Moving Abroad Opens Doors to a Different Eczema Treatment Plan
Imagine the stress of moving over seas with a new baby, an eczema diagnosis, and learning to eat on a hypoallergenic diet. Meet Tara, a fellow eczema mom. Not only did her family’s relocation go smoothly, but the move to Scotland opened Tara’s eyes to a different and natural treatment option for her son’s eczema.
Bio: My name is Tara Lung. I grew up in Prince Edward Island and as the eldest of 12 children, I had lots of experience with children but very little exposure to food allergies as no one in our family had anything other than a few environmental allergies to cats, cut grass and cleaning products/chemicals. During my high school years, I developed a real interest in traveling and seeing the world. After a year of travel in South America, I ended up in Ottawa for university. Throughout university, I continued my travels to Europe and East Asia then settled in Montreal upon graduation. A few years later, I married and moved to Alberta, where my husband and I lived for three years before moving to Scotland.
My husband Darren and I both love traveling so when we found out that we were pregnant with our son, Sebastian, we started to explore the possibility of having our work transfer us overseas for a short term assignment. When we settled on Scotland, we were excited for the opportunity for our family to explore some of Europe. We prided ourselves on our extensive travel experiences, however, we soon realized that having a baby with eczema would change everything about the way we were used to traveling.
Sebastian began to develop eczema at around 3 months of age and it got progressively worse. I began by eliminating dairy and soya from my diet, and although I saw some improvement initially, overall, the condition of his skin continued to worsen.
In preparation for our move overseas, we moved in with my in-laws when Sebastian was 5 months old. Before moving, his eczema was mostly on his face and neck but after the move to my in-laws, it quickly spread all over his body. We suspected that their laundry detergent was aggravating his condition and had them switch brands. Although, this helped, his condition continued to worsen so we saw a naturopath who prescribed some probiotics and recommended I begin a hypoallergenic diet since Sebastian was still mostly breastfed. (For this diet, I had to avoid gluten, all red meats, tomatoes, corn, peppers, potatoes, melons, strawberries, citrus, peanuts, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, etc….). My in-laws were very gracious in making some changes to their cooking so that we could continue eat meals together as a family.
The hypoallergenic diet made it very difficult to eat at other people’s homes or in restaurants and as a result, we began to feel somewhat uneasy about what lay ahead as we continued to prepare for our move overseas. We had booked our flights months in advance, planning to spend time in Iceland and Ireland before reaching our final destination in Scotland. We were nervous about traveling while I was on such a restrictive diet so we booked accommodation that had self-catering options so we could cook the majority of our meals and hopefully find some vegan restaurants that could accommodate. It was somewhat time-consuming to be so focused on the food we were eating but we managed to enjoy our time and eat alright during our travels.
By the time we arrived in Scotland, Sebastian was almost 8 months old and beginning to eat more solid foods. After our first trip to the grocery store, we were pleasantly surprised to find a great selection of organic baby food packets that contained nothing but organic fruit or vegetables, no additives or preservatives. Score! These would become a favorite product as they were perfect as snacks or meals during our busy first few weeks getting settled in. There was also a wide array of very affordable allergy-friendly options in the “free from” section including gluten-free flour blends, nice gluten-free breads, natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, dried fruit without sulfates, dairy-free/soy-free chocolate bars, and so much more…it was amazing!
As we began exploring the neighborhood, we found a health food store that stocked some of the products that we loved and a herbalist shop. We went inside at the herbalists and spotted a wide array of herbal supplements and remedies for all sorts of ailments including a prominent section of eczema creams including an infant starflower cream. We chatted with the staff and learned that their herbalists often treat babies and children with eczema and they recommended we set up an appointment. We hadn’t heard about herbalists before and were somewhat unsure so we took a card and went home to do some internet research before committing to an appointment. After doing a bit of research, we decided that we didn’t have anything to lose and set an appointment for later in the week.
Sebastian had a big flare up soon after our arrival so we also made an appointment with our new family doctor to see if we could get a referral to a dermatologist. She gave us the referral but said it could take a month or so to get the appointment so she recommended that we continue to use the steroids that we had been prescribed in Canada.
As we waited for our dermatologist appointment, we got in to see the herbalist. She took a very throughout history then said she would make up a specialized herbal tincture for Sebastian to take twice a day with a bit of water. The tincture has marshmallow syrup base and contains chamomile, clovers, marigold, echinacea, iris and nettle. She recommended that we add a pot of chamomile tea to his baths every night (add 1 tsp of chamomile tea leaves in a tea-pot to brew all day) then apply their infant starflower cream, which doesn’t contain essential oils or olive oil, which irritate Sebby’s skin. She suggested that we could expect to see results in as little as three weeks since babies often respond really quickly to treatments such as these.
Amazingly, exactly two weeks after we began the prescribed treatment, Sebastian had his last big eczema flare up and within three weeks, his condition was beginning to improve significantly. Soon after, I made the decision to discontinue following the hypoallergenic diet because it did not seem to be yielding results. I continued to avoid things that we were sure he was sensitive to including dairy and soya and continued to limit gluten as much as possible but re-introduced everything else. We saw no change whatsoever in Sebastian’s skin as a result of this change. Phew! I was thankful to be off such a restrictive diet.
By the time we had our appointment with the dermatologist, I was almost embarrassed to go because I thought she would think I was a hypochondriac since Sebastian’s skin looked almost back to normal. She said I presented a strong case for food allergies or sensitivities and eczema so she performed a few prick tests and when they came back negative, she sent us to get a blood test that would test for hundreds of allergies. She prescribed a steroid to use only if needed and a thick barrier cream that we found works great under his diapers. At our follow-up appointment, we found out that nothing had shown up on the blood test and she said that she believed that Sebastian would grow out of the eczema.
Sebastian is now 14 months old and his skin is doing really well! He continues to take herbal tincture twice a day. He has chamomile baths every evening and then we apply the infant starflower cream on his face and body. He still seems to be sensitive to dairy and soya, and potentially gluten, so we continue to avoid those foods, however, he is eating like almost any other toddler his age.
We are so thankful that we had the opportunity to come work in the UK as we found options for treating Sebastian’s eczema that we would never have been exposed to in Canada. Although the thought of moving was somewhat stressful, we are so glad that we followed through on our commitment to move because if we had stayed in Canada, we would have missed out on some wonderful treatment options for Sebastian.