Almost exactly a year ago, we FINALLY figured out what was going on with my daughter’s skin. Since birth she had crunchy skin. It started as cradle cap and blossomed across her body. Specifically, she gets very red, cracked ankles and knees. I spent months carting her from pediatrician to pediatrician who were very eager to dole out steroids without giving me a REASON for her painful skin. She kept herself up at night scratching, dug in her poopy diapers to itch her butt and I was not going to let my peach keep hurting. I needed answers.
She was finally diagnosed with eczema after breaking out in hives from eating eggs. The doctors finally put two and two together and realized that her skin rashes were from allergies (eggs, peanuts, dogs, cats, soy, dairy and dust to name a few). This is after me questioning them on allergies and our pets since she was born, to which they all poo-pooed me saying that her having allergies is very uncommon. Needless to say, once I left with her laundry list of allergies I was fuming. Why doesn’t anyone listen to moms?!
With this new diagnosis, I had no way how to deal with it. I needed guidance. What can she eat? Will it go away? Does she need an epi-pen? All of which were answered with, “We don’t know. It’s all trial and error and you’d be better off researching this online and finding out what she can and cannot have.”
So, after a year of raising a toddler (two in November) with non-stop eczema, I figured I would give some pointers out there for parents who are as dumbfounded as I once was.
1. Facebook groups are great. There are TONS of groups out there for parents of kids with allergies and you will need a support system. Get following them ASAP and don’t be afraid to ask ANY questions you might have. We have all been there. A few I recommend are: Kids with Food Allergies Foundation, Allergies (egg/milk) Parent Support Group, and National Eczema Association.
2. Get an epi pen. While eczema isn’t always caused by allergies, if you’re concerned, get at least a few. Keep them at your home, train all grandparents and caregivers on using them, get spares, and keep on top of expiration dates. Note: When you pick them up at the pharmacy, check the expiration date ASAP. I have gotten burned on getting ones that expire in a couple weeks.
3. NO SOAP. My heart broke into a thousand pieces after getting home from the allergist and realizing I had been rubbing milk-based soaps into my daughter’s open sores. We don’t use soap unless it’s critical (spaghetti night). Then, it has to be unscented and very small amounts. No bubble baths or scented lotions!
4. Oatmeal baths. This was a huge win for us. Aveeno makes a oatmeal bath for eczema, but for $10 a package, we really couldn’t afford to do this each night. So, my amazing mother-in-law ground up oatmeal and packaged them in pantyhose for individual servings and MUCH less expensive!
5. Cortisone cream. I spent months fighting this battle. I have a closet full of creams, lotions, ointments and salves. The only cream that even remotely soothed her was cortisone cream. I don’t like using this regularly, but after her baths and before bed she gets lathered to avoid scratching until she bleeds. EDIT: Thank you to reader Tikeetha T who said this tip might not be a good avenue for African American children since she experienced lightening of her son’s skin when treating his eczema.
6. Swimming pools! Well, this is my most favorite treatment for my girl. Chlorine cleans and soothes eczema like a dream! Slap on that bikini and have her swim until she’s a prune. Makes things clear up wonderfully.
7. Keep antihistamines everywhere. I’m talking: diaper bag, car, grandma’s, campers, daycare… every where you take your child you’ll need some. It never fails you’ll forget it and need an emergency drugstore run. Our favorites are Zyrtec (if she’s badly broken out, she gets some in her sippy cup at bedtime to help her not scratch in her sleep) and Children’s Benadryl.
8. Teach your other children and family the triggers. My three-year-old son has no allergies or eczema. But, he understands that he canNOT give his sister his cow’s milk, cheese or eggs. He is very cautious with giving her food because he knows she can get sick and sees her sore legs. Family members are much to eager to dole out baked goods to my daughter and have been reprimanded enough times to know that permission needs to be granted before she can have ANYTHING.
9. Be prepared. This is one I am going to reiterate. Having a child with eczema or allergies can make you want to batten down the hatches and not move from your home in fear of a breakout. That’s no way to live your life. Just prepare yourself for breakouts. Know what soothes your child the best and quickest and learn the early signs of a breakout. This helps avoid the overwhelming parental guilt that comes with those itchy little fingers.