Eczema is driving me crazy

and it’s not even mine!

DC2 had a good month or two with perfect skin, and then eczema hit again.  Ze is finally old enough to get allergy testing done, so we got it done, and ze came up clear.  Ze can still have food intolerances, but we don’t have to worry about anaphylactic shock.  The internet (including more reputable places like webmd) notes that age 3-4 is when food allergies stop leading to eczema.  So wheat should be fine now.

The allergist gave the same advice the pedi had given– bathe or shower once a day, lather with lotion or creme (preferable aquifor or aveeno) 3-4 times per day.  The problem is that when we do that, DC2 gets big flare-ups and ze hates hates hates the lotion and says it itches… which makes us suspect that some of these lotions are part of the problem not the solution.  Ze seems better with aquifor and hydrolatum.

So the day after the allergist, we gave hir wheat-based lasagna (to eat) and Aveeno (topically), and had hir take a bath in the tub.  Ze had a HUGE flare-up.  On the plus side, coconut no longer makes hir throw up and seems to have zero ill effects.

We switched out regular sunblock with Badger Zinc Oxide sunblock.  We got rid of the Aveeno and switched to different supposedly-eczema-friendly lotions and cremes.  We had several meals without wheat.  We switched from baths in the DCs’ bathtub to showers using my special shower filter (the water here gives me hives sometimes).  It didn’t clear up but seemed to be doing somewhat better.

Then it got worse and DC2 started tantruming when it was time to put on lotion.  Then it got worse than we’d ever seen it before, turning an angry red with bumps.  So we stopped the daily baths and didn’t put on lotion unless DC2 was willing and it stopped getting worse, though didn’t get much better.  We went to the doctor again and he said that even though it was now “moderate” rather than “mild” that we should continue doing what he told us to do and he was sure that the flare-ups that happened after we followed his instructions were entirely coincidental.  He also suggested oral steroids.  We called DH’s mom who is both a nurse and has had the experience of dealing with DH’s siblings’ eczema.  She suggested different lotions, a different anti-histimine, and fewer rather than more baths (an internet search suggests that more baths are what is en vogue but 5 years ago they were suggesting fewer, which suggests to me that they really don’t know).  She nixed the oral steroid and suggested a topical steroid.

After a lot of looking online and comparing and contrasting the ingredients of different lotions, we noticed that the ones that caused obvious flare-ups all have alcohol as an ingredient, and given that DC2 couldn’t handle wipes with alcohol and I used to have a topical allergy to rubbing alcohol, we thought maybe that might be contributing to the problem.  We noticed that the first two ingredients in one baby lotion formula were water and sunflower oil, and figured, maybe #2 has a point and we should just use oil (crazy online sites all recommend coconut oil or complicated mixtures of essential oils, but we’re not totally on board with coconut yet and both too lazy and too skeptical to combine oils that come with warning labels about overuse).  DC2 hasn’t complained at all about getting olive oil– no screams or tantrums– and it didn’t seem to be making anything worse, which, while not the same as making something better, is better than the alternative.  One application of the topical steroid before bed combined with benedryl completely cleared up one of DC2’s arms and made the other three limbs look markedly better.

#2 has topical allergies too, and eczema for the rest of my life.  There’s nothing like grad school for giving you a lifelong medical condition!  I had a conversation with #1 about my allergies (which is a boring conversation but maybe helpful if DC2 gets more topical allergy tests).  I have an ointment now that works, but big flares are only controlled with Prednisone.  Hopefully baby won’t need that.

My eczema is exacerbated by water sitting on my skin, which means that I can’t use most lotions (creams, gels, anything you leave on) because they have water in them.  You can always buy cheap olive oil and use that, but then people might try to lick you.

#1 notes that DC2 smells delicious after being coated in olive oil.

Isn’t this fun??!?!?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 43 Comments »

43 Responses to “Eczema is driving me crazy”

  1. Mrs PoP Says:

    Has DC2 been tested for celiac? My best friend has a type of celiac called celiac herpetiformis that in addition to normal celiac presents as skin rashes and sores when she ingests or has a lot of physical contact with gluten. Before she was diagnosed, the “gentle” Aveeno lotions and shampoos doctors were recommending were completely exacerbating the issue since the oats in most of them are chock full o’ gluten.

