One thing I was not prepared for, as we brought our second baby home, was the battle that we were about to have with eczema. Eczema is something that so many people struggle with but I never expected it to happen to us. There weren’t a ton of recommendations or resources out there and the ones that were, didn’t have any medical facts or evidence behind them. So, I’m going to share with you what we did and why it helped us!
Our middle kiddo was born in December of 2016. The cold months can often hide eczema and its severity. The air is dry and crisp. It’s cold. But, as he approached 5 months and the weather was getting warmer and more humid, we started to see more and more signs. It started off with mild itching and raised/dry looking skin. We had always rubbed him down in lotion after his baths so as these spots appeared we moisturized them more diligently. This didn’t seem to help but rather exacerbated the issue. We would ask about his skin at every doctor’s appointment and they would always brush it off and tell us to moisturize and if it itches to use whatever over the counter hydrocortisone cream we could find. And to our surprise, this never helped.
As he got older, we started baby led weaning and he was eating more solid foods; I remember a noticeable change for the worst. His dry patches became red, they grew larger and larger, and they spread. After a couple of weeks, we were at a loss. So, at 9 months old, we brought him to, both, a dermatologist and an allergist. This is where it got tricky. We had him tested for all your basic allergens and his panel came back positive for egg, peanut and dog allergies. Apparently, allergies and eczema go hand in hand and they told us that he would probably develop asthma later on because the three are very much related to one other. The kicker here is that the pediatrician, allergist, and dermatologist told us completely different things about how to manage his eczema. It was all very confusing. We would go to one appointment and they would give us a list of do’s and don’t’s and then the next appointment we would hear the opposite. I was at a loss. I tried every cream, lotion, and prescription steroid all to no avail. He was scratching himself at night, during the day, in the car, outside, at the table. He was always crying because he was itching and his body got so raw. He was bleeding almost all time. I can’t even remember how many times I went to get him out of his car seat and his arms and legs were covered. His knees, front and back, his elbows, his ankles, even his stomach. It would get infected and wouldn’t heal for weeks. It was heartbreaking, as a parent, to watch him go through this.
I, finally, decided that enough was enough and that I was going to pick and choose which advice to follow based on the research I had done, what made sense, and what worked for us. Today, I’m going to share those with you so that (hopefully) you or your child, husband, parent, friend, or coworker may find some relief from the things we found successful.
1. Stay cool
One of the factors we found to aggravate his eczema the most was the temperature of his skin. This is often very difficult for a child (and was for us) because kids love nothing more than playing outside, at the park, or at the pool; especially during the summer months when it’s the warmest. In North Carolina, the summer can often reach upwards of 105. Add in the humidity and it’s a hell on earth. Limiting sun exposure is a must. We would try not to let him be outside for more than 20 minutes at a time and never in direct sunlight. We also cranked the AC in the car 15 minutes before we went anywhere.
We didn’t find that dry skin really contributed to the eczema so much as it made it itch worse. If you’ve ever fallen and scraped your knee you know what I’m talking about. As it heals and the skin dries out around the cut, it itches. The larger the wound the more it itches. Imagine this over 30% of your body. So, in order to minimize the itching we did everything we could to keep it moisturized. We would let him sit and soak in the tub just about every night. No soap, just letting his skin drink it up for at least 15 minutes daily. We also would put him to bed in wet pajamas. (It sounds crazy, I know but it worked.) Fresh jammies out of the dryer that were slightly damp was a game changer. Overnight his skin would absorb the moisture and it would minimize itching as well!
3. Disinfect bathtub and water
Now, this is one of the more controversial recommendations and I, honestly, didn’t want to try it. I was astounded that it was even something people did but it was one of the things that helped him the most so, I will always recommend it. Every time he got a soak or a bath we cleaned the bathtub beforehand. This is exhausting but it’s a very important step. Your bathtub is a breeding ground for bacteria as are the open wounds from scratching. Every time we drew a bath we would first rinse the tub with hot water, pour a half cup of bleach in and do a quick scrub. This is critical if you have open wounds or raw spots. After scrubbing and rinsing the tub thoroughly, we would run about 6 inches of water (as warm as we were comfortable putting him in safely) and while it was running we would add 1/4 cup of bleach. This is done to kill any bacteria on the skin or in the wound. This was actually recommended by our dermatologist or else I would have called it crazy. It does not burn and he never noticed it to my surprise. We did this twice a week typically but added in a day here or there if his skin was super raw or oozing. Bleach does dry out the skin which is why it’s so important to keep it moisturized which, leads me to my next point.
4. Use a barrier cream/product
One of the main things that helps with the itching and, therefore, the intensity of the eczema, is moisture. But, there’s only so much you can apply to the skin to help with this. The skin dries out naturally over time which is why you need a barrier to hold the moisture in. You’ll get tons of recommendations from diaper cream to coconut oil but those come with their own side effects. (Coconut is a common allergy so, be aware of that.) What we found to be the most helpful was Aquafor and Vaseline. These are thick petroleum based products that hold the moisture in. We applied these all over right after every soak to seal in the moisture and keep his skin from drying out so quickly.
5. Keep the skin covered
One of the most important parts of caring for eczema is to keep it covered. Especially, for small children. Grass, dust, dirt and every other germ is on our kids hands and feet and everything they touch. Keeping that to a minimum helps a ton! Our son would scratch himself until he bled in a matter of seconds and for a long time he was wrapped up. We had gauze and bandages on his knees and elbows constantly. This was the only way we were able to let it heal and keep him from constantly reopening his skin. He slept in long footie pajamas every single night (and most of the time he still does.) There are many different products on the market out there to keep kids from scratching. Some of which resemble some form of a straight jacket (which, I was not interested in trying) and others were daytime mitten looking hand covers. I encourage you to do a quick search to see what you can find that might help!
6. Prescription steroid and antibiotic creams
Alongside the things I mentioned in 1-4, we, occasionally, had to use prescriptions. These need to be used under the supervision of a medical professional. Please seek medical advice before using them. Sometimes these are necessary. Trust your gut. If you feel like nothing is working and your doctors feel they are necessary, it may be helpful. We were prescribed both a steroid cream and a prescription strength antibacterial cream. These can not be used everyday, for an extended period of time, due to steroid withdrawal and resistance built up in the body with continuous use.
7. Be open to trying new things
Everyday there are new skincare products being sold, medicines being prescribed, and new research coming out. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. What works for one person’s skin will not work for everyone and that’s okay. The goal is to find what works for you. You will get lots of advice from many, most of whom mean well. But the truth is, only you know what works and what doesn’t. Work with your doctors to brainstorm and create a plan to get the results you need. You have to be your own advocate (or your child’s in my case.) Ask questions. Offer ideas. Talk about what is and isn’t working. Only through trial and error will you be able to find a solution that works for you.
I hope this was helpful and encouraging!
Disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional. Always consult your healthcare professionals before making any decisions or treatment plans