Eczema certainly seems to be on the increase. An estimated 1 in 5 children under 3 are reported to suffer from this, often debilitating, condition. Having first hand experience of this I thought I would try to collate some relevant information. The main point that I have learnt over time is that each child is different. You may hear of the most wonderful cream that everyone swears by. You run to town and spend £20 on a tiny pot of cream, just to discover that your child appears to be allergic to one of the key ingredients. You have now just made your babies skin twenty times worse. It's very much a trial and error process. Eczema can be mild, moderate or severe. I would say that Pickle appeared to develop Eczema when she was around four months old. It was definitely pre- weaning. She began scratching her arms a lot but we did notice that she would absent-mindedley reach out and scratch us aswell which made me wonder if it had become a habit. Interestingly, I read of a report that had noted there was a higher number of children in an Eczema group who were clingy and irritable. So, does having Eczema make you irritable? Or does being irritable make you more likely to have Eczema? possibly a combination of both. One thing is for sure, my little lamb remains quite clingy and is often irritable with a noticeable improvement when her skin is under control.
Eczema can start in a child's early years and can come and go. It is characterized by red, itchy and dry skin often in skin creases such as elbows, backs of the legs, face and under the chin. It can be prone to bleeding where the child scratches constantly and it can be extremely distressing and quite soul destroying to watch your child in such discomfort, endlessly clawing at her skin until she is red raw. Scratching the skin leads to abrasions which feel itchier, hence the 'itch scratch' cycle. There can be different types of Eczema. Pickle had some very nasty thick and stubborn circular areas of Eczema on her back which the dermatologist told me was 'Disc Eczema'. Complications of Eczema can include, secondary skin infections such as Impetigo ,which would require antibiotics, poor sleep and possible stunted growth (as a result of the growth hormone being disrupted due to the unsettled nights) Obviously a lack of sleep can lead to irritability and poor concentration and for older children, Eczema can bring about feelings of stigma and isolation.
There is a lot of ideas around about why children develop it and I'm sure, like myself, if you have a child with Eczema you will have spent a great deal of time down at the doctors and trawling the internet to try to find answers. Hereditary factors come in to play, if one or both parents have Eczema, hayfever or Asthma, chances are higher that your child will develop Eczema, and unfortunately are also more likely to develop the other allergy-type conditions. Dietary causes/ food allergies are sometimes found to be the trigger (although there is not very strong evidence to support this) and many people swear by avoiding dairy and switching to Goats milk. I did omit dairy completely for a three month period when Pickle was around 16 months old but there was very little improvement. If this is something you want to try I would advise to exercise great caution here as young children need the calcium and essential fats from dairy. I was advised by my health visit to switch to Soya milk that was fortified with vitamins and calcium which can be bought in most supermarkets. Difficult to deprive your little ones of ice-cream, rice puddings etc though 'Alpro soya' do some decent (ish) puds. Environmental factors include things such as central heating (A child with eczema has a limited moisture content in his skin and therefore the dry air caused by central heating can aggravate the condition). Some people report that their child's Eczema improves in the winter, but my child's definitely becomes worse. washing powders, pet dander, dust mites, woolen clothing, over heating, perfumed products, soaps, bubble baths etc.
I think the sooner you come to terms with the fact that there is no cure for Eczema, the better. It has actually taken a very long time to sink in with me and, as I previously mentioned, I have literally spent hours trawling the net and pestering people to find the elusive 'magic cure'. All that can be done is manage the symptoms and hope to Goodness that your child will 'Grow out of it'. This will, undoubtedly, be what you are told by your GP or health visitor. I know they are trying to make you feel better but, really, it's not terribly helpful is it? The following are things that have helped MY child (and, in turn, me) this may or may not help you. I hope it does, but if it doesn't please click the links to some of the websites that I will add at the bottom. Someone out there may be able to offer you that chink of light that you so desperately need. Please remember, this isn't your fault. It isn't because you bottle fed your baby. My twins were formula fed (another story for another time) and I did self-flagellate for a little while but it really gets you nowhere so stop right now! (I command it) In any case, according to the 'Journal of Epidemiology and community health' The protective role of breast-feeding is also the subject of debate. Some studies show beneficial effect, others show none, some show negative effects. So there. Sorry, I digress. Stop using washing powder. If you can buy it (and it's not terribly expensive) use 'Surcare' which is completely free of any perfumes or colors and cleans your clothes perfectly well. Don't use fabric conditioner. Ideally you should aim to do a hot wash (60 degrees) but it's not very environmentally sound. If the clothes are covered in sick, wee, poo or mud then I will. But otherwise 40 degrees. It used to be thought that fewer baths were better as water dries the skin out, however, current guidelines advise ,at least, daily baths in tepid water for short periods. products such as Oilatum should be added to the bath