How to deal with Eczema

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How to deal with Eczema

October 18, 2011 By Lime Tree Kids Lime Tree Mumma Blog comments
Have you noticed how many little ones now have Eczema or skin conditions? My son was (is?) one of these poor little ones that was unfortunate enough to get this sometimes crippling skin condition.

What is eczema you ask? Eczema is a common skin condition affecting ten to twenty per cent of children. The exact cause of eczema is not known. However if there is a history of eczema, asthma or hay fever in the family, your child is more likely to develop one of these conditions. Unfortunately there is no cure for eczema, although there are many ways to keep it under control. Approximately fifty per cent of children will no longer be troubled by eczema by two years of age and eighty five per cent by five years of age.

Currently Sam’s eczema is only slightly flaring up this year but there were times last year and the year before when he was hospitalised for Staph infection (when he would scratch so bad he would bleed and then infect the areas and I mean BLEED and scratch until he was covered in raw skin) , times when we would have to sedate him for sleep so he wouldn’t scratch and bleed everywhere, countless moisturizers bought and used once , countless bleach baths , changes of laundry detergent , elimation diets etc.. Poor little guy , he never complains though !.

The RCH in Melbourne (Royal Children’s Hospital – who is the world leader in research for this condition) says “ Eczema is a red, hot, dry and itchy rash that can affect one or many areas on the face and body and it can be mild, moderate or severe. There are often scratch marks on the skin because of the itch. These areas may become infected with bacteria and this can worsen the eczema. If there is an infection, your child may need a course of oral antibiotics. “.

When the rash begins in the first few months of life it normally affects the face. The cheeks and chin become red, dry, hot and itchy. This is made worse by dribbling, hands touching the face and mouth and saliva irritating the skin. At this age eczema may also affect the body and limbs, but the changes in these areas are not usually as severe. As the child becomes a toddler the eczema is less likely to affect the face and more likely to be present on the limbs and trunk. When the child becomes school aged the eczema tends to affect the hot areas of the body, such as the flexures of the neck, elbows, knees and buttocks for similar reasons.

What aggravates Eczema ?

Well that depends on who you ask, sometimes professionals and parents tend to disagree. And then even both sides disagree with each other. Basically I believe it is different for each individual but all seem to agree that heat, dryness of the skin, and scratching aggravate the eczema.

On top of these 3 things I found that Sam’s eczema almost always “flared” when he was stressed , ate too many Salicylates (check out the RCH Elimination Diet for info on food allergies) , was exposed to certain grasses (despite his allergy test denying this) and dust a massive factor. We also had to get rid of all chemicals around the house and we started using sensitive skin powder to wash his skin , even water & the chemicals in it can set him off so we finally had a water filter installed on our shower (no kidding !!!) to take out the chemicals in the water and he uses this mostly when he is having a “flare”up. He wears only cotton clothing, washes straight after swimming and beach. We use BILLIE GOAT soap daily to wash and then moisturised with BILLIE GOAT milk moisturiser or Moo Goo.

We use BILLIE GOAT plain body bars for washing hands (he even has some at PreSchool), if he is especially bad we will wet bandage him. This involves a small bit of effort and preparation but has been the most beneficial thing for us to do.. I know it helps mostly because Sam is SO happy to wear the bandages and gains so much relief that he will ask for them if it is bad enough. The following is taken from the RCH website and then I’ve added what we do .. We do this every night or as needed during a flare up.

Why do wet dressings help eczema?

  1. COOL wet dressings, help to reduce the itch. The itch is worse when the skin is hot.
  2. DAMP wet dressings help with the treatment of infection. They help to clean the skin’s surface.
  3. The skin is REHYDRATED with the moisturiser under the wet dressing.
  4. Wet dressings PROTECT the skin from trauma. AKA child scratching the life out of his or her skin !
What items do I need for a wet dressing?

Moisturiser (50% soft and 50% liquid paraffin or sorbolene cream)
It will depend on the level of dryness what you apply – always seek medical advice first! When things are this bad we use straight paraffin and mix it up on our hands 90% paraffin 10% water. Parrafin retains the moisture in the skin and that’s why its so beneficial to leathery or very dry skin.

