Our Family’s Battle with Eczema (Part 2 of 2)
If you missed Part 1 of the story, you can view it here.
On April before his third birthday, Tristan’s poor body was 90% covered in eczema and what appeared to be severe burns. It pains me to even remember him that way now. I just can’t articulate how horrific it was to see my lovely little son in such misery with red, inflamed irritated skin. And the itching! Wow, don’t get me started. Thankfully, it only started around this time and he didn’t have a problem with itching before, but when it started, it was hell and back. No sleeping at night (him or us), screaming hysterically day and night, and the “scratch trances” (as I call them, when his eyes would blur over as his mind shut down and his scratching instincts kicked in). The scratching led to bleeding, which led to infections and it was just one big vicious cycle. The dry, red, inflamed eczema skin we could deal with – lots of moisturizer and he was ok, as long as we used something that didn’t sting him too badly. But the itching was out of control. Out of our control. Out of his control. He was so helpless and that was horrible to witness. This was a serious and painful time for all of us. We had to find a solution. And fast.
First, we tried to control the itching or at least prevent him from hurting himself. We found ScratchMeNot flip mitten sleeves, which he miraculously couldn’t remove and we used them religiously. They also helped to break his thumb sucking habit, which was an added bonus. Tristan did not take a nap or night’s sleep without these mittens. If we forgot them, his skin would be a bloody mess. If he became itchy while at the park, we’d throw the scratch mittens on him and distract him until it passed. Many times he didn’t want to wear them and it’s not easy to reason with a 3-year-old, but we managed.
Next, we tried to find a moisturizer that didn’t burn or sting him terribly. Drug store brands were out of the question as they all contained some sort of alcohol, which seemed to burn Tristan’s skin. We also found that most natural moisturizers weren’t as natural as they claimed or contained a type of alcohol or preservative as well, so labels became our friends and we studied them extensively. In fact, eczema was a blessing in disguise as it helped our family live a much more natural, non-toxic lifestyle, so for that we’re eternally thankful. We found some great creams that worked well, but our go-tos for Tristan became the salves and balms because they never contain alcohol, but instead gentle oils. The Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream is our absolute favorite. Tristan was happy because the stinging and burning stopped, so we were happy too.
The salves kept Tristan’s skin moister than without, but his case was severe and something more drastic was necessary. I learned about wet wrapping and gave it a go. Wet wrapping is AMAZING! Learn more: What Is Wet Wrap Therapy for Eczema? I really didn’t believe it would work, but we did it three times per day for one week and the results were incredible. His skin was close to perfect – almost nicer than when he was born! But after one week, the intense moisture therapy backfired and started drying him out, so it was only good for a quick fix and for “skin emergencies,” but it was enough to show us there was hope.
The itching was again starting to really consume Tristan, so we started using the anti-histamine prescribed by the dermatologist. We gave him the minimum dose and it worked like a dream. The itching completely stopped for two days at a time and didn’t seem to make Tristan drowsy…fabulous! But after two weeks it started losing its effectiveness. We had to stop for one week, give him a break so his body didn’t resist it anymore, and then it would work again. We’d take that scenario any day; it was better for Tristan to have a few really great days rather than all bad ones. It was at least another step in the right direction until we could determine the root cause of his itching.
At about the same time we were trying the new salves and skin protecting clothing, we started a food elimination diet. I read Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children, by Janice Vickerstaff Joneja PhD RD, front to back and followed her methods and recommendations for the eczema elimination diet exactly. We found a long list of food items that made him itchy immediately after consuming (e.g. soy, corn, tomato, red peppers, etc.), as well as some that took at day or two of continuously eating before causing the itch (e.g.. cantaloupe and pineapple). One huge trigger for the red, irritated eczema skin we discovered was gluten. Once this was removed, Tristan’s skin started getting better immediately and after three weeks his skin was 90% better! A breakthrough!!! The itching was still pretty intense at times, so we cut out almonds. He was eating rice-almond bread, drinking almond milk and eating almonds as snack and in his cereal. It was too much! And once we cut them out totally, the itching completely stopped!
So here we are today. Tristan is 90% better. He’s rarely itchy, but he still has small eczema flair-ups from time to time, but overall he has made a miraculous recovery. Doctors had told us that he’d have severe eczema throughout his entire childhood, if not into adulthood. At 3-years-old, he’s not cured, but he’s got a mild case of eczema at best and no longer needs scratch mittens. Our family’s tears of frustration have truly become tears of joys and of triumph. Tristan is well on his way to eczema free days – I’m confident they’re not too far away.
For details about products and therapies that worked for us, please check out Natural Remedies for Eczema: What Worked For My Son.