  2. TheologyAndGeometry Says:

    Our DS#1 has issues with eczema that sound very similar to what your DC#2 is going through. We haven’t brought it up with the doctor because it really developed since his 2-y-o physical and it’s not severe (in my non-medical opinion). It’s on most of one glute, leg and foot. We were trying Aveeno eczema formula but he hated that. He tolerates Aquaphor a bit better, but we’ll have to try olive oil. Seems like it couldn’t hurt. He also gets a really sore bottom if he has a dirty diaper for even a short amount of time, which I seem to remember you saying your DC#2 had as well. He does eat a lot of wheat, but his poo looks normal so I don’t know if it’s still a possibility that he could be intolerant of it. I plan to talk to his pediatrician about it at this next check-up (and be told to put lotion on it) but I’d like to make him more comfortable. He really scratches at it…

  3. Requin Says:

    We also had luck with aquaphor but not aveeno. What helped in the end (until our kid finally grew out of the eczema by 6 or 7 or so) was our pediatrician prescribing singulair, not for allergies but for the eczema. We were a little reluctant at first but it was effective, and when we moved the new pediatrician agreed that this was a good strategy.

  4. sciliz Says:

    Regarding dermatology, my Dad used to say “is its dry make it wet, if it’s wet make it dry”. He never used lotions but took many baths.
    You can also try petroleum jelly. I thought it was ridiculous when my SO slathered my kid in it routinely (I thought of it just as for diaper rash), but it’s a superb sealant, like olive oil… less yummy though!
    Also, my Dad got rashes from food allergies (avacado) he developed I’m his 40s, so I would not be trusting webmd on an age cutoff as a rule without exceptions.
    I remember Aveeno fondly for their oatmeal bath when I had chicken pox. In your shoes, I wouldn’t touch it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      one of the cremes we have is whipped petroleum jelly

      Childhood food allergies are different than adult allergies in that they’re more likely to go away, and they’re more likely to cause eczema. Adult allergies once you have them they tend to stick. (Though both pregnancies changed my allergy profile.)

  5. monsterzero Says:

    Yeah, I have psoriasis and eventually discovered that practically all “moisturizers” contain alcohol, which…dries your skin out! Which makes you want to buy more moisturizer. Hmm.

  6. gwinne Says:

    Ugh. I’m sorry. Both my kids had eczema when they were little. tiny Boy mostly just in winter.

    Right now LG has a rash from chlorine all over her chest.

    Kids and skin. Oy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh yeah, #2 is also allergic to chlorine but I go in pools so rarely now that it’s no big deal. These days if I want to go in a pool, I just do it and shower off real good afterwards. If I don’t do it often it doesn’t cause a problem. It’s more a problem in kids because you practically can’t keep them OUT of the pool in the summer.

  7. Rented life Says:

    Aveeno works for us but we did fewer baths. More baths made it worse and worse. We are very selective about what lotions and soaps we use because all of us have have problems. Husband can’t use certain laundry detergents either.

  8. CG Says:

    I had a horrible flare-up of eczema on my hands last summer, I believe caused by a combination of an allergy to the peppermint oil in Dr. Bronner’s soap (I was trying to be all natural) and severe work stress. Switching to bar soap (from the Body Shop) from liquid soap helped a lot, but it didn’t clear up until we went to Montana–a much drier climate. This summer it’s been almost non-existent. I’m certainly not saying that my experience has anything in common with your kid’s, but maybe the upcoming change of climate will help. Sorry your little person is going through this–I remember the excruciating burning from anything containing alcohol coming into contact with my skin.

  9. j Says:

    We avoided bathing as much as possible with my youngest’s eczema. Water + warmth was bad news, which was why it usually flared up particularly badly in the summer (sweat + heat + irritants such as sunscreen and sand). I found sorbolene creme (paraffin and glycerin – whoops, though, just checked and it also has alcohol, but I’ll leave for others that might be looking for options) particularly good, as it rubbed in better than aquafor or straight up petrolatum. After trying some non-steroidal prescription creams, we went to a very light touch with over the counter steroid creams, and usually two applications of that took care of things. Since we didn’t need to use it for long periods of time, that ended up being an approved approach. There is a version of cortisone that comes in a lotion form (bigger tube) made for spreading over bigger swathes of skin that is particularly helpful.

  10. chacha1 Says:

    I was going to suggest olive oil. I’ve had some skin sensitivity since my surgery (mercy, what an alliterative sentence) and the only thing I’ve tried that really calms down the itching is olive oil. … Hope this clears up soon. Sounds like the main doctor was just throwing conventional remedies at the wall to see if anything would stick.

  11. Debbie M Says:

    Another random thing you could try is aloe vera. It seems to help me a little more than other (nonsteroidal) creams (which is not saying much).

