Dealing with eczema flares

I hate winter.

And not because of the dreariness or the drab or the weather. I hate winter because of this:

IMG_1244
I hate winter because of eczema. My daughter’s skin gets dry. It gets itchy. To hear it from the dermatologist, it’s an itch unlike any you or I have encountered. It’s relentless. Imagine the worst itch you ever had, then multiply it by 1,000 times. That’s what it’s like to have eczema. So its no wonder that my daughter wakes up with trails of blood across her chest and back from scratching. And to make matters worse, once they scratch or rub, the skin develops a rash. The skin puffs up, turns red and blotchy. It itches more. And then the skin breaks. I’m not talking simple scratches. The skin shreds. Pulls apart. Like tissue paper.

IMG_1246Her hands are usually the worst. But this year, she had a full-body flare.

IMG_1247This is the area where her pants and underwear touch her body.  The splotches continued both up and down her torso. Her shoulders and upper back were gouged by nail marks and puffy skin.

IMG_1249And for the first time, her face was affected: One eye puffed up, her cheeks got blotchy, and her upper lip was bright red and scaly.

We went to the dermatologist the next morning. I pulled out my entire arsenal of tricks to battle this flare:

Wet wrapping: What you need: water, 100% cotton fabric, and tube socks and/or ACE bandages.
What to do: Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and submerge the fabric until they’re soaked. (I use old onesies that I’ve cut into strips.) Pull the strips out of the water and squeeze until they are still very wet but not dripping. Wrap the affected area loosely with the fabric and secure with tube socks (for hands or feet) or with the ACE bandages for other areas, such as the torso. Leave on for 20-40 minutes. When you remove the bandages, do one area at a time, for example: unwrap a hand, apply medicines, apply lotion, and finally apply an emollient such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. For hands, then apply a clean 100% cotton glove or another dry tube sock and leave on overnight.

Therapy baths:
What you need: Option 1: 1 package Aveeno oatmeal bath; option 2: 2 cups milk and 1/2 cup mineral oil; option 3: 1 cup olive oil; option 4: 1/4 cup baking powder.
What to do: Fill a tub halfway with warm water and add one of the four options. Soak for 10 minutes, then lightly pat the skin until it is mostly dry, then apply medicines, lotion, and an emollient.

Burn pads:
You can find these in the first-aid section of your local drug store. Essentially, they’re gel pads soaked in sterile water. I usually put these on her wrists during the day and wrap them in rolled gauze to secure. Leave them on for 30-40 minutes, then remove and apply medicines, lotion, and emollient to the affected area. Don’t use on open cuts, just on areas that are incredibly dry and need some serious hydration.

A metric ton of prescriptions:See your doctor or dermatologist. For this flare, we received a higher-dose of ProTopic (0.3%), and were told to use our steroid ointment for 2 weeks straight, 2x a day, and then wean her off of it. We continued to give her 1 tsp of Zyrtec daily and 1 tsp of Benadryl at night to help her sleep. We also tried  CeraVe cream (blue colored label/tub) and it seems to be helping a lot.

IMG_1252She’s doing better, but is still itchy. Keep that skin hydrated!

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Of Cavities And Picky Eaters

The boy is the picky eater in our house. “I want macaroni and cheese for dinner!” he’ll proclaim, but when it is placed in front of him in all its day-glow orange glory, he’ll take one bite (maybe) then say “I’m done.”

Excuse me? Baking powder? A sphincter says what?!

It’s not like I’m putting overcooked brussels sprouts and canned ham in front of the kid. This is macaroni and cheese. The stuff of childhood. And I have to buy the blue box, because he refuses to eat the “natural” kind.

The orange stuff.

The orange stuff.

Meanwhile, the girl child has polished off her portion, has mowed through her sliced fruit, her sugar snap peas with hummus (one of her favorite snacks), and is munching on a slice of turkey breast.

“I eating Mama,” she’ll say. “I listening!”

“I know baby,” I’ll say, then turn back to the stone-faced 4-year-old. “You have to eat FIVE bites of macaroni and cheese. BIG ONES. And all your fruit.”

For those keeping score, five big bites is to compensate for him specifically requesting said macaroni and cheese. The fruit is to keep ze bowels moving. Because lordy, if he gets stopped up that’s a good THREE days of mineral oil and eventually stool softener to get things moving again.

TMI? Sorry. Welcome to my world.

So dinner is basically a Mexican standoff. A gunfight at noon. Whathaveyou. We sit and stare at each other until he eats. It is SO much fun. Oh, and he STILL doesn’t eat meat. It baffles the mind.

"You will eat your dinner!"

“You will eat your dinner!”

Meanwhile, his sister has cleaned her plate and gets to hop down and watch a movie of her choice. Even if it’s his turn to pick. And if he gets upset, usually she’ll say something along the lines of: “Just eat, Sean. You taking too long.”

