If you are stressed out over your baby’s eczema, this Eczema Babies Healing Plan is for you.
Corey’s condition would have been brought under control a lot sooner, if I had followed this eczema babies healing plan from the onset of his diagnosis. I continue to refine it as Corey grows and his skin and allergies change, but for now this basic healing framework has been crucial in his healing and reducing my stress as his main caregiver.
Photos here show the progressed we made from June 2016 and June 2017.
There are 5 STEPS in this eczema babies healing plan, of which STEP 1 is absolutely crucial to start with. The rest of the steps are done concurrently, depending on your baby’s triggers and the extent of eczema.
Like a birth plan for eczema
Much like a birth plan, parents need to discuss about acceptable outcomes from treatment plans. Crucially, values that parents have on usage of medications and medicated creams should be discussed.
You might think this is a no brainer because if your baby is sick you will medicate as needed. But eczema is unlike having a fever that once broken is gone. Eczema is an incredibly complex disease where the rashes comes and goes. Flares can come from multiple triggers that are both environmental and psychological (think stress and dreaming?!). Creams and medications may need to be used for months on end while you figure out your baby’s triggers (depending on the severity of your baby’s infections). Involving your doctor in this plan helps greatly.
Its a team effort, rally your troops!
As an eczema mama, I am very familiar with the feeling of guilt. As the main caregiver, I always felt if I had done something or not done something maybe his condition could have improved or be avoided. If you feel the same way, you need to know this is totally normal. Mummies of normal babies have guilt tripped themselves over much lesser issues.
By virtue of the fact you are reading this article, you continue to look for ways to help your baby’s eczema so you are doing the best you can. So hugs to you, eczema mama!
A lot of pressure is placed on mummies as the main caregiver of an eczema baby. With such a stressful undertaking, emotions run high for mummies who stare at those rashes day in day out. This very often clouds important decision making on treatment plans. I was a total emotional wreak at the height of Corey’s infections, desperately going from doctor to alternative healing to using multiple creams all at once. Level headed inputs from daddy is useful and comforting in these moments.
Corey’s grandparents have been crucial in helping to execute this eczema babies healing plan. Without which Corey may not be doing as well as he is today. They also give me much needed breaks away from dealing with his eczema once in a while. So take those breaks when you need it!
So rally your troops. Eczema mamas need all the help they can get in caring for their babies.
Chin up and stay positive for your baby
Start with a great image, if needed sit together and envision a happy, healthy baby with a happy mummy and family. And holding onto that image, have a discussion on what’s the best course of action to take for your baby.
I am but a mum tasked with taking care of a highly allergic baby. I am sure I still have much to learn about eczema and all the different treatment possibilities available to my baby. But having felt like we went through hell and back in the last 15 months, I am now more in control of my baby’s health. Every time I get discouraged I refer back to these 5 steps.
Every time I get discouraged I refer back to these 5 steps.
I hope these steps gives you a basic framework to lean on. I know the road to healing appears long and elusive, but with a bit of work, your baby will be on a healing journey just as mine is.
FIND THE RIGHT DOCTOR AND FOLLOW THROUGH
The internet is not a Doctor
In our modern age of WebMDs, Googling for medical advice has become the quick and dirty way of diagnosing an ailment. At the beginning of our eczema journey, I too spent countless hours staring at photos of rashy babies online trying to find similarities with mine. I read through hundreds of Facebook comments, trying to find a cure for Corey’s eczema.
My Simplifier’s advice is to get professional advice as your first line of defence in treating your baby’s eczema. Specialists like dermatologists and allergists have invested years of their professional lives to treating this disease. However, the complexity of eczema does mean that different professionals may have differing opinions, which leads me to the next point.
Find a doctor who instils confidence
We had already seen a few paediatricians and a dermatologist at the height of his eczema. And nobody could give me the answers I needed. One told me that I needed to do a full elimination diet (as I was breastfeeding) which I did for a month. It made me even more depressed because the only thing I could eat was boiled chicken and nothing else. And still Corey kept flaring, and his infections only got worse. Another insisted we should not do a skin prick allergy test as they were painful for infants. But her impatient tone gave me the sense the real reason for not wanting to do one, was one more concerned about getting us out of the door, than giving us answers. Corey slept through his first skin prick test so I knew her reasoning was BS.
It’s not hard to see why I was an emotional wreak by the time we found Professor Hugo of National University of Singapore. So when he was able to answer my questions and give us a treatment plan with clear instructions, I felt a wave of relief.