    Meanwhile, bummer (except for the nice smell). Good luck and hang in there!

  12. jane Says:

    I am allergic to topical aloe. Wheat is now very different genetically from 50 years ago and medical awareness of the impact of these changes is not yet caught up. Track over time the foods and lotions and baths. Then you can see patterns and, show doctor who can learn. GOOD LUCK!

  13. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I am soo sorry. My oldest had this when he was young. We were advised fewer baths as well so I was surprised to see the more baths thing.
    I wish I could remember more but it was 10, 11 years ago. I wonder if maybe making sure ze is drinking lots of water will help. I feel like drinking water helps so much, especially skin related issues in summer. Good luck!!!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It helps me (#2) a little, in that lots of water makes your skin less dry and dry skin is itchy, but it’s not a panacea. I should still drink more water though, for all the reasons that aren’t skin. I was also advised fewer baths but I’m also not a little kid? This stuff is hard!

  14. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD Says:

    I also have the rashiest of allergic eczema filled kids. Thanks, ancestral Ashkenazi genetics! We call our kid cream formulation ‘people grease: mostly olive oil and beeswax and coconut oil (mine aren’t allergic to coconuts- just to make it more solid and easier to handle. I don’t believe in magical properties of anything, including claims of major genetic drift in wheat over short time scales or unsubstantiated claims of roundup causing higher gluten content ). When I did olive oil, they also smelled delicious!

    I once applied enough benadryl cream to myself, following a round of hives, that it made me sleepy. Good times.

  15. GEW Says:

    You and DC2 have my sympathies. Over a year ago, I developed dyshidrotic eczema on my hands. It’s like having poison ivy or poison oak. I put off trying steroids forever. When I finally tried a prescription steroid cream, it was like magic! Dermatologist says dyshidrotic eczema rarely is triggered by food but rather from stress and the wet-dry cycle (that comes with kitchen work, for example).

    Anyway, I know it’s different for kids. I use Cetaphyl Intensive Moisturizing Cream on my hands, and I LOVE it, but I see that it has alcohol, too.

    I know that, for my niece, my brother-in-law was advised to put a bit of bleach in her baths, and that seemed to help. I’ve heard vinegar can be good, too, but I don’t know about for kids…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ay, carumba. I am not a physician but I would never put bleach on a kid, no matter how diluted. But that’s just me though. (But damn wouldn’t that hurt if you had broken skin?) Vinegar is a thing we both use around the house a lot as it is a mild disinfectant that’s safe to eat. Rx steroid is the best!!! Mine’s exacerbated by stress, water, and skin allergies. Stupid skin.

      • delagar Says:

        My physician — who is great — advised a tiny, tiny amount of bleach in the bath water for my kid, because it kills the fungus which might be causing the rash. Just an idea. (Don’t get it in the eyes, that’s all.)

        Another idea, which I don’t even know is legit in your case. My kid is allergic to corn syrup, except not actually: she allergic to something used in the processing used to make the corn syrup — My theory is the sulfur, because she’s also allergic to sulfa drugs, which give her a terrible rash. You might try taking your kid off corn syrup and see if it helps?

        This is probably a horrible idea, since corn syrup is in EVERYTHING. But my kid’s condition improved almost when we took her off corn syrup. And whenever she accidentally eats something with it now, she can tell almost at once. Might be worth a try.

        Also, if you can, switch doctors. The one we had before this one was just like yours. Would not listen to anything we said, because what did we know, we were just the parents, and the kid was just the one suffering. The one we have now listens to everything, and believes we know what we’re talking about. She listens to the kid too, which is SO important.

      • hush Says:

        One of my kids had eczema from the age of 18 months to approximately 4 years and they eventually outgrew it. Seemed to flare up after using indoor pools in the winter coupled with not moisturizing enough behind the knees and at the insides of the wrists. The only treatment that ever actually worked was an Rx ointment, specifically Triamcinolone Acetonide Ointment USP, 0.1% (mfd by Perrigo). Cleared all of the itchy redness up dramatically by the following day.

        re: Bleach– Yes, there was some research out a few years ago (which I sadly cannot find now; don’t know if those findings are valid) recommending adding very small amounts of bleach to the bathwater – more specifics are spelled out here:

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2 uses massive amounts of triamcinolone ointment (no water in it) and it works pretty well if you can keep it from smearing off onto everything else.

