We know you guys are itching to read this guest post from Jennifer (pun intended). Jennifer blogs about her family’s journey with eczema, allergies, and asthma at It’s An Itchy Little World. She is also founder of The Eczema Company, an online store which provides natural skin care, protective clothing, and laundry alternatives for children and adults suffering from eczema. Jennifer can usually be found in the kitchen where she prepares all meals from scratch and without genetically engineered ingredients. She enjoys playing board games with her two children and husband.
Just a couple of years ago my son’s skin was red, inflamed and dry from head to toe. I saw him suffering on a daily basis and it took a toll on not only me, as his mother, but on our entire family as well. Thankfully my son is 95% better today. How did we get there? After a lot of trial and error, we identified his triggers and found the right combination of products and lifestyle changes that proved very effective in my son’s journey to healing.
So, if eczema has got you down, here are a few things for you to consider:
- Food triggers. While a food allergy could be triggering a reaction, it’s more common that a food sensitivity could actually be to blame. Sadly it’s not quite as easy to test for a food sensitivity as it is a food allergy, so here are a few suggestions for identifying a bothersome food. Try keeping a food journal. Document everything you eat (if you have eczema or are nursing your child who has eczema) or your child eats. Document eczema flare ups, as well, and try to connect the dots. Another option is to discuss undergoing an elimination diet with a physician, natural practitioner or Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, like Spunky Avocado! Food you may want to consider eliminating for a period of time are the top food allergens: dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish to name a few. This is a good starting place, but keep in mind really any food can be a possible trigger. So, your intuition is crucial here.
- Environmental/Seasonal/Animal allergies. Seasonal allergies are a doozy for my son. Each spring his eczema flares up terribly. Keep an eye on seasonal changes and note any flares associated with them. Mold and dust mites are big triggers for many people and they can easily build up in the bedroom where we spend so many hours sleeping. They can also cause issues in an office space, another area where someone may spend extended hours in a small space especially when there isn’t a lot of ventilation. Pets are a big one. Not only can their dander trigger a flare, but if the pet goes outside, they can bring in a lot of potential allergens with them. And just a reminder that carpets are often excellent at trapping dust mites and animal dander and can be very irritating to eczema.
- Supplements. Studies have proven that probiotics can be very beneficial at either preventing eczema if taken by a mother during pregnancy or early on in infancy and can reduce symptoms if eczema does develop. Many people do swear by probiotics for older children and for adults as well, and I definitely agree. At the very least they are great for digestive health, so they certainly can only help. Just be careful when choosing a probiotic and a fish oil and make sure they’re from a good source, free of the top allergens (except fish for the oil) and from a trustworthy brand found at a natural food store, not your local drugstore. Fish oil should also be certified to be low in mercury.
- Laundry products are harsh. Detergents create an imbalance in the skin’s naturally more acidic pH level. They build up over time and create this thick coating on your clothing that takes 10+ times to wash out with water or vinegar rinses. Imagine that residue rubbing on sensitive, eczema skin over and over again. Yes, it’s irritating. Even free and clear brands, as well as more natural detergents, can be too harsh. Consider washing with only vinegar and baking soda or moving to a mineral laundry ball or soap nuts to clean your clothes. Steer clear of commercial stain sticks loaded with toxins and try a bar of soap or a natural stain remover instead. Always skip the fabric softener, which you won’t need anyway with the options listed above. Dryer sheets are loaded with chemicals, so it’s best to completely avoid them or try some wool dryer balls instead.
- Gentle, protective clothing. My husband and I used to stay up all night holding my son’s hands and caressing his skin gently to prevent him from scratching enough to break the skin. Then we found clothing with fold over mittens, some with soft silk, to protect the skin from scratching. They really helped us. 100% cotton and bamboo clothing is great as well – very cooling and non-irritating. Flat seams are a big bonus too and are often found in clothing made for eczema and sensory disorders.
- Natural skin care. The skin is the largest organ in the body AND with eczema that organ is damaged, allowing some things to penetrate deeper into the skin and in some cases into the body. This is why I recommend natural skin care over those loaded with chemicals. Like with any skin care, you have to find what works for you. I have a closet full of products that I tried on my son and didn’t work – they either burned, caused a worse reaction or just weren’t effective. But, all the trial and error ultimately led me to a handful of products that really do offer relief and healing for my son, naturally. One word of caution, always do a small patch test before applying any new skin care product (natural or not) liberally all over the body. Otherwise, you could end up with a much worse case of eczema – I learned this the hard way. Once you find your favorite products, cherish them and feel confident in knowing you are nourishing your skin with pure, healthy ingredients.