Anyone who has had eczema or a child with eczema knows how horrible it is. Eczema is a chronic disease that causes itchy, inflamed skin. There is no cure for eczema. And sometimes no matter how many lotions, ointments or creams you try, the itch cannot be resolved. An estimated 30 million Americans live with this disease.
My daughter first showed signs of eczema when she was three months old. Within months, she was scratching all the time. The pediatrician diagnosed her with atopic dermatitis (the most severe level of eczema) and gave us a steroid cream to help relieve some of the itching.
Because my son had a mild case of eczema as a baby, we were already use to using fragrance-free and dye-free soaps, detergents and lotions. But Lexie’s eczema was more severe than Jase’s. While he outgrew it by the time he was two, Lexie just seemed to get worse. She was constantly scratching until her skin bled. The itching prevented her from sleeping well, which of course meant we didn’t sleep well. Most mornings her sheets were stained with blood.
When she was 18 months old, we were referred to a dermatologist. But here it was just more of the same. He would prescribe a cream, and we would try it, but it wouldn’t help. In fact, often whatever cream or lotion we used, she seemed to itch more. She would cry every time we treated her as if the medication stung her raw skin.
I turned to the internet to look for relief, checking out hundreds of pages of eczema and trying countless different lotions and treatments that others said had helped them or their child. Nothing seemed to help.
To make matters worse, because of the open sores from her scratching, she developed an abscess under her arm, which had to be drained (not a fun experience at all). This would be the first of ten abscesses that she would have that year. Luckily, we became good about catching them early and cleared them up with antibiotics instead of the dreaded draining by the doctor. But none of us were immune to them. Because her body was covered with numerous cuts, she constantly had high levels of staph on her skin (which is common for people with eczema), and we all ended up developing at least one abscess.
Now, a few friends and quite a few strangers who remarked on her skin had suggested a milk allergy as being part of the problem. My mom also suggested a grass allergy since after being outside, she would just sit down and scratch her feet. So I mentioned it to the dermatologist, but he dismissed allergies as being the trigger.
After we had been seeing him for a year with no relief and after a really bad flare up, the dermatologist finally recommended we see an allergist. The allergist sent her for a blood test. The results were staggering. They tested her for 37 common things, and she was allergic to every one of them.
I will write more about Lexie’s allergies next week. But I just want to say that for anyone who is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, please don’t wait as long as we did to see an allergist. Even though avoiding whatever you are allergic to won’t “cure” the atopic dermatitis, it can certainly reduce flare-ups and in our case, a whole bunch of scratching.