Thursday, December 15, 2016

How We Said Bye to Eczema

Imagine this. You are a new mom. Your baby is just a little over a month old. 

She’s fussy, she cries a lot. Her diaper has been changed, she’s been burped. Maybe she just wants to feed more? 

Then again, maybe it’s the red and raw spots between the folds of her skin that’s bothering her.

You try to soothe her as best as you can. You look at her sweet but bumpy little face and think, I’d gladly take her eczema so that she won’t have to suffer the discomfort and look so kawawa.

Yup, story of my life. That was me and Berry when she was just a newborn.

Everyday, I’d look at the red wet lesions on the folds of her arms and legs and crusty, flaky skin on her cheeks and tears would fall down my face. My mom and sister who were around to help me take care of Berry felt so bad for her. No one in our side of the family had eczema and we had no clue on what to do.

I’d take a picture to show the pedia and show him how it seems to get worse, and he’d say, if only to reassure me, “It really does happen to some babies. Remember to apply topical medication as prescribed.”

So I’d religiously apply the cream on her thin wet skin, and ointment on the dry parts while also researching tirelessly on how to fight eczema once and for all. I’d ask fellow moms for tips, look up information from the eczema website and vowed never to stop until every little bump and lesion was gone.

To cut a long story short, yes, we’ve successfully battled eczema, and looking at Berry now, with her smooth, practically flawless skin, you’d never guess she’s prone to it.

All those hours spend obsessing about eczema has paid off, and I’m sharing the fruits of my research with you. Read on!

1. Eczema or atopic dermatitis is linked to allergic diseases like allergic rhinitis and asthma. While the exact cause is unknown, it definitely is manageable.

2. It is an inflammatory skin condition characterised by dry, itchy, red patches, oozing or crusting , rough, scaly patches of skin 

3. Those who suffer from eczema have a defect in their skin barrier function leading to loss of moisture and increased exposure to irritants and microorganisms. 

4. Managing eczema requires a two-pronged approach: 
  • relieve itching, swelling and inflammation 
  • keep skin moisturized 

5. To relieve itching and swelling, use Elica*, a topical corticosteroid that is a safer alternative to steroids that you have to use twice a day. Cream for wet lesions like inside the folds of skin, and Ointment for dry, scaly patches of skin, like on the cheeks. Just apply a thin film on affected areas once a day. That’s it. Because you can already see a difference in just one day of use. Be sure however not to use for more than two weeks. 

6. Now, for the new normal. You’ve got to keep these in mind to keep flare ups from happening: 
  • Avoid scratching! keep fingernails short or for babies, keep their hands in mittens for the meantime
  • Bawal pawisan! Keep them cool all the time. Luckily, we were living in the US when Berry’s eczema was at its peak, so it wasn’t that hard to keep her from sweating
  • Be quick to wipe drool away on baby’s chin 
  • A natural way and cheaper way to having the A/C on the whole time is through cold compresses and wet wraps 
  • Now this, I learned the hard way. If you bathe your baby in water that is too warm, it will strip the skin of moisture fast. My mistake then as a first time mom was that I made Berry bathe in warmer than lukewarm water because I was afraid she’d get cold. Wrong move! Lukewarm is fine for young babies, cool water is better for older kids.
  • Avoid smoke, perfume and air fresheners. When washing clothes, avoid strongly scented detergents and fabric softeners. Try to use mild (up to now we use Perwoll on our family’s clothes and sheets), or fragrance free or organic detergents like Perla, and make sure to always rinse clothes well.
  • If you are breasfeeding a baby with eczema, avoid food allergens. If they are big enough, avoid giving food that may trigger allergic reactions 
  • Make them wear light, natural fabrics like cotton and linen, and keep the areas covered as much as possible
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. I used to put drops of olive or coconut oil on Berry’s bath and didn’t use soap on Berry’s skin until her eczema cleared up. After bathing, I’d moisturize her skin with lotion on top of the film of olive oil on her skin. Yes, she was a greasy baby. Haha. But with this rigorous practice, it sounds counterintuitive, but her eczema cleared up by her third month and hasn’t returned since!
Berry always wore long sleeved cotton cardigans or tops when we were out so that we don’t expose her eczema to possible allergens or bacteria

A word of advice though, before embarking on our tried and tested practices, make sure to consult with your doctor for the cause of your child’s itching and lesions, even if your maternal instinct says it is eczema. It’s always better to be cautious with kids, and to be safe than sorry!

*Elica is available over-the-counter at drugstores and pharmacies and retails for Php428 for a 5 g tube.

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