Families living with eczema know it can be a big challenge, especially for babies. According to the National Eczema Association, 31.6 million Americans suffer from eczema. They state that childhood eczema in the U.S. is 10.7% overall and as high as 18.1% in individual states and about 1 out of every 3 children suffers with moderate to severe eczema. With such great numbers, moms need to understand this irritating problem and what to do when you discover it in your family. And if your child or family has a history of allergies, you should be aware of the symptoms of eczema since it is more likely to occur in your child.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the The National Eczema Association. It’s also important to note that we have some additional brands listed that we have also worked with in the past like Nordic Naturals, Molly’s Suds, Goddess Garden Organics, Primal Pit Paste & Bella Organics. We scrutinize the brands we work with so you can rest assured they are safe ones for your family.
Common Symptoms and Causes of Eczema
What is eczema? It is a rash, often marked by thick, scaly skin that can be red or brownish. It can also change the pigmentation of darker-skinned people into lighter or darker patches of skin. It’s almost always itchy – and you just know your kids will scratch. It can also look like small blisters that ooze.
Eczema is actually a skin reaction and can be caused by a whole host of conditions. The most common type is called atopic eczema, which is the kind that generally affects babies. It often affects those who have asthma or hay fever or a family history of those conditions. For babies, you will typically see it on their elbows and knees. Older adults and kids will more commonly have eczema on the back of knees and inside of elbows. For all sufferers, it can also occur on the cheeks, neck, wrists and ankles.
WebMD lists several other types of eczema including:
- Dandruff, which can improve with the right shampoo.
- Contact dermatitis is often triggered by allergies or contact with harsh chemicals.
- Nummular dermatitis causes coin-shaped red marks and primarily older men are affected. It may be caused by exposure to very harsh chemicals, metals, or cold, dry air.
- Neurodermatitis can affect areas near your joints or scalps, and has no known cause. It often goes away if you don’t scratch but more serious cases can get treatment.
- Dyshidrotic dermatitis causes blisters, scaly patches and cracks on the hands and feet. The cause is unknown.
10 Tips For Improving Your Lifestyle While Living with Eczema
As you can see, there’s little concrete information on exactly what causes eczema. However, there are some common sense solutions you can take to help avoid making the condition worse.
- Avoid harsh chemicals on your skin.
Bath, beauty and personal care items may contain chemicals that can irritate or inflame your eczema. It’s important to avoid chemicals such as: parabens, phthalates, fragrances, triclosan, petroleum ingredients and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). There are also many other possible irritants that can trigger eczema.
- Avoid coarse clothing and use safe, sensible laundry care.
Detergents, softeners and whiteners can contain many of those chemicals mentioned above so use a natural laundry treatment. When treating stains, try baking soda and vinegar.
- Avoid chemicals in your cleaning products.
Preservatives, phthalates, artificial dyes and fragrances and ammonia are some of the nasty chemicals you can find in cleaning products. Eliminate those products and use cleaner brands or create your own safe cleaning products with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon.
- Use nontoxic moisturizers.
These products can also be full of chemicals and toxins. Steroids are commonly found in treatment creams, so you may want to avoid those as well.
- Clean up your diet.
Eczema can be related to inflammation so it’s important to reduce foods that may trigger that, such as foods that contain refined sugar. Here are more inflammatory foods to avoid.
- Take care when washing.
Wash hands with lukewarm water and dry completely. Be sure to remove rings and dry underneath them. Avoid water extremes – too hot or too cold – when bathing or cleaning as that can aggravate or inflame the rash.
- Try a bleach bath to relieve atopic eczema.
The Mayo Clinic recommends adding a small amount of bleach to water to lesson the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, no more than 3x per week. Be sure to use household bleach (not concentrated) and no more than ½ cup per full bathtub. Soak from neck down for 10 minutes only (don’t put your head in) and pat dry. You should use a moisturizer immediately following that. You can also try bathing with baking soda, oatmeal, or gentle bath oils that don’t contain chemicals or fragrances.
