Do you battle eczema? Or perhaps you have sensitive skin and one of your children battles eczema? I'm sharing 6 very valuable things we have learned over the past 4 years coping with my youngest daughter's eczema. Number one and number 3 may really surprise you!
This post is purely about how we personally treat Emmy's symptoms. It's important to realise that there are deeper triggers and causes for eczema that need to be investigated and these are the most vital for mananging it long term. My previous The Eczema Diaries blogs have touched on diet and allergies.
I'm writing from the perspective of treating a toddler or child but please don't be put off if you don't have one and you're not a parent. Everything here applies equally to anyone, of any age, who suffers from this nightmare skin condition (apart from the cotton onesie at the end ;) although covering up as much skin as possible so you don't scratch is a seriously good idea!)
Many parents want to know how to treat their child's eczema as naturally as possible. I'm one of them. Is this always possible?? I have to answer no, at times prescription drugs to treat your child will be necessary. It may shock you that I say this. It pains me to say it, but it's important for me to be honest and share what we have genuinely learnt from hard experience and other expert health professionals.
So here we go my top tips for managing eczema.....
1.) Know when to use a steroid
If the skin is red, broken, raw or bleeding it will be very painful for your little one. (It could even be infected) This is the time you will need to use a prescription steroid. Anything else you use will probably cause even more irritation. Even bathing in plain water when it's like this will be painful for them (keep water tepid if you absolutely have to bathe them and be quick!)
***Also a VERY real possibility, that I don't think many natural product advocates realise - perhaps beacuse they havn't dealt with anaphylaxsis and severe allergy, is that the natural product you are using is even more likely to get into the blood stream of your child. Exzema skin has a 'leaky' skin barrier. Any product used continuously will likely permeate this 'leaky' skin barrier, hit the blood stream and after a while the blood thinks 'the enemy, attack, attack'. Eczema sufferers have a much higher likelihood of becoming allergic to skincare products. Have you ever used a lovely product that worked amazingly, then suddenly it stopped working and caused irritation? This is why!!
This is an excerpt from the the advice given from the National Eczema Society of UK about topical steroid application (you will find the link below to read the full reference article) ...
...After bathing is a good time to apply the emollient, followed 30 minutes later by the topical steroid. It is important to leave a gap between the two applications to avoid diluting the steroid and/or spreading it to areas where it is not needed.
Now no one wants to use steroids (or antibiotics) continously so this leads me to my next point....
2.) Moisturise like a crazy person
Once the steroid has calmed the skin moisturise every time you think about it. When you get your little one dressed, when you change a nappy, change their clothes, at bedtime. You cannot moisturise too much. Especially when you see even the mottled outline of a flare a few layers under the top layer of skin. Keep the skin 'wet' or greasy looking with moisturiser. You will prevent the extreme acute flare that would probably need the steroid. Crumlin actually advise 250g per week on a child and 500g on an adult. That's a serious amount of moisturising product! We use Emmy's Balm. This has a three fold purpose, it is emollient (long word for very moisturising), helps to control the itch with zinc oxide and also forms a barrier to prevent the skin's own moisture leaving. Our testers have found because its super emollient they don't need as much as they tend to use with other products.
3.) Alternate the skin moisturiser you use
The reason for this is tied up with numero uno. Eczema sufferers have that pesky leaky skin barrier. Even if the skin looks good (and go you if it looks good, that's a lot of maintenance work) unfortunately the skin barrier will always be comprimised. A good way to counteract ingredient sensitisation is to vary the products you use. Because we learnt this very early on I have consciously varied the ingredients I use within my products. So when Emmy's skin looks good (she's still very itchy - alot of the itch is skin layers down that we can't see yet) then I switch to the unscented Au Naturel Skin Mousse.
**Anything with essential oil is not advised. In any children it is not really recommended under 3 years of age but in eczema sufferers it is even more important (remember anything put on the skin can permeate that skin barrier and cause sensitisation or allergic reaction). Some sufferers may get effective relief from symptoms with a temporary application of a product including essential oils but applied with frequency the risk of sensitization is huge.**
4.) Bath Melts are your secret time saving weapon
When you don't have the time to moisturise like you really need to or your little one doesn't want to let you do it, our Baby Buff Bath Melts are a real help. Pop a small amount into their bath and the butters will melt and coat their skin. Just lightly pat dry and dress. My little eczema sufferer always needs additoinal moisturising but for her big sis (who still has dry skin) this is enough and saves so many extra tears and struggles! It's quick, easy and tear free. My little ones don't let me moisturise their face but if I can 'play' splash them in the bath then job done with no fighting. These are brilliant for everyone at tackling dry skin with the least effort possible.
As a side note, we bathe the girls twice a week and don't overwash them. However if Emmy is extra itchy then we will additionally bathe her (if she's been playing somewhere dusty, or where grass has been cut, pollen, animals) to get the allergen off her skin.
5.) Only use soap when you need to
A bath melt is all we add to our little ones water. Then I just use a little soap where needed at the end of the bath. I don't leave them sitting in soapy water that will unnecessarily dry their skin. I use my own soap Bleating Lovely or Butter Me Up which are super gentle but even then I don't overdo it.
6.) Keep the skin covered
Heat and sun will cause eczema skin to flare up (this was written initially in summer). Stay in the shade whenever possible and keep the skin covered with cotton clothing. Getting enough vit D is also super important but once my little eczema bod has got this then its in the shade for her. (Suncream is notorious for irritating eczema skin. I don't have any suggestions for this at the mo but when I do I'll be sure to post about it!). Pollen and other potential allergens can trigger a flare up too. Covering up the skin is really the only way to reduce exposure to these. Keeping the skin covered serves another purpose too. Emmy is 2 years and a half now. We have to keep her skin covered at all times or she will itch constantly - whether there are signs of irritation or not. The itch is often very deep under the visible skin's surface.
We have searched high and low for an all in one sleep suit for night time wear for an older toddler - as have had to give up on pyjamas. She scratches in her sleep terribly and will break the skin and wake herself. (We all know how much worse itching it is at night without daytime distractions).Tesco's still do them in this size 2-3 years as do M&S (there's are huge and will probably serve my petite lady through 3-4 as well). These are lifesavers for us and prevent her getting to her skin.
So these are the top things that have helped us practically so far, although this whole journey is a huge learning curve for us. It just helps that I have shelves of natural oils and butters with which to experiment and test.
If you would like to try the products mentioned we have have put together the Eczema Skincare pouch. It contains a smaller size of Emmy's Balm & Baby Buff Bath Melts, giving you a chance to see if they help you before comitting to a bigger size. Also included is the very gentle Bleating Lovely handmade soap.
Now, lets hope we all get a good, itch free, night's sleep!
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