Cortisone or tar cream if prescribed.
DON’T be afraid to use this if its bad enough. Eczema can lead to Staph which can get VERY bad VERY quick, I’ve learnt this the hard way as a parent ! We personally use a prescribed steroid depending on strength required (we always have a choice of about 5 available in our cupboards)

Tepid water
I use filtered or boiled water cooled.

Use an old one as it gets greasy !

Disposable towels
I don’t use these but ive also heard of people using Chux broken down into strips.

Crepe bandages
I actually use a brand called Tubifast as suggested by my sons dermatologist. They come in a roll and you can cut them to size. Think like what hospitals use (that white roll on over tube bandage.) See the below picture. We use the GREEN stripe but it depends on the size of your child and where the break outs are. Sam has tiny arms and legs ..

How to apply a wet dressing

  1. Wet disposable towels in a bowl of tepid water and one capful of bath oil. I use Dermaveen Flare up oil for this one
  2. Apply cortisone or tar creams, if they are due to be applied.
  3. Apply moisturiser to the body and face. I use Billy Goat Moisturisers for this except for the flare up areas I will use straight Parrafin with drops of water until its under control and I will go back to Billy Goat or Moo Goo again.
  4. Wrap the wet towels around the affected areas gently, using a few layers. I never did this. I always soaked the tuibifast bandage in the bowl of oil and water and then put it on. I would then put another dry one over the top of the wet one. Same type of thing I suppose just different applications. If you need to get the bandages on the arms and especially fingers as we did, you can just cut a little triangle into the bandage about 10cm from the top on one side and this will allow the thumb to slip through.
  5. Wrap crepe bandages around the wet towels, firmly but not tightly. Avoid direct contact with the skin.
Wet dressings may be applied as often as required to any area of the body with eczema, for example, the elbow or the knee. The wet dressings will dry, please try not to leave the dressings on dry as dry dressings can irritate the skin by causing it to become hot, dry and itchy. Please note the water used in the wet dressing does not have to be cold. Wet dressings cool the skin by the water evaporating just like sweat.

When Sam’s skin is under control as it is now, I like to try and get back to as natural products as possible. I now use Billy Goat Soap or Moo Goo as my main choice and I flip between Billy Goat Milk Bath powder which contains Colloidal Oatmeal and Dermaveen Oatmeal bath mix. Recently I started stocking the full range of Billy Goat soap and I’ve been nothing but happy with the range . Sam’s skin hasn’t had a serious break out all year (touch wood) and we are maintaining it with this range and still using all the methods I’ve mentioned above.

At times it is so incredibly life consuming and you can feel helpless to help your little one. Even a small bit of eczema can really upset and irate a little person.. Let alone an older child who has sat on your bed crying that he didn’t want itchy’s anymore cause his skin looked yucky and he was getting teased at Kindy (GRRRRR !!!!)

There have been times when I’ve cried as Sammy has cried , times when I thought I knew what I was doing only to have a massive Flare up the next day. Ive cut down trees I thought were an irritant , I've stopped goping to the beach , I've read blogs and reports and research , attended seminars etc. Basically what Im trying to tell you is all you can do is all you can do ! I’ve tried EVERYTHING under the sun from natural to chemical to food to meditations (yes I know but Im sure it did me good if not Sam) !! It is FINALLY under control (well for the moment) and each flare up we now just get on with it , switch from natural to chemical as the need arises and start our clockwork routine on our kitchen bench of applying creams and bandages.

As you can appreciate, eczema is influenced by many factors. Just as the skin is improving it may become worse again for no clear reason. Unfortunately this tends to happen with eczema. Remember to treat the flare as soon as possible with wet dressings, cool compressing and cortisone creams and maintain it with moisturisers and bath oils. Eczema takes a lot of time and attention to keep it under control, however it is easier to keep it under control than to manage it when it is infected or severe. Dont be afraid to seek medical assistance.

Class over ;-P

Please note this is just my own personal experience with my sons condition. If your child suffere from eczema please seek medical advice. This information written is not meant to be medical advice but merely my own experience.