How We Manage Eczema – One Mom’s Story

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Eczema was my son’s first allergy symptom. It began when he was about six months or so. Red patches on his chunky baby legs that wouldn’t go away easily. The heat of summer seemed to aggravate it, and he would have windows of clear skin in the fall, but when it got too dry in the winter, it would flare back up.

For flare ups, we have tried several different prescription creams on his skin. Once it cleared, we attempted to maintain with expensive organic creams including California Baby. Our dermatologist recommended Sarna, which I found to be too light to be beneficial for his skin.

We’ve settled upon using Aquaphor in the winter for maintenance and it’s simple formula seems to work best. BUT it has to be used sparingly, or it will clog his pores. This past winter of discontent was full of horrible, dry weather here in the Northeast. I thought I was doing the right thing by slathering Aquaphor on his legs every day because they seemed so dry and impermeable. Just a few days before Christmas, his legs erupted in angry red sores. It turns out too much Aquaphor had clogged his hair follicles. Oral antibiotics and twice daily skin cream cleared it up after a week or so.

Managing Eczema

Luckily, this summer we seem to have been spared the flare up (*knocks on wood*). I have a few (probably unsubstantiated) theories on why his skin might be a little clearer this year.

  • About a year ago, we stopped the daily baths, only bathing him every other day. This summer, we’ve switched to showers and I think spending less sustained time in warm soapy water could be a factor in his improved skin condition.
  • We’ve also used less sunscreen. We’ve used the spray sunscreen sparingly. I also don’t use it if we are just going out for a short amount of time, I let him get a little sun on his skin. (Yes, I also just learned that it’s not safe for kids and will be searching for an easy alternative for slathering two wiggly little boys. I don’t want to get overly dramatic here, but this is a life changer and I am in mourning for spray sunscreen’s demise, seriously.)
  • Because his eczema seemed more environmental, I haven’t investigated whether certain foods cause it to flare up as other parents may have. His egg allergy numbers have diminished over the years, maybe he will grow out of eczema too. Fingers crossed.

This is just my son’s experience with eczema, I’d love to hear your strategies and tips for managing your child’s eczema. Let me know in the comments!



12 Comments to How We Manage Eczema – One Mom’s Story

  1. What? Spray sunscreen isn’t safe for kids?? Oh no. My kids get eczema too and it helps in the winter to only bathe them once or twice a week (we ‘spot clean’ on other days). We mostly do showers now too and that seems to help. I use Bio-oil on their skin in the winter to try and keep it well moisturised. That does seem to work well.

    • Kate Petrov

      I know, I am so bummed about spray sunscreen’s untimely demise. I hope they fix it soon! Thanks for the tip on Bio-oil, I will try that out this winter.

  2. Sara

    I’m 36, and I’ve had eczema (and anaphylactic allergies) my entire life, and this is what I’ve found helps my eczema. I only use mineral sunblocks, and I believe that zinc oxide in particular is very helpful to my skin. I use zinc oxide daily face cream for casual sun exposure, and since I switched my regular eczema patches have decreased significantly. I know this isn’t the best option for wiggly kids, particularly since it’s so white and thick, but I wanted to share my experience.

    I also spot treat with varying concentrations of organic rosemary oil. I previously had patches on my eyelids, elbows, chest, hands, and scalp, and with continued rosemary oil application I only have a small patch remaining on the back of my head. My scalp patch never entirely goes away unless I take prescription steroids, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well the rosemary reduces both the size of the patch and the associated itching.

    In the winter, I layer the oil and zinc lotions with alternating Aquaphor and AmLactin, which wouldn’t work for you because of the lactic acid. Maybe something with salicylic or glycolic acid would be a good substitute. Any kind of mild non-dairy chemical exfoliator may help keep pores from getting too horribly clogged.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog – as someone who felt like the only anaphylactic in the world for a very long time, it’s always nice to read up on other people’s experiences.

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Sara! I’m hearing lots of good things about oils, we’ll definitely do some experimenting this winter.

  3. Kristin

    I also have a son that is almost 2 that has had eczema since he was 6 months old. It’s been so challenging along with dairy issues but he is so happy now. We use oils and I’m thrilled to say that both of my kids are healthier because of them. I started using them last December and I’m still experimenting but I highly reccomend trying them. I’m not a HUGE natural person but I do care about my children being happy and healthy. By the way, I have tried rosemary oil, but not directly on my son. I will definitely try that. Thank you all. So glad to have read your comments. It’s always a challenge.

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks for sharing, Kristin. A number of friends recommended oils, so I will round up all of the suggestions in a future post. I’m looking forward to experimenting this winter.

  4. hmmm, we found the opposite to be true…using a sunscreen without zinc is the only way my daughter doesn’t react. It was hard to find this item and a gal at Whole Foods helped us out by letting us experiment with samples. I add a few drops of lavender to olive oil and put it on her at night. The smell calms her and I believe it has healing abilities also.

  5. Kirstin

    My two yr old son has multiple, severe food allergies and eczema, and we live in one of the most potent pollen regions in the country (NC), unfortunately.
    However, we have great allergists here! His doctors recommend the Vaniply ointment instead of Aquaphor- slightly different formulation that has not clogged his pores so far. There is a Vanicream as well, but if his skin has any scratches (oh, the scratching), lotions and creams seems to be too uncomfortable. I love it for me, though) with no fragrance, added ingredients or allergens.
    We also use the mineral sunscreens- but I try to moderate our sunscreen use. (His pollen allergies sometimes keep us inside, although we have started allergy shots.) My son is very fair, so I try to just use hats and sleeves as much as I can, keep to the shade, and stay away from peak sun hours which isn’t hard because it’s so blazing hot down here.
    Bathing has always been an issue for us, because it seems to open up his pores too much and irritate them. I also get suspicious that any tub residue at all might be making it worse, so I prefer the shower for him. But, our doctors have all recommended putting a small quantity of bleach, like a tablespoon, in the tub once a week to kill bacteria on his skin to minimize the chance of infection. My friend in France thinks that’s totally nuts, but they say research has shown that eczema sufferers have more bacteria on their skin than other people. Just wanted to pass that along.
    Excited to have found this website, and I am also eager to try out the oils. The food allergies are very stressful, but the eczema… it’s just grueling.

  6. Kerry

    Awesome site. We use the mineral-only sunscreens too, and found that Badger has been putting out lotion versions of theirs, which go on a lot easier. They had to recall some lines of them this past summer, which bummed me out, but they’re reformulating and will be putting them out again.

    This summer, I actually put Balmex on my kid when I couldn’t find the sunblock. Zinc oxide is zinc oxide, right? Far fewer ingredients.

  7. Chococat

    I have eczema, and for me it mostly appears on my arms and legs, and more recently in dry patches on my neck and back. I’ve used probably at least five brands of daily lotion over the years, and my favorites were Eucerin and Cetaphil. I personally don’t like Aquaphor ointment because of the oily feeling and how you can’t put it on under clothes (without getting your sleeves/pants oily too). I’m currently using Aveeno and it doesn’t seem to be that effective.

    I think the prescription medicines (hydrocortisone creams, etc) are really the most effective for the worst spots, and I used to carry around a tube of it for school/going out. Right now I just keep a small container of regular lotion in case my skin gets dry.

    Definitely don’t let him bathe every day; it’ll dry out his skin and it’s best to apply lotion right afterwards to prevent that. And just for water in general, I find that my hands/arms can get really dry and irritated if I leave water to air dry from my hands.

    I’m 17. Eczema sucks.

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