So don’t give up, keep looking for the right doctor who inspires confidence and can answer all your eczema mama questions!
Follow through with your doctor
Eczema isn’t like a common fever you know will break in 5 -7 days with proper care. Triggers can be multitude. It may be food related, environmental, or psychological causes like stress and dreaming. Lesions come and go, and even when they have healed, a defective skin barrier means your baby will be more sensitive to future infections. The eczema changes as your baby grows, may subside as his immunity improves, and also could worsen under conditions only unique to your child.
Following through with the same doctor ensures he/she has a proper medical history of the eczema development, triggers and responses to treatment. They have the professional experience to tell how the eczema might develop and change. Your input as the caregiver will offer insight to the everyday observations of your child. Working together, a comprehensive treatment plan can be tailored and adjusted as your baby grows and changes.
If ever in doubt, I strongly urge referring back to your trusted doctor and get their input on how they can help you execute steps 2 – 5 to suit your baby’s condition.
There were times it felt like all I needed to know was that I was on the right track.
Staying positive for Corey was hard when his eczema was so infected. There were times it felt like all I needed to know was that I was on the right track. I am so grateful to Corey’s doctors, Professor Hugo and Dr Lee BW who patiently answered my incessant questions on Corey’s skin condition and eczema.
Consulting too many doctors at the same time may end up with conflicting opinions. Or worse, double dosing/over using multiple medications or creams.
KEEP A DETAILED ECZEMA DIARY
Eczema in infants and toddlers are particularly difficult to treat because they are unable to describe their discomfort and highlight when a trigger happens. Allergy testing is useful but not exhaustive in identifying triggers.
Caregivers becomes the eyes for the baby and powers of observations are the only way to identify new triggers. Corey’s doctor would constantly ask me at our monthly appointment what I thought were new triggers. I remembered thinking if I knew what was wrong I would not need to see a specialist. But therein is the complexity of eczema, your doctor may have the experience in telling the difference between eczema and a fungal rash, but he is not around 24/7 to observe your child.
Reduce guesswork and confusion
It can be very stressful be caring for an eczema baby who is constantly rashy. I felt so sad watching him in discomfort and not being able to thrive like a normal baby. And when the triggers are unknown it can be downright frustrating. Many days I was simply patching holes and just managing the symptoms.
The solution to this I found, is to approach investigating rashes like a scientist. I keep a detailed diary of Corey’s daily activities and take note of new exposures to foods and environments. I would create hypotheses, keep as many variables constants as I could (as controls). Then change certain conditions to test a suspected trigger.
Adds value to doctor visits and treatment plans
Armed with a detailed diary, discussions with your doctor is more meaningful in tailoring an appropriate medication and testing plan. And hey those specialists visits are not cheap so unless you have a limitless insurance plan, you need to manage the cost of treatment. Keeping a detailed diary is economical and adds value to those doctors visits.
It was through keeping a detailed diary that I discovered Corey was getting hives every time he played near our upholstery couch. After discussion with Corey’s doctor, he suggested testing for dust mite allergy. This came back positive. Subsequently, Corey’s condition improved through elimination of all natural pillows (down) at home.
Have all caregivers on the same page
A detailed record of daily exposures and response to treatment is also useful when there are multiple care givers. This is a structured and systematic way for everyone to monitor baby’s condition and reactions.
A small inconvenience for big reduction in stress
A tedious process yes, and can be difficult for eczema mamas with more than one child. Read Step 5: Adopt a Simple Lifestyle, which is paramount to the success of keeping a detailed diary.
I assure you this step is absolutely worth it because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. Instead of freaking out over every new rash, I would refer back to my diary and photos to investigate. It is also very encouraging and calms me to look back at older entries and see how far we have come.
I am in the midst of coming up with a printable version of my diary template tailored for eczema mamas to use. Contact me at my email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested to receive this in your email.
BUILD A NUTRITIOUS SKIN HEALING DIET
When I first found out Corey was allergic to cow’s milk, eggs and peanuts I didn’t realise just how difficult it would be feed him like a normal child. It didn’t help that the extent of his allergy was airborne, so if you could smell eggs cooking, he could react. I learnt about hidden exposures, where common processed foods we consume daily may contain eggs and dairy. We had to cut these out from our home environment.
So paranoid was I that he would react to anything new, I was tempted to delay his intake of solids. The husband would have none of that and we would argue about when to start Corey on solids (see how important setting some parenting values together can be?). On hindsight he was right as consuming a nutritious skin healing diet sped up his the road to recovery.