    • chacha1 Says:

      did not know that eczema could be caused by fungus! see, you learn something every day. in that case, apple cider vinegar is supposedly a natural antifungal, and so is tea tree oil …

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Tea tree oil can be dangerous, I think. I’d have to look it up.

        Garlic is a mild antifungal. You could wash the kid in vinegar and garlic and then coat with olive oil. Sautee 3-5 minutes or until soft — wait, hold on, that’s something else. Sorry.

      • Leah Says:

        Tea tree oil is a phytoestrogen and thus can be not so good for boys especially. I’m always surprised to see it in ingredient lists for homemade baby wipes. On a side note, soy is also something to take only in moderation (again, especially for boys) due to the phytoestrogens.

        I have so many friends who only want to have natural stuff in their lives but don’t bother to research potential effects of natural stuff.

  16. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I have had weird angry itchy rashes for years. Washing my body with this Aveeno product has worked wonders. I even wash my hair with it.

  17. jlp Says:

    If you haven’t seen this yet, you might check it out:

    We use an application of Vanicream (which rubs in) followed by an application of Aquaphor (which of course, doesn’t). My kid has had eczema pretty much hir entire life, and this combination has been useful for hir. (We also use occasional topical steroids, but rarely.)

    The national eczema website also gives advice on baths: how long (10-15 minutes), what temperature (warm, not hot), with what products, etc. So if your doc hasn’t managed to give you that info, you might check that out as well.

  18. Sapience Says:

    I’ve had dyshidrotic eczema on my hands ever since I was a kid, to the point that I started losing my fingerprints. And yeah, it’s definitely due to wet/dry cycles. I’ve mostly grown out of it on my hands (or I can manage it better), but the eczema has migrated to my elbows and knees–basically, it’s exacerbated by sweating. I found that if I wear long-sleeve cotton shirts and pants, it helps a lot, both with the itching and helping the skin heal. Doesn’t help me deal with the heat, though!

  19. Omdg Says:

    Aquaphor, less bathing, and topical corticosteroids. At least that’s what works for me. Lotions and creams have etoh in order to allow them to evaporate more quickly, and yes, that burns. Which is why I avoid them. Also I avoid anything with fragrance added.

  20. JaneB Says:

    I had this terribly as a kid, partly lactose-intolerance, partly just I seem to be quite good at being allergic to stuff (I also have hayfever, dust mite allergies, croup, etc.) – sweating, wearing fabrics with even small amounts of artificial fibres, most kinds of suncream and lotion, shampoo and soap, perfume, laundry detergent, all could set it off. It has gotten better with age… I still get flares, but much less awful.

    Please be careful with the topical corticosteroids! They work, but have to be used in moderation. They were prescribed for quite free use in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid, and the skin in key places like the inner side of my elbows and my knees and my eyelids is thinned and slightly discoloured and burns terribly if exposed to sunlight – current GP says that’s what happens with using corticosteroid cream too often and too thickly – but a thin layer on bad patches is OK…

    Other natural stuff that helped: comfrey. Comfrey leaves in a muslin bag steeped in the bath water were soothing, especially iin the summer when just being sweaty made it start. Comfrey-water also helped the blister-y lumpy type of itchy eczema I get in hot weather/when stressed. The ‘reaction to environment’ kind for me tends to be red/flaky/cracking skin, and that was also helped by some really basic comfrey ointment, I think the brand we used was Potters – it was smelly and looked like date puree and didn’t properly absorb into the skin, but I used to smear it on the bad places at night under pure cotton pyjamas (or socks or gloves when it was on my feet or hands) so it didn;t get all over the sheets, and it definitely helped with the dry cracking kind of eczema.

    We found that creams with lanolin in were a problem unless it was multiple-refined lanolin – Weleda caledolon ointment is wonderful for the very dry, starting to crack and flake skin, and other health-food-shop calendula preparations also work. though if there are proper cracks it hurts going on (though pretty much anything other than pure oil does).

    We used vitamin E oil for bad patches, rather than olive oil – we used to buy the stuff that comes in capsules and just cut open a capsule or two a day for use, as we found the bottled stuff went off – it didn’t smell quite so food-like!

    Good luck finding the combination of things that works best for your family! And much sympathy with DC2, it is No Fun to have.

    • Omdg Says:

      Yeah agree about moderating the hydrocortisone use, especially on the face (don’t use it on the face at all). I got an Rx for tacrolimus ointment from my dermatologist which can be used on the face, but honestly tried to use it as little as possible. And rebound eczema can be a real problem when you stop the steroids, so yes, limit it to the really bad patches.

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