Childhood eczema

Itchy, hot and irritable or scratchy, sore and sorry, whatever way you look at it, eczema and children are a miserable combination. Eczema is one of a group of inherited conditions that includes hayfever and asthma.

You can either feel guilty that you have passed on your itching genes to your bundle of joy, or blame the other parent. In any case, wringing your hands and wailing ‘mea culpa’ is not going to help little Travis/Travesta with his/her eczema.

First thing is to calm itching. Soap is banned. Use special non-itching liquids (available from the chemist) in the bath, or make an oat sock. Oats are particularly good for itching and dry skin. Take a couple of handfuls of rolled oats, put them in the toe part of a discarded pair of pantyhose and tie a knot. Place in the tub while the water is running, and use instead of soap. The squishy oat liquid is calming for itchy skin. Make sure the water is not too hot, as overheating often exacerbates the itchiness. Dry skin is not good for eczema, so always moisturise your child’s skin with a gentle moisturiser, or make your own with olive or almond oil. Add the contents of a couple of capsules of evening primrose oil to the moisturiser. Baby oils are also on the banned list as they are made from mineral oils, which make them good for repelling water (a nappy rash) but no great shakes for moisturising.

With eczema, scratching is what you want to do. Unfortunately, it makes the eczema worse and being too vigorous in the scratching department can cause infections. Make sure fingernails are super short and if necessary pop on some cotton cloves or mittens for nighttime. Calendula cream helps heal any wounds, and aloe vera gel may cool and heal the wicked itch.

Taking essential fatty acids is one of the best treatments for eczema, although be prepared to wait a few weeks for results. The fatty acids that are good for eczema (DHA and DHGLA) are the same ones found in breast milk, which may explain why eczema commonly occurs after weaning. You can buy these fatty acids in a liquid form that don’t taste too bad, and can be added to juice or food.

Unfortunately, sometimes food allergies are triggers for eczema. I say unfortunately, because nobody wants to limit a young child’s variety of food. Unlike an adult, you cannot logically discuss reasons for removing a food. For instance, “Son, I suggest you withdraw from food ‘x’ for awhile as it seems you have developed this nasty rash at around the same time you started eating ‘x’. To which your child would respond “Fair enough Mumsy, that is a logical hypothesis, let’s give a whirl” Not!

Often, food ‘x’ is cows milk. If you suspect this is the case, replace cows milk for two weeks, with calcium enriched soy, goats milk and sheep’s milk products (including cheese and yoghurt). If the eczema subsides, you know cow’s milk might be a factor. When the eczema has improved, introduce small amounts of cow’s milk products until you find your child’s threshold amount. For instance cereal and milk and a cheese sandwich daily might be fine, but add an ice cream or extra glass of milk, and the itching starts up again. If your child is cow’s milk sensitive, make sure they are getting plenty of calcium from other foods including, soy, goat and sheep milk, ground nuts and seeds and green vegetables.

Eczema is a sorry business for both the itcher and their family. Try a few of these natural remedies for instant and longer-term relief.