This is a lovely and heartbreaking blog sent in by one of our readers. She has given us permission to share it, in the hope it helps others who find themselves in a similar position. She also offers some helpful advice on eczema.
I have a number of memories from when I was the parent of a newborn that I am a little bit ashamed of.
My child is not newborn anymore; he is now 8 years old and seems to grow six inches every other week, but I am still shy about sharing those few memories from our first year together. I am reluctant to share these experiences because I feel like they show me up as THE WORST PARENT EVER, which of course they do not.
What they truthfully show are the experiences of someone who had the best intentions, but just didn’t know what they were doing. And one of those memories is when my son was hospitalized with eczema.
My son literally had eczema from head to toe. He showed signs of it within the first month after he was born, and as neither my husband or I had had eczema, we didn’t really know what we were doing. I did internet research and read mum blogs and parenting magazines, and took advice from general practitioners and pharmacists and owners of various health food stores. I tried every over the counter recommended product.
I tried oils, soap-free products, products with oatmeal, goats milk, beeswax, and all sorts of other ingredients. We tried salt baths, bleach baths (trust me, it’s a thing), some Chinese herbs that smelt like complete crap, and some things I can’t even remember. As he was breastfed, I changed my diet several times, in case I was causing the problem. I tried no tomatoes, no egg, no dairy, no citrus. I saw no change, no relief in the tiny little-irritated body.
I started to take advice and recommendations from random people on the street.
We were referred to a skin specialist but had to wait several months for the appointment. During those several months, I continued to try random products, and my son got continually worse. He went from red, angry skin all over to cracked, weeping, bleeding skin all over. He had open wounds on his arms, legs, torso, face, and scalp.
By the time he was six months old he would not stop scratching himself, as well as drooling, so the wounds never had a chance to heal.
Finally, my specialist appointment arrived, and the doctor took one look at him and had him taken to emergency. His skin was infected and he needed drastic attention. Also, I needed more helpful advice, and a few weeks of sleep wouldn’t hurt either. But from this point on, things got easier.
I learned several new things that really helped. I learned how to do wet-dressings, which seemed like some form of archaic torture, but were actually a great relief to my son. He was head to toe in steroid cream, then thick greasy moisturizer, then wrapped in wet bandages like a tiny mummy. This took the heat out of the rash and made a massive difference straight away. Every few hours we had to redress the areas with new wet bandages because if they dried they would irritate him.
It was the middle of winter and seemed like the silliest thing to do to a small baby, but it worked. Also, he had little splints he had to wear on his arms to stop him from scratching, and this gave his face the chance to heal.
I also learned that he had been wearing too much clothing and that babies, especially babies with eczema, can benefit from wearing fewer clothes rather than more.
The only clothing item that helped are those scratch sleeves, as they prevent your baby from scratching and are still cool to sleep in. I have attached a link to Amazon where I purchased mine from ‘ SCRATCHSLEEVES ‘. He started to go around without hats or blankets or socks; I had thoughtless people on the street tell me off for this, but oh well, we all coped.
I have learned some very valuable lessons, which I can pass on to you.
Helpful Advice on Eczema I Can Pass on to You.
1. There may be no one magic treatment or cure for your child’s eczema. More likely there will be a series of things that help, which may differ from child to child, as each child’s skin is very particular. By all means, take advice when someone tells you ‘This product cured my baby’s eczema, you must try it!’. But know that it may not help your child at all, or it may just help for a while until his skin does that tricky thing where it fights back against the treatment and gets resilient to it and then eczema comes back fiercer than ever.
2. Your child is more likely to have episodes of flaring up, mixed in with better periods, until such a time as he grows out of the condition. Some children never grow out of it. Winter tends to be worse because of the extra clothing and central heating; oddly summer tends to be easier because of the fresh air allowing the skin to breathe. But eczema may come and go and come again in your life, and you may need to resign yourself to that.
3. It will become a management plan rather than a fix. There were things which really helped my son, but you will need to figure out what works for you. What helped us included:
a. Not using soap. He is 8 now and we still don’t use soap to wash him, no matter how gross he gets. We bathe him in an oil bath instead.
b. Wool is not good. We stayed away from sheepskin rugs and had to gently turn down offers of hand-knitted gifts.
c. Bathing him less often. My kids get bathed maybe twice a week if they are lucky. Part of that is because I can’t be bothered, but most of it is because over-washing them strips their skin of its moisture and really isn’t necessary.
d. Still keeping him cool. If he says he doesn’t need a jacket, I don’t fight him on it. He knows now what temperature is comfortable for him. He has lukewarm baths, few blankets, even in the dead of winter, and isn’t allowed in spas no matter how much fun they look.
4. You can stress yourself out a lot trying to avoid it. My son was shown to have allergies to egg, dust, pet hair and grass. I nearly cried when I heard this. Then the dermatologist said ‘He’s a little boy. You cannot keep him from these things all the time. Do not try to. Just do the best you can, and deal with flare-ups when they happen.’
5. Please, be kind to yourself about all this. This is not your fault. You are not a bad parent. As exhausting as it seems at times, you are not alone. Find other eczema parents and when you do, you will see a very familiar overwhelmed look in their eye, but some loving empathy too.
You will have your own eczema journey. I’m really sorry, but I can’t give the definitive answer that will make it all go away. But I can understand where you are coming from, and be here with you on your own battle. It will get easier, and although there is no magic cure, there is one perfect piece of advice I can give you; you are not the worst parent ever. And neither am I.
I wish you all the very best, lots of love Jacina Lane x
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Please read our article on ‘ Eczema and Depression ‘, It has some good advice and comes from experience and an understanding of what it feels like to having eczema.
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