- Use sun protection when you are outside.
Sun exposure doesn’t end in the winter either. Use a hat that covers your face and a trustworthy brand of sunscreen. Make sure you applying sunscreen evenly and as often as your brand recommends.
- Look for hidden allergens.
This includes anything from dust mites to food you didn’t know would be a trigger for your child to nickel in rings made of platinum or other metals. These can trigger or worsen the eczema. You may want to try an elimination diet or test for allergies as these can be related to eczema.
- Avoid scratching or irritating the affected area.
Obviously it’s going to be hard to keep the kids from scratching! You can use a cold compress to help your child relieve itch. Also make sure his fingernails are trimmed so they cause less damage. Distraction is a useful tactic too. Give your child something else to do with his hands. I know my daughter can get fixated on something itchy until I give her a craft or coloring project.
There are lots of chemical-free brands available now that you can use when figuring out how to combat these skin irritations. Here are our recommendations.
- Sun Protection: Goddess Garden Organics carries a full line of sunscreens and other skin care products to protect from sun damage.
- Cleaning Products: Melioria Cleaning Products are MadeSafe certified and Aunt Fannie’s Cleaning Solutions are made from food-based products.
- Laundry Care: Melioria Laundry Products, Simply Soap Berry and Molly’s Suds are all good laundry solutions.
- Makeup: Beauty Counter is a highly trusted brand. Anne Marie Gianni is MadeSafe certified and excellent quality.
- Skin Care: Kosmatology, Beauty Counter and S.W. Basics are all safe skin care options.
- Soap, Skin and Hair Care Products: Alaffia is a high quality brand of skin and hair products that are readily available.
- Deodorants: Primal Pit Paste, Bella Organics and Piper Wai are clean, nontoxic deodorants. Read our article on doing an armpit cleanse if you are changing out from a popular brand.
Natural Ways to Treat Eczema
Some forms of atopic eczema clear up on their own while others may require a trip to the doctor. Either way, there are things you can do when your child is living with eczema, depending on the type. Always check with your doctor to make sure you or your child can use these treatments and whether or not they interact with any medications, supplements or other treatments you are already using.
Because atopic eczema is linked to inflammation, vitamin C may be able to help those living with eczema. In Prescription for Nutritional Healing author, Phyllis A Balch also recommends a good vitamin B complex, as well as vitamin D and E to help eczema. Try MegaFoods or Garden of Life.
- Fish oil
At least one study showed results when eczema sufferers took fish oil but more research needs to be done. We already know the benefits of safe seafood, but if you prefer to use fish oil, try a high quality one like Nordic Naturals.
Studies show mixed results on the benefits of probiotics for eczema in adults and children. However, some evidence shows that taking a probiotic while pregnant may decrease the chance of a child getting eczema between the ages of 2 and 7. We generally recommend using quality probiotics as long you are allowed. Try MegaFoods or Garden of Life.
- Chamomile cream or salve
Studies have found this herb to possibly be helpful in relieving and to promote healing for eczema sufferers. Be sure to avoid chamomile if you are allergic to anything in the Asteraceae family of plants.
These natural treatments can relieve the symptoms caused by eczema, especially calendula cream. We recommend Boiron. You can try one of their calendula products, or use their Homeopathic Medicine Finder to find the right treatment for specific symptoms. Be sure to avoid calendula if you are allergic to anything in the Asteraceae family of plants.
- Additional treatments
WebMD has a long list of treatments, from oils to other vitamins that are possibly effective in relieving eczema.
If the rash or symptoms get worse or do not go away, or if you experience additional symptoms, see your doctor or healthcare provider right away.
Living with eczema is unpleasant but it is a common irritation that many moms will have to deal with. Take care of the problem with a healthy diet, removing toxins from your home and trying some of these natural treatments.