My mom suffers from melanoma. Actually calling her skin condition melanoma is like calling the Sistene Chapel a painting: somewhat of an understatement. I’ve been blessed to never suffer much from the condition myself, yet unfortunate enough to see the effects of it in its worst form. Whenever my daughter, Ameli, develops as much as a spot, my heart skips a beat and my stomach clenches and I watch the redness till it goes away, so afraid am I that this condition may have skipped a generation and passed on to her.

Any regular reader here will know that I generally go in for natural products, choosing herbs over medication more often than not. I choose breastfeeding as a natural immune booster, and I solved Ameli’s baby eczema and cradle cap by slathering on the breast milk. But that doesn’t mean conventional medicine is entirely without merit: sometimes, outside help is recommended and required.

I attended the launch of Against Childhood Eczema, and wanted to share some of the key points from the talks by Margaret Cox from the National Eczema Society and Dr Steve Hewitt, a skin specialist for E45

Cox gave an insightful look at eczema from the point of view of the patient (or sufferer, I would have said). Her two main points were that there are a lot of people suffering from eczema – no one is alone in this, and secondly that although the condition is not curable, it is treatable. You can find out more about cosmetic skin treatments here.

According to Cox, one in five children in the UK suffers from eczema, with the numbers having increased three-fold in the last 30 years. Although two-thirds of children will grow out of it, the unlucky final third will suffer into adulthood.

The reasons behind this rise are not specifically known, but among the many potential causes are obsessive cleanliness, sterilisation, bath products containing harmful chemicals, weather extremes, air conditioning and heating, sun exposure, bad diets, lack of moisturisation and hereditary factors. Also, people who are deficient in Filaggrin (filament-associated proteins which bind to keratin fibres in epithelial cells) are more prone to eczema and asthma.

Cox also spoke of the emotional impact of childhood eczema, and the stress that unpredictability about flareups and uncertainty about their duration can cause. The direct impact on children, such as the inability to swim or play outdoors, is emotionally taxing, only made worse by the stigma of other children thinking they’re contagious, and teasing them. (See the National Eczema Society website for free downloadable packs to help teachers and schools understand the condition.)

Dr Hewitt, meanwhile, stated that most GPs typically only spent a few days focusing on eczema in their medical training. This is a frighteningly inadequate when you consider that around a third of the patients they will see suffer from some level of eczema. Most GPs also seem unaware that most prescribed emollients can be quite harmful to the skin.

Dr Hewitt also spoke about the commonality of infant eczema becoming childhood asthma, and leading to adult rhinitis.

The Against Childhood Eczema (ACE) campaign suggest five steps for parents of children suffering eczema to follow:
1. Bathing – Daily bathing can cause a child’s skin to dry out. Only bathe babies twice or three times a week for the first six months, the rest of the time just topping and tailing them. When you are bathing them, make sure to use fragrance-free bath oil and avoid bubble baths to help ward off irritation.

2. Emolient – Simple, non-cosmetic moisturizers that soothe and help relieve dry and itchy skin should be liberally applied, especially at night when skin is most metabolically active, causing it to heal better. Eczema relief cream comes in all shapes and sizes and sometimes you have to try a variety to find one that works with your skin.

3. Massage – Emolient application can be distressing, especially during flareups, so try to make it as relaxing and enjoyable as possible, letting toddlers watch a DVD or sing songs to keep them calm. Always apply the emollient downwards (along the hair, rather than against it).

4. Frequency – Dermatology experts recommend a ‘complete emollient regime’ for treating dry skin. Use a soap substitute and a leave-on emollient two to three times a day, even when the eczema is under control. You can visit a Pediatric Dermatology expert or the best dermatologist in nashville for some advice and sites like to know more about skin care.
5. Comfort – Create a calm atmosphere when applying creams. Don’t be stressed or worried as this will add to your child’s stress and worry, and cause the flareups to be worse.

I will leave you for now with the NICE guidelines for childhood eczema, and be back tomorrow with some hints and tips to help your child with eczema.


