For a large part of my childhood I had to live with dry, itchy, splotchy, scratchy skin. Atopic Dermatitis they called it, or as it’s commonly known — Eczema. I remember trying all sorts of medications, steroids, antihistamines, skin tests and what not to try to keep it in check. I also remember seeing so many different dermatologists since every “second opinion” had a different course of treatment (or lack thereof). One of them said I was allergic to dust, and therefore nothing could be done except have me live in a bubble. One of them said I would outgrow it at the age of 10. I did eventually outgrow it — 13 years later than what he predicted (Of course, I got bits of it again over the 18 months that I was pregnant with both girls). Another shot me up with steroids and told me to eat rice in the mornings (?!). I only remember gaining so much weight after that and when I stopped the steroids, my arms and legs were all painfully red and terrible inflamed from rashes.
My friends used to call me the human barometer, because each time I’d start to itch and scratch, it meant that the weather was changing (from sunny to rainy and vice-versa). More often than not I was right about rain or sun coming along. It was funny and eventually I got used to my weather-woman role, but it was still hard to live with! I couldn’t take long baths with nice foamy scented soaps since it would all dry my skin. I also had to moisturize constantly and I developed a very strict regimen (Maybe that’s why I’m OC?). I had to stay away from chicken when growing up, KFC was my favorite fastfood chain. I never learned to put make-up on myself, since after any application of the stuff (even the hypoallergenic ones), I’d wash it off and have a splotchy swollen face (so if I put on make-up for you and your special occasion, then I do love you very much, ;)).
Growing up my skin allergies were really a pain and a nuisance. And even if I learned to live with it and I changed my lifestyle accordingly, I just wondered why I had to learn to grow up with it. My mom always says I should be thankful that it’s not the respiratory type of asthma (My doctors called it Asthma of the Skin, and I was told it was this, or the full-blown well known Asthma), and she’s right about that. I just could never see why anyone had to go through what I went through.
And now I know why!
I am now thankful for the 20 years I had to live with my skin allergies. As it turns out – Jamie inherited my skin. We saw hints of this when she was an infant and she had some skin rashes (That I treated with breastmilk! We’ll get back to this later). The pediatricians said it was too early to tell and she could grow out of it easily, but all the same it was best to keep an eye on it.
Now that she’s a little older and all the seasons have come full circle, particularly after this summer beach trip when she was exposed to a lot of sand and sun, I know that Jamie also reacts to weather changes. Her skin would dry up as the temperatures changed and she would be scratching herself more frequently if it suddenly became too cold, too warm, or to humid. In the last few days post beach, Jamie has “scratched herself into oblivion” and developed splotchy rashes in the creases of her neck, ears, arms and legs as a result — the exact places where I used to get mine when I was a child. I noticed it a few days ago and have been treating the poor thing ever since. She shrieks because the lotion and the hydrocortizone sting her and I can definitely relate to her pain. I still remember running around the dinner table in our old home’s library because I was fanning my arms to make the stinging sensation stop. I also have this image at a Brazil airport where my now-brother and sister-in-law had to hold my arm out so that we could all apply medicine and bandages to soothe my irritated skin (since I had scratched myself into oblivion as well).
My husband was stressing out about her reaction and kept telling me to check with the pediatrician, but I’d seen it and treated it a million times before…on me! And true enough when I called the pedia’s office, they told me things I already had been doing (Note: their main concern was that she did not have a fever or pus oozing from the open wounds as that would mean there was an infection and she would need to be seen immediately.). Nonetheless I am still bringing her in on Friday to get checked and to see if she is old enough to see a pediatric allergist.
Thankfully Jamie is feeling much better now and apart from the added routine of applying lotion and medicine onto her thrice as frequently as I used to in the past, she is pretty much her happy little self.
If I hadn’t gone through that experience growing up I probably would be in a panic frenzy at this point. Also, Sam never had it on her (thank God!), so it would’ve be a medical first on my kids (and medical firsts are never settling to a mom’s stomach I can tell you that!).
In case you are experiencing something similar with your children, here’s what works in our home. PLEASE know that this is not medical advice, but rather just one mom trying to help the next. When in doubt, a consult with the pediatrician is always best!
- Give them extremely quick, lukewarm baths with mild moisture bars (we use Dove unscented bars). Soaps and baby washes with scents dry the skin, from what I know.
- Bathe them in filtered water. You may not feel or see the difference immediately, but I promise you it helps. I know this firsthand!! And change your filters regularly — an unchanged filter is just like using none at all.
- Pat skin dry with a soft fluffy towel. Never rub. Leave the skin slightly moist too.
- Apply thick unscented lotion, such as Eucerin. It will already sting, but anything scented will sting worse.
- For red, splotchy areas apply the over-the -counter hydrocortizone cream as a first aid remedy, and leave the areas uncovered if possible to aerate it. In Jamie’s case, my husband lightly covered the worst scratches at night when she was asleep, since that’s when most of the scratching happens.
- As mentioned earlier, if you can cover the areas as well with breastmilk then that would be the best course of action. It is truly the miracle cure-all, and it is the mildest of all remedies!
- If they’re really uncomfortable at night, check with your nurse practitioner if it’s okay to give them Children’s Benadryl — just to help them sleep better. You’ll need the correct dosage for the age as well as the frequency. It’s not something you want to use on a prolonged basis either.
- Don’t allow the skin to get dry at any time during the day. Wash quickly to clean area and moisturize more often than you would normally do.
- Help with skin hydration by giving them a lot of water and fluids.
- Try to prevent the kids from scratching it over and over again. This is the hardest one to do!
Here are some other suggestions from sites I’ve come across that talked about Atopic Dermatitis in children.