But why the long, drawn-out process? Why not just say “fine” and let him be done? Well, Internet, I’ve tried that too. What happens then is that when its time to get into pajamas and get ready for bed: He’s starving. SO HUNGRY. But now my food is cold! I want cereal! With milk! But I’m still hungry! I don’t want to go to bed! and  WAAAAAAAAAAH.

So we struggle. Daily. And I fantasize about scientists creating a pill that gets him all his nutritional needs and fills his belly. But then I’d have to figure out a way to get him to eat it daily. (Back to square one.)

Meanwhile …

The shortcake has cavities. Yes, plural.  On her back molars. The dentist says part of it is because her mouth is so little and that her teeth are very close together.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, its because of the fruit snacks, raisins, and goldfish — all of which she loves — and all of which stick to the teeth and spread their sticky, sweet, cavity-inducing selves all over the enamel. As a result, I have hidden the rest of our fruit snacks and they won’t be making any more appearances. (Also? I got tired of the picky eater trying to fill himself up with these. Fruit snacks do not a meal make.)

Sugar-filled cavity bombs!

Mmmmm … sugar-filled cavity bombs!

I’ve replaced the kid-height snacks with Z bars, granola bars, boxes of raisins (they’re healthy, we just need to be more cognizant of how many she eats), applesauce packets, and snack-size bags of popcorn and “better” crackers. In the fridge, I’m going to make small bags of carrot sticks and sugar snap peas. So far, the girl is loving it. She ate 2 bags of popcorn (about 1/4 cup popped per bag) and a bag of crackers yesterday. The boy? Not so much. He survived on blueberry shredded wheat. Which is fine by me, because hell0 — FIBER.

We took her to the pediatric dentist on Friday for her fillings. Yes, we. Because of the medication they give the kids, two adults are required to be there to ensure nothing bad happens to the kid on the drive home. Like falling asleep and flopping forward and cutting off their air supply and dying. Seriously. So … I wasn’t worried AT ALL.

First off, the girl handled the whole thing like a pro. The only time she cried was after the procedure was over and the dentist turned her movie off before the song was over. That caused sobbing. But aside from that? She was a boss.

And I’ve got the slideshow to prove it.

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And a video. To show just how loopy she was. (BTW, she didn’t lose her footing. She straight up almost fell over.)

Dear Immune System, I Give Up

“I effing hate you.”

This time it was me saying it. Hubbs gave me his plague: Sore throat, occasional cough. I gave him a golf clap. Well played sir, well played.

But it wasn’t just that. It turned into me choking on even the smallest sip of liquid — especially my own saliva. It felt like I was swallowing broken glass shards. And then I started to feel crackling, tingling in my ears. My lymph nodes were ridiculously swollen. I would be bent in half by body-convulsing coughs.

Urgent care says: Sinus infection with post-nasal drip. BAD sinus infection that is quickly turning into an ear infection. Solution: Heavy-duty antibiotics, cough syrup with codeine (yay!), and allergy nasal spray.

I’m finally starting to feel human again.

But I must have pissed off the fates. Because they weren’t done with me yet. Sean got the stomach flu on Tuesday — he threw up three times at day care, again in the car on the way to the doctor’s office, on the way home from the doctor’s office, and once more before he went to sleep that night. Allie came home with a raging fever.

Yesterday was a blur. A hellish blur. Both kids were cranky in the morning. Inconsolable. Wanting to cuddle. Wanting to sit by themselves. Sean was a complete paradox — inexplicably loving, huggable and cuddly one moment, raging toddler swinging haymakers the next. Everything was like the end of the world. The day dragged on in a tantrum haze.

Allie was more constant. She wanted two things: Mama and her binky. If she parted with one, it was instant waterworks, end of the world crying.

I need a nap just writing all that.

The good news is that the two monkeys are feeling better and that I have some photos to post next week.

Whee!

 

Quarantined. Again.

Last week Allie had pink eye. And then she gave it to me.

This is something they never tell you when you’re pregnant or childless. You will use all of your sick time for people other than yourself. It is ridiculous how much. And really, those “sick” drop-in centers? You can send your kid when they have a cold. Not with the flu. Not with biohazard-level pink eye. So essentially USELESS.

But I digress.

Allie’s pink eye was “normal”, and after 48 hours of medication, she was looking and feeling completely fine and was officially no longer contagious. My version of pink eye was/is in a league of its own. It is nothing I had ever experienced as a kid. My eye turned bright red. The whites of my eyes swelled, at one point, it looked like I had a pus sack on my eyeball. (Hungry anyone? No? Me neither.)

When the doctor at the urgent care clinic leaned in to examine my eye on Sunday afternoon (just more than 3 hours after I started exhibiting symptoms