Uncomfortable Truths about Childhood Eczema

  1. re Emollients and Creams, one thing often overlooked is that they are also preserved in order to prevent them from moulding or developing algae and turning black as they are water based. A person prone to eczema could be intolerant to the chemical being used as a preservative, this leads to an intolerable itch once applied and the end result is it all being scratched off again. I can use Cortisone cream only if its preserving ingredient is Chloorkresol

    re the thickness of the cream: the thinner and ‘runnier’ the cream the faster it is ‘drawn into’ the skin. This has a tendency to burn and irritate my skin. The thicker the more tolerable.

    re oils: always apply the olive oil in small amounts on pre water moistened skin. This assists in its absorption and doesn’t leave it on the skin to irritate or ‘smother’ it.

    They told me I would grow out of it. I was 50 the last time I had a large dose of it eczema. I reckon Im all growed up now!

  2. My 13 month old daughter suffers from eczema. As soon as I eliminated dairy from my diet (I breastfeed) her eczema went away. If I cheat and start eating dairy she starts to get it back again. She also has a probiotic and fish oil daily. And of course, she has no dairy in her diet!

  3. Having a child with eczema has made me very aware of what does, and doesn’t work. For us oilatum in the bath or baby oil has always been an essential, no drying soaps or anything like that. Anti-histimines to relieve itching (especially at night). And the hospital recommended we apply cream and wrap affected areas in clingfilm over night when it gets really bad (No 1 Son gets it on the soles of his feet, very uncomfortable). We still get flare-ups but as with asthma and hayfever it’s about learning to manage the symptoms properly. And I would recommend that anyone who suffers from asthma/eczema/hayfever has manuka honey on a regular basis, it works wonders for us as a natural anti-histimine.

    BTW, pet allergies can also cause eczema.
    .-= Liz (LivingwithKids)´s last blog ..Scruffy kids – what do you do about yours? =-.

  4. Ive heard that a good treatment for babies with red flakey skin is organic extra virgin olive oil. Have you heard anything about that? My sister swears by it and lathers my nephew in the stuff, But I’m not sure I would do that…any thoughts Hayley?
    .-= Jackie – Hives Relief´s last blog ..Hives Relief – Homeopathic Relief =-.

    1. @Jackie – Hives Relief, Interesting you should raise that point, as I am not sure. I have often heard about olive oil, and have used it as a moisturiser myself in the past. The specialist on the day, however, said that olive oil wasn’t really compatible with human skin and should be avoided. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I don’t personally see how a couple thousand years of Greeks and Italians could be wrong. (They do it) And I used olive oil on her cradle cap and it worked much better than anything else I tried, other than breast milk which worked super fast. If you find an answer, do come back and share it. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Oooo so excited you posted this! When I saw you were doing a post on twitter last night I knew it would be good!

    J suffers Eczema, I didnt and never have, my brother did as a child and my Mum has all her life quite badly. I’ve watched her have significant flare ups, try numerous treatments, deal with the itcyness and the bleeding when its at its worst.

    J at present only has a few small patches, it flares up in different places, at the moment its the top of his leg/hip area and spreading a bit onto his bum, he hates having his cream put on as anything good for him my son detests but it makes a significant improvement when we get it on him.

    That was a fascinating post! Love it 😀
    .-= Hayley´s last blog ..One. =-.

    1. @Hayley, Oh Hayley! What a lovely thing to say. Thank you! I’m sorry J suffers. I’ve seen some awful suffering with my mom and it’s the most relentless of conditions. Kyra gets a bit of a rash on the back of her head which itches, but the rest doesn’t seem to itch, so here’s hoping. I’ll post the second half tomorrow, with a giveaway of some of the creams they gave (and I somehow got duplicates of?) Hope you’ll stop by again!

      They specialists did say to try to make it a fun time with the kids, so that they don’t hate it as much, so during massage, or while watching a dvd, or just talking – making it a bit of a mummy and me time, you know. I guess that would be highly dependent on age, and not great if the cream maybe stings him a bit? What cream do you use?

      Poor thing…

      Thanks for commenting!

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