I have told you that my daughter has severe eczema and that part of her treatment plan is to avoid foods with the top 8 allergens. That’s the short story. Today I am sharing a little bit of our long story.
In 2007, Bella was born a healthy 10 lbs 3 oz. Everything besides her weight was normal. My husband, 3 other children, age 7 and under, and I were feeling incredibly blessed by this “surprise” baby.
Bella was about 6 weeks old when her beautiful baby skin turned red and angry looking. When it started oozing, I took her to see the pediatrician. She was diagnosed with infected eczema. The doctor prescribed a round of oral antibiotics and oral and topical steroids. Since the eczema covered her entire body, I was to coat all of her skin in the steroid creams twice per day. We were to follow up with a dermatologist.
A few weeks later, the dermatologist confirmed the eczema diagnosis. The skin was no longer infected. We were to continue the steroid creams and use topical antibiotics as needed. The topical steroids kept the rash from taking over her body, but angry patches were still showing up. You can see the eczema pushing through the steroids in the photo above.
As Bella developed motor skills, she started scratching. I kept newborn mittens on her hands 24 hours a day. At night, I’d swaddle her like a newborn, hoping to keep her hands away from her face. But as she grew, she got better and better at wiggling free and scratching. At first she would wiggle out of the mittens and scratch her hands, forearms and elbows under the swaddling blanket. Later she’d learn to pull her arm out and scratch her forehead. It didn’t matter how short I kept her nails, she always had scabbed up scratches on her hands, arms and face.
We kept the swaddling up as long as we could, because, though it didn’t stop the scratching, it did help to slow the damage the scratching was causing to her skin. Eventually, all of her crib sheets and pajamas were stained with blood.
When Bella was about five months old, I made an appointment with an allergist. A scratch test showed allergic reactions to egg, dairy and soy. I was breastfeeding Bella, so she and I eliminated egg, dairy and soy from our diets.
I honestly can’t remember if the diet change made a noticeable difference in her skin. I do remember that we were still completely dependent on the steroid creams. The steroid creams were helpful, but they still weren’t keeping all of the itchy patches away.
When Bella was about one year old, we found a new dermatologist. He explained that she had “severe eczema.” Because of the severity, it would be unlikely that she would outgrow it completely, but she would likely outgrow the severity of it.
He started her on an antihistamine called Atarax or Hydroxyzine. He said it had been around a long time, and he felt very comfortable prescribing it to our baby. He said it was specifically good for skin itching. He was right. It was wonderful. The scratching slowed significantly when it was in her system, but it still wasn’t the magic pill I was hoping for.
There were parts of the day where the eczema didn’t bother her, or maybe she was just able to ignore it. Then, out of nowhere, she’d drop to the floor, rip her socks and shoes off and scratch like a crazed person.
We called these crazed moments “itchy fits.” I’d immediately drop what I was doing. I tried to restrain her from digging into her skin while simultaneously rubbing her “itchy spots” in an effort to provide some comfort. There were lots of tears, screaming and fighting. These violent fits usually lasted about 30 minutes. We found it most helpful to find some distraction. Dora the Explorer became our best friend.
Sometimes these itchy fits would happen in the most inconvenient places. The worst were the middle of the grocery aisle or the middle of a parking lot. She would scream and cry as I’d try to scoop her up in my arms and comfort her as we rushed to the car.
Bella used whatever she could find to get relief. As a baby, she’d rub her hand or face on her sheets until her skin was raw and bleeding. I still find her rubbing her hands and feet on the carpet until they are raw. Sometimes she runs her hands along the collar of her shirt so that the collar rubs between her fingers. Not only are her sheets and pajamas blood stained, but the collars are completely stretched out and ripping at the seam.
She learned that if she wanted to scratch freely, she had to hide. I hated that she felt like she had to hide from me, but I couldn’t let her hurt herself. I had to keep her in my sites at all times. If it got quiet, I knew she was hiding and hurting herself.
As you can imagine, all of this was heart breaking. I felt so helpless, but nothing broke my heart more than when she started pulling her hair out. I guess the pain of pulling her hair out felt better than the constant pain and discomfort the eczema caused.
Over the past five years, we have seen multiple pediatricians, allergists and dermatologists. The base of their treatment plan was always the same: prescription strength steroid creams and anti-histamines.
We tried every holistic approach we could find including the GAPS diet, homeopathy, nutritional supplements and UVB therapy. Some were helpful, some were not.
Is she any better? Yes and no. We have seen some improvement through diet change and supplements, but the truth is most of her symptoms are simply masked by steroid creams. Thankfully, she no longer pulls her hair out and she can survive most days without an “itchy fit”. Night times are a different story.
Please click here to see Part 2 of Our Personal Story.
You can read all of the posts in the Overcoming Severe Eczema, Food Allergies and Night Terrors series here.