Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eczema

Izaiah was born with eczema. In his first hours of life I thought the way he gently rubbed his arm on mine while nursing was just his way of loving me back. Nope. He was itching himself the best a newborn can. His birth was followed by 3 months of what most call 'colic' but I always doubted that. Nursing and cuddling always settled him, it never seemed to be tummy trouble. 

Recently, I read Dr. Nasir's book entitled 'Eczema-Free For Life' and the puzzle is more complete. All of these years that Izaiah has persistently nursed and cuddled; now I know why: he's calming himself, settling his nervous system, using my fingernails to scratch; it's never been about his tummy, it's about his skin. 

Dr. Nasir is an expert dermatologist with 25 years of experience with eczema. He practices and teaches dermatology at both Duke University and University of North Carolina. He has access to seemingly unlimited resources, experimentation, and the Who's Who of skin science backing him up as demonstrated in the Acknowledgements and Introduction parts of his book. The book is not perfect, it has a few issues, but I learned more about eczema in 2 hours than from doctors in the last three years of life with Izaiah's eczema.


I'll start with the questionable. First, the title is misleading. Eczema is a genetic disorder, there are over 20 identified chromosomes that cause it. So, if you have it, you'll always have it.  If you're not experiencing 'flares' it is in remission. Second, since it is genetic, it is true that what you eat doesn't cause eczema as Dr. Nasir says; but, certainly an allergy or food sensitivity could cause a reaction that could certainly set off a flare. So allergies and food sensitivities/intolerances do play a role even if indirectly. That does seem to be a contradiction in his book.

There are a couple other little misdemeanors but overall the information helped us enough that when Izaiah had a major flare recently, we were able to have it under control within a couple of days. I do feel better equipped to work on prevention. I borrowed this book from our library, but will most likely purchase to have on hand.

Here are some great tips I learned from Dr. Nasir's book:
  1. Taking baths isn't bad, in fact, 2 of them daily with oatmeal or Dead Sea Salts can improve skin. Be sure to grind up oatmeal to a fine powder in a blender first.1 cup will do. If you are gluten sensitive, use gluten-free oatmeal.
  2. Rub down with petroleum jelly within 3 minutes of bathing. A few minutes later apply a second layer of petroleum on dry patches or red areas. The skin can soak up 2 thin layers better than one thick layer. This helps the skin build a barrier to keep out pollutants which is the crux of eczema: because of the defunct chromosomes, the skin is unable to properly form the barrier that keeps pollutants out of the epidermis. The pollutants cause the itching.
  3. Creams, whether natural, herbal, or cortisone are more cost efficient than lotions.
  4. Aspercreme can help with itch for up to 4 hours for children 12 and older.  Don't take aspirin orally though, that can make it worse. 
  5. Vitamins E and B2 may help but the B complex vitamins have been shown to make eczema worse.
  6. Massage may be an excellent way to calm your child's skin. I do this for Izaiah and he loves it. 
  7. The body cannot understand both 'cold' and 'itch' at the same time, so using cold compresses, ice packs, or even refrigerating your creams can help them act faster and longer. 
  8. Milk's cold properties have temps lower than water so using milk compresses instead can be better. Just be sure to rinse completely when finished.
  9. Calamine lotion and camphor can also help reduce itching and protect skin.
  10. A 10 year old pillow can have 10% of its weight coming from dust mites - yuck! Replace them frequently or use covers that zip to protect them. Dust mites and their droppings can cause flares so wash all bedding in very hot water frequently.
  11. There is only kind of pet dander that is irritating to eczema which is the guinea pig (naturally, since we have one!) Of course if you have allergies to other animals this wouldn't apply to you.
Unspoiler alert! These are only a micro sample of educational goodies I gleaned from the book. It is filled with all the science about eczema, in layman's terms. Dr. Nasir gives great advice for daily skin routines and working, functioning and living with eczema.  He gives a complete guide to all kinds of relief aids whether prescribed, over the counter, natural, herbal, diet, psychological...they're all in there, all have equal time, none of them is pushed over the other and the pros and cons of all are mentioned. It is very balanced. There is a section for children, babies, and toddlers.

I feel empowered to help prevent future eczema flare ups which, consequently, might be a better title for Dr. Nasir's book, but I do feel we've gotten to the bottom of an enormous issue. Izaiah is sleeping better at night and is happier. I still have to attend to his eczema daily but I think this will help him wean from nursing and become more verbal. Having eczema is bad enough but coupled with autism and non-verbalness sure isn't what I'd wish for anyone. I would give the book 5 out of 5 stars were I rating it.  Some other books I want to read are The Skin Cure Diet, Skin Deep, and Super Immunity for Kids.

We're also seeing a Naturopath.  Some sources say testing for food allergies and /or sensitivities is fairly accurate for children over the age of 4, others say it is not too reliable no matter what the age. We're going to try anyway.  I want to protect Izaiah from the inside as much as from the outside.  I will blog about this experience as we journey through it.

Today, about 30 million people suffer from the itches and rashes of eczema. It invades all of life:  playtime, work, school, so much sleep is lost; people have committed suicide to put an end to it. A skin disease that Jesus healed so often was leprosy.  Luke 17:11-19 tells about the 10 lepers that he healed. He instructed them to show themselves to the priests because they would be the 'authority' to declare the former lepers 'clean' which meant they might be able to rejoin society and most importantly, their families.  Leprosy was so feared that lepers of all ages, including toddler children, had to live isolated in leper colonies. They were left there to slowly lose their limbs, be forgotten, and die. They were alone, comforted only by other diseased lepers and the mercy of others who dared go just near enough to drop off food, clothes, or blankets but even they certainly kept their distance and were probably unseen. In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed 10 lepers but only 1 came back to thank him.  This is typically a lesson in being thankful, which is a good lesson.  I am reminded that we are to love Christ more than ourselves or our own families and the thankless 9 probably couldn't wait to see their wives, their husbands, their moms and dads, and their children; they put that ahead of loving Christ. As we live with moderate to severe eczema at our house, even though it isn't leprosy, I can sympathize with the lepers' joy, not only were they cured of leprosy, but also the pain of abandonment, outcastedness and loneliness. Jesus knew they wouldn't thank him, but he had mercy anyway, and while the thanklessness does stand out, to me, the mercy of Christ stands out even more. I pray for mercy on Izaiah and all persons suffering with eczema and other skin diseases.



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