Boost immunity to keep infections at a minimum
Eczema (and related illnesses like asthma and sinus issues) is often touted as an autoimmune disease. That is the reason why flare ups may gets worse when your baby’s immunity is down. Thus a keystone in an eczema babies healing plan must include a clean nutritious diet to build up a baby’s immunity. A clean, balanced diet is paramount to building a baby’s immunity against infections and bugs.
Eczema babies need extra doses of skin healing foods
Using The Eczema Diet as a guide, I took baby steps to building a skin healing diet for Corey. He takes generous helpings of fruits and vegetables such as papaya and celery beneficial for skin repair. I make my own skin healing broth and have a few recipes for skin healing baby purees. It is easier to tailor a baby’s diet for skin healing. He has not tried processed foods and will not miss what he doesn’t know.
What started as a huge inconvenience in the beginning, is turning out to be a big blessing. Yes, we eat at home a lot because this is the only way I know what goes into our food. I have learnt to read labels, and now only buy products for which I can understand the ingredients. Today, as a family, we are eating a cleaner, more nutritious diet at home thanks to his food allergies.
HAVE A SIMPLIFIED SKIN CARE REGIME
Early on in the diagnosis, every well meaning friend would recommend moisturisers that worked for someone. I ended up with a truckload of creams at home and a very irritated baby who always had some new cream plastered on him. Every time I spot tested a new moisturising cream, I would hope in anticipation that it would clear up his rashes. As if that new cream was some miracle cure. Well it never happened. Moisturisers are not medicines.
Moisturising on healthy skin will help to form a protective barrier against allergens. Moisturising on infected skin will not cure the infection.
At the heart of a simplified skin care regime is to remember the following principles in caring for your eczema baby:
Keep infections at a minimal – treat those infections!
Moisturising by itself does not take away skin infections.
At the core of a simplified skincare regime is to keep skin infections at a minimal so that baby is comfortable and happy. This requires a balance between helping infections heal faster with the recommended usage of medicated creams. Then lather on moisturisers as a protective barrier to reduce bacteria from further entering skin.
This requires a balance between helping infections heal faster with the recommended usage of medicated creams
Corey’s doctor recommends using a light disinfectant chlorhexidine to clean the skin before applying any medicated creams on infected areas.
Follow your doctor’s instructions on treating skin infections and follow up closely if it does not seem to be working.
Reduce itching fast and speed up healing
I keep the following list handy for caregivers to refer to if Corey has a flare and itch attack. It surprised me how fast a flare can occur and how itchy it made him. He is an active little baby who would scratch till he made cuts in his skin. Broken skin is prone to bacteria and infection.
To speed up healing of skin infections in eczema babies:
- moisturise as often as possible
- clean patches with disinfectant chlorhexidine before applying creams and moisturiser
- keep nails short (we cut and file Corey’s DAILY), wear mittens/socks/scratch mits over hands if necessary.
- lukewarm (cool water) baths only as hot water irritates the skin
- Use soapless bath oils or moisturising bath oils
- Wear long sleeves and long pants clothing covering patches
- Keep cooling pads handy in the freezer to calm red itchy areas
- Use soothing gels/emollients that are comfortable for your baby. Some people use aloe vera, I use calamine. Think anything cooling that does not irritate the skin further.
- Have a scratch strategy. Corey would have a habit of scratching his head before sleeping every night. Probably in part due to not being able to scratch other infected areas. I would allow him a few minutes of doing this while I apply something to sooth the area he had just scratched.
A regular skincare schedule
I do a skincare regime with him twice a day, once after his morning bath, and once at a bedtime wipe down (I found bathing him twice a day dried up his skin). In our regime, I would inspect his skin for red areas and new spots, clean with disinfectant chlorhexidine and apply medicated creams if necessary. Then apply a layer of moisturiser over his whole body. I would take photos of new rashes and update my eczema diary on findings. Once it became a regular routine it was extremely helpful in monitoring his progress.
If you are using a good moisturiser suitable for your baby just stick to it. If baby feels comfortable after application, and skin does not turn red or sting, the product is suitable. You should see improvements to his skin if the product is suitable. Spot test any new products on a small patch of good skin before piling it on.
When choosing skin care products, use the following tips:
Trial and error – but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
The topic of skincare for eczema is one that probably warrants a full book written on it. What works for one baby may not be suitable for another. Trial and error here took me weeks to get right, but now that I have found a what works for Corey I am not going to rock the boat (unless his doctor recommends a change).
