How it began – Part one of our eczema story
Meet Lucas. My full of energy, Tasmanian Devil of a four year old boy, whose heart is bursting at the seams with love for the world around him and his mind is churning with curiosity. I often liken him to George the monkey. But I’ve got my eye on him a little better than that man with the yellow hat. 🙂 This kid is my everything. (Well, half of my everything since his brother arrived.) I would do anything for my boys, and all I want is for them to be happy and healthy. Every mother’s wish, right? Which is why I need to tell his story. There just might be another sweet little person out there than can benefit from our experience.
For the last several years we were challenged with a mystery rash. It seems as if this rash has been so much a part of our lives for so long now that it’s almost as if I have another child. Lucas, Nathan, and the rash. I’ve looked at my son’s face a gazillion times over the last few years and it’s all I have seen – the red swollen eyes, the dry skin, the patches of eczema creeping from his wrists up his arms to the insides of his elbows, around his neck reaching up to his chin and cheeks, covering his belly, his groin, the backs of his knees and legs. I’ve watched him scratch constantly, redirecting his hands and keeping his nails cut short. I’ve handed him hundreds of wet wash towels to calm his itchy eyes, applied nearly a thousand coats of oils, creams, and lotions to his face and body. I’ve cried and I’ve prayed and I’ve thrown my hands up in complete despair, looked to my husband for strength and reassurance, and I’ve kept on searching. But it was worth it. Because today I look at his face and I see clear eyes and a beautiful complexion, I see a calmer demeanor, hands that play rather than scratch, and I no longer cringe at the sight of his skin when I change his shirt or help him into the bath.
It all started when Lucas was about two years old and we agreed to let him have the chicken pox vaccine. I was uneasy about it, but with our doctors urging, I went ahead as we had already spaced out most of his vaccines much more than the average schedule allows. Within a few days, his baby brother had a rash that looked like Chicken Pox, and Lucas was starting to develop a red, raised rash along many parts of his body that looked like eczema. I took them in to the pediatrician, wondering if Nathan could have had some kind of cross spread chicken pox reaction from Lucas’s vaccine. His doctor thought it was possible, and couldn’t diagnosis it otherwise. She confirmed L’s rash was eczema. Well, Nathans went away and never came back. But Lucas’s didn’t. It kept getting worse, so I started reading about eczema. I tried the typical prescribed routine of a lukewarm bath, immediately followed by thick lotion like aquaphor, hydro cortisone cream on the bad spots and cool cotton sleepwear. But it kept getting worse.
We went back to his pediatrician, who did an IgE panel and prescribed Derma-smooth, which is a topical steroid oil to be used twice a day. She also recommended vanicream lotion and cetaphil cleanser. I picked up the prescription and the cleanser at CVS, waited in a never ending line at costco for the vanicream, and went home to wait for the blood test results. Within 24 hrs using the Dermasmooth the eczema began to clear up and after a few days his skin looked normal again. We were more than ecstatic to see him looking more like normal again. A couple weeks later we got the blood results which showed a mild reaction to dairy and eggs. His doctor did not think it was high enough to warrant removing them from his diet, but we wanted to give it a try and see what happened. For about six weeks we kept him dairy and egg free, backed off on the medicated oil, and the eczema returned. It was there, regardless of his diet.
Life was busy and as a mom of a baby and toddler, I found myself giving up the investigation for lack of time and energy and so the medication became part of our daily routine. Everywhere Lucas went, the oil and lotion went too. The eczema was under control, but it was never gone. It was written all over his face. Guilt sat at the pit of my stomach and churned every time I looked at his swollen eyes, his scaly head and dry face. Every time he scratched his wrist and I ran to grab the oil to make the problem go away. Once a week I would drench his scalp in jojoba oil, but a hat over his head, and once it soaked for a few hours I would use a fine comb to lift the thick layers of crust off of his head. Like a baby’s cradle cap, only fifty times worse. He would cry, run away from me, and I would apologize repeatedly, “I’m sorry baby, we have to do this to help your head”. I would bribe him with lollipops and he would sit as still as he could until he couldn’t take it any longer and we would stop.
After about year into this routine I took him to a pediatric dermatologist who looked at me like I was nuts and told me my kid was fine, he was just an “allergy kid” and would some day grow out of it. He gave me more prescriptions for topical steroids and told me to keep doing what I was doing. I left, frustrated, furious that no one would take my concerns seriously, and bewildered at the thought that people seem to think eczema just comes out of nowhere. Something had to be causing it. I just knew it.
Another year passed and as I grew increasingly aware of the affects of chemicals and hormones on the human body, my mind kept going to Lucas and what I could do. In my few years since having children I had replaced all chemical cleaners in our home with natural ones, all soaps, detergents, shampoos, toothpastes, lotions, etc etc etc were 100% pure and natural. I replaced plastics in the kitchen with glass, threw away the sippy cups and kid plates/bowls and replaced with kleen kanteens, bpa free plates/bowls and (gasp!) let the boys use our nice dishes, which they haven’t broken yet. 🙂 We increased our food budget so that I could keep us eating about 90% organic foods. I felt like we were doing all of these things to keep our bodies healthy, but poor Lucas was still being overwhelmed with toxic chemicals in the form of this steroid oil that we put on him every day. I had had enough. Two years was too long, and there was no end in sight.
So… I talked it over with Ryan and we started our investigation again. Step number one was to take him to a Naturopathic doctor, and I will talk about that in my next post because this one is getting long! 🙂