Saturday, April 23, 2011

Allergies and Eczema

Eczema is one of those great mysteries to doctors.  They don't know what causes it and there is no cure for it.  And many doctors don't agree on how to treat it.  So what do you do when your kid is born with eczema?  I felt so bad for my son those first three years of his life when we were trying to figure out how to best treat his eczema.  As a baby his cradle cap was so bad that for several weeks I had to comb out the crust and continuously apply oil to his scalp.  The cradle cap went down onto his face and caused infection and rashes all over his face as well.  His cheeks always looked like he had road rash on them.  I used to arrange getting his picture taken in between breakouts.  Which wasn't that often.  As he got older the eczema was all over his hands and feet.  His hands  were always covered in sores.  They looked so deep at times I could swear I could see his bones!!!  His hands were always bandaged up and we used to have to hold his wrist to walk around with him in public instead of his hands.   I used to dread the looks and the questions from everyone.  People used to ask all the time if he had chicken pox.  They wandered why I had him out in public if he had chicken pox.  I always assured everyone that it was just eczema.  Once I started making all his lotions his eczema got better.
Over the years I learned that even though they don't know what causes a person to get eczema they know that certain things trigger outbreaks.  One of the main triggers of eczema is allergies.  That is why when I meet a new mom who has a baby with eczema I ask them if they have gotten their child allergy tested.  Having allergies does not mean that you will have eczema.  But if you have eczema a lot of outbreaks can be associated with allergies. 
Allergies come in many forms.  My son has environmental allergies as well as food allergies.  I also break down his environmental allergies into two groups.  Air born allergens and contact allergens.  Air born allergens are things such as tree pollen and ragweed.  These normally will give him itchy red eyes, sometimes swollen, and a runny nose and sneezing.  Contact allergens are grass, mold,  and dust mites.  These are allergens that he has to come in contact with in order for it to affect him.  These allergens tend to produce redness and a rash in the area of contact.  The rash normally will turn into eczema.  Food allergies can also cause eczema.  The first time my son had a tree nut his skin was affected for a week.  He just sucked on an Almond.  He never even ate it!!  He had blisters around his mouth, hands and feet for a week!!
It takes a lot of time and sometimes years but the key to knowing how to treat eczema is learning what triggers your child's eczema. 
Not everyone reacts to allergens in the same way.  So you have to be your child's detective and really become aware of what they are coming in contact with and how it affects their eczema. 
For example I learned that sitting in the grass will break out his skin. Any part that was touching the grass will break out.  But if someone is cutting grass it releases the grass pollen into the air and it becomes an air born allergen to him.  Another thing that we have learned has to due with all the mold in the fall.  Just being outside in the fall does not bother him that much.  But if he rakes leaves and then jumps into a big pile of leaves he is a mess. Last fall he looked like Rocky Balboa after playing in the leaves.  There has been several times too that a food allergen has caused his eyes to almost swell shut.  If he gets a food allergen on his skin it will affect his skin. He does not need to eat it in order to have a reaction. 
He is still a boy though and I do not make him live in a plastic bubble.  He plays in the leaves, goes on hikes, goes camping, has animals, and plays outside all summer.  I have just learned how to try and prevent as much allergens as possible and treat the allergens that arise.  I carry a portable medicine cabinet in my purse.  My car is always loaded with extra clothes, hand made sunscreen, hand made insect and mosquito repellent, snacks and drinks.  Many people are amazed at all I have to do or go through to take cake of both my kids allergies and my son's eczema.  To me it is just a way of life.  I don't know it any other way.  To me this is the norm.  My life would not be complete without  the allergies and the eczema!

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