Less is more
Read all labels and ask the pharmacist questions if you are not comfortable with any ingredients. Lesser ingredients in a cream is better because this means lesser preservatives and potential allergens used in its manufacture.
All natural not necessary the best
Creams made from fully natural ingredients without preservatives may not necessarily the best. These ingredients may go bad easily. If you live in a hot and humid climate like mine in South East Asia you will know that fresh produce can go bad faster than their expiry date, if left out in the open. So if you do choose to use fully natural products, proceed with caution and always check before each use and discard if they smell bad.
Spot test everything
Find a small area of good skin to spot test any new cream you are trying. Apply a small amount and wait for reactions. If no redness and baby does not scratch the area then it is likely ok for use. I usually wait around 15 minutes to half an hour. Some severe reactions can appear faster for stronger irritants ingredients.
Keep Learning and investigating
I am constantly learning about new ingredients and methods. I look for Science backed, trial tested (if possible) therapies. For Singaporean mummies, you can refer to this list from local blogger eczemablues for the most commonly used products and a quick breakdown of ingredients. For a wider range, WWW.EWG.ORG is a great place to search for your product of choice to learn more.
The point is, keep searching for a simpler skincare regime that is suitable for your baby.
ADOPT A SIMPLE LIFESTYLE
Looking after an eczema baby is ten times more tiring and stressful than a normal baby. You only have a finite amount of hours in a day so choose your battles wisely. The key to creating a conducive healing environment for baby and your family is to keep it simple.
Reclaim your sanity – list your non negotiables
There are a great many distractions in a day to draw us away from what is important. So list out your non negotiables when developing a healing plan for baby. My non negotiables is managing Corey’s known allergens in our home environment. He is allergic to eggs, milk and peanuts so ensuring he gets a good nutritious diet is non negotiable. Meals are kept simple at home so that Corey feels included.
Managing his dust mite allergy is also a non negotiable which is my next point in creating a simple lifestyle
Reduce clutter to a minimum
At 1 year old, Corey’s was diagnosed with dust mite allergy. I have spent the last 6 months engineering a conducive healing environment for him. This has meant getting rid of carpets, old pillows, using waterproof mattress for his bedding.
There is however no need to be over zealous in cleaning if your baby is not allergic to dust mites. Some studies have shown that extra cleaning to avoid a dust mite allergy can increase the risk of developing a subsequent allergy to house dust mites. (quote from Hugo van Bever’s book ‘Allergic Disease in Children, The science, the superstitions and the stories’)
There are other benefits of lesser clutter in our home besides managing his dust mite allergy. Lesser things to manage means lesser stress for eczema mamas who are already stretched. And besides, you don’t need much to have fun together. Lesser stuff to manage means more time to do the things that matter. Like spending quality family time together.
Lesser things to manage means lesser stress for eczema mamas who are already stretched.
In my search for a simplified healing plan, I chanced upon the book, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. As a family counselor for many years who counselled children with different behavioral issues, he coined the term Simplicity Parenting. Where by simplifying the 4 realms of a young child’s environment, rhythm, schedule and filtering out the adult world, creates a calm and conducive space for young children to thrive and grow. Applying these principles have helped greatly in Corey’s healing. These principles have had such a profound difference on our lives I am now a certified Simplicity Parenting coach.
Celebrate the smallest victories
It was discouraging when Corey’s rashes looked better one day and then get worse the next. I got through these moments by focusing on the good skin (no matter how small). So celebrating even the smallest victories will help on days where one step forward results in two steps back. Putting one foot in front of the other and revisiting my eczema babies healing plan steps 2 – 5 keeps me focused on the goal of Corey’s healing.
Putting one foot in front of the other and revisiting my eczema babies healing plan steps 2 – 5 keeps me focused on the goal of Corey’s healing.
The Silver Lining
We have come such a long way yet I know I have barely scratched (pun not intended!) the surface in learning about this disease or what might change in coming days.
I am confident that armed with this simple 5 step Eczema Babies Healing Plan, I can approach new triggers in a systematic manner. As his condition improves daily, I gain more confidence to expose him to more normal activities knowing I can revisit these steps when new flares occurs.
I believe all parents with eczema babies of varying seriousness will find these 5 steps useful. My wish in sharing these tips is for eczema mamas to have lesser stress and more healing and happy thriving babies.
Do share this with any eczema mamas you know 🙂