating foods with propylene glycol, or from taking medications that contain it.
Best Clothing for Kids with Eczema
Kids with eczema should really try to stick to materials made of 100% cotton. It’s best for the skin.
And just like in foods, I’d recommend reading the ingredients of clothes, sheets, towels, and accessories. There are many outfits we thought were just cotton, but have a blend of materials. Even if it’s just 2% polyester, your child’s skin can react strongly.
Wool is especially bad for kids with eczema. And by the way, this means that cosmetic products with lanolin are also bad for kids with eczema!
The Best Creams for Eczema
We were familiar with CeraVe and Vanicream, as every doctor we met with had recommended the two.
We liked the ones without parabens or fragrance (and we learned to read the ingredients lists carefully–as the same company will make ones that have them and don’t, like CeraVe).
But I didn’t read or hear about ceramides until four years into our eczema journey, when a new dermatologist told us to look for creams with ceramides.
Ceramides are fatty lipid molecules that help keep our skin moist and soft. Moist and soft skin should be the goal, especially if your child has eczema or allergies. But children with eczema are often lacking ceramides. Hence the red, dry, itchy, and splotchy trademark of eczema!
Our favorite cream with ceramides is this one (which Maia calls “pretty much Okay Stuff, and worth a try for sure if your kid is suffering!”).
Despite the fact that it doesn’t contain ceramides, this Green Goo also brought Wyatt relief.
Most likely if your child has eczema, he or she has a combination of sensitivities. I know from experience this can at times feel like you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack. Or you feel like you need to just buy your child a bubble suit! But there are steps to take. Begin with testing and reading ingredients. Don’t be afraid to keep the doctor in the room longer with your questions. Because it’s possible to find answers — to keep your child’s pot of water from boiling over.
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