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How I Treated My Toddler’s Eczema Naturally

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and what I share here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No information from this post should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Please seek the advice of a qualified health provider before undertaking a new healthcare regimen. 

Caring for an infant with eczema definitely took a huge physical and emotional toll on me as a first-time, full-time mom. I remember living in constant fear of the next big flare-up or infection and not wanting to leave the apartment because of the constant stares, comments and unsolicited advice from well-meaning strangers. My favorite? The old Polish caretaker who told me she had a granddaughter with “exactly the same thing” as Aidan and how she was cured after eating nothing but rabbit meat for a year. Erm, okay.

Doctors told me that very matter-of-factly that eczema was something he would have to live with for the rest of his life. I was advised to stop breastfeeding (I am still nursing him at age 2) and put him on a hypoallergenic formula (which I did when I started supplementing at the 6-month mark) and prescribed increasingly strong steroids. I spent many sleepless nights wondering if whatever I was doing was right, but at the end of the day I always chose to listen to my gut.

Aidan’s eczema started when he was about 4 months old and it went from a small patch on his forehead to raw, angry oozing patches on his face, arms, tummy and legs. It peaked around 14 months and apart from a couple of flare-ups, we have been able to keep it under control. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but here are 5 things that have worked for us.

1. I went on an elimination diet.

Both bloodwork and skin patch testing came up negative for allergies for Aidan, and I chose to go on a low-histamine elimination diet (which means excluding common allergens like dairy, egg and nuts as well as histamine-rich or histamine-releasing foods) and very slowly reintroducing foods to see if he would react to anything. Unlike food allergies, the symptoms of food intolerance can take days to show up. A helpful resource is The Eczema Diet by Karen Fischer. 

This probably sounds extreme to most people (I'll add that neither the PD nor allergist agreed with me- they wanted me to eat a varied diet and treat his skin separately with steroids). I didn't think it was possible but I stuck to it and saw a significant improvement in his skin after a while. By the time he was 1, I eased up on the diet and realized that his skin wasn’t as reactive anymore and now he eats pretty much anything he likes (though I limit his dairy and sugar intake because they are inflammatory). 

2. I avoided the use of steroids.

Whenever I took Aidan in to a mainstream doctor, the solution they offered was always the same: topical steroids in increasing potency. There was nothing else they could offer me. The effects of steroids vary from person to person and this is a decision you have to make for your child. At the beginning I resorted to the weakest class of OTC steroid cream out of desperation to alleviate Aidan’s eczema. While the symptoms went away almost immediately, they came back with a vengeance when we stopped. This happened twice. The doctor wanted me to move up to a stronger class of steroids, but I refused to.

I wanted to get to the root of his eczema rather than simply addressing the symptoms. So what did I use on his sensitive skin? Here are my top recommendations:

This is made from 6 simple, all-natural ingredients that include organic New Zealand Manuka Honey with anti-bacterial properties to aid with wound healing and soothing inflammation. Aidan was prone to skin infections because of the raw patches, and this helped to keep the harmful bacteria away without any stinging.

This is a blend of pharmaceutical grade Zinc Oxide with healing oils and is great for rashes, scars and other skin irritation. When his skin was raw and oozing, I would apply a thick coat on the affected areas and layer with the Manuka cream before covering with a wet wrap to help with absorption.

These organic lotion bars make moisturizing so easy that Aidan now does it himself and it works really well after a bath to lock in moisture. The only downside is that you will go through them quickly if you use them as often as we do (which is about every 2-3 weeks!). 

3. I took him to weekly acupuncture sessions.

People are always surprised to hear that I took Aidan to weekly acupuncture sessions. Doesn't it hurt? How do you get him to stay still? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, children have very sensitive and pure qi (energy) and respond very quickly to the needles so they are inserted and removed almost immediately. Each session lasted only 10-15 minutes and after about 10 sessions I noticed that his flare-ups has become less frequent and less severe.

The difference between TCM and Western Medicine is that it does not treat merely the symptoms of eczema but the body as a whole, and focuses on modulating the imbalance in the immune system and promoting self-healing. We saw Dr. Daryl Thuroff at Yinova Center for about 3-4 months and I wholeheartedly recommend her, although I must remind you that the effects of acupuncture are cumulative rather than immediate so it does require patience and consistency. 

4. I bed-shared instead of sleep-training.

There was a lot of external pressure for me to sleep train Aidan so he could “sleep through the night”, but bed-sharing honestly saved my sanity. For the longest time, Aidan would wake up every 3-4 hours to scratch (even after his eczema had subsided, it seemed like a phantom itch would linger) and the only thing that could offer him comfort was my breast.

Letting him "cry it out" was not an option because crying placed a lot of stress on him and only aggravated his eczema. The fact that he was right next to me in bed made it easy for me to roll over, nurse him and have him fall back to sleep more quickly. It’s funny how people view that as an unhealthy attachment here in the US when co-sleeping is actually a common practice in many cultures around the world.

5. I delayed his vaccine schedule.

I am not an anti-vaxxer but I don’t believe that a one-size-fits-all approach works for vaccinating children, especially those with autoimmune conditions. Aidan had a terrible reaction to his first vaccine at 2 months (his entire back broke out into nasty hives), and I chose to hold off vaccinating him until he had turned 1. 

It was definitely not a popular decision, but I was comfortable with it because he was under my care. I charted a timeline after he turned 1 to catch him up on his vaccines, and even then I chose to take him in for a single shot each doctor’s visit. I also follow each visit with a vaccine detox protocol from my favorite holistic pediatrician Dr Elisa Song. It takes a lot of effort, but I am glad I did that. If you’re interested, I highly recommend The Vaccine-Friendly Plan by Dr Paul Thomas for a balanced view on childhood vaccinations.

But let me leave you with the most important piece of advice, which is that you are your child’s best advocate. You are the expert when it comes to your child and no one knows him/her better than you. Don’t be afraid to dig deep, ask questions and speak up for your child, and find a doctor who is willing to listen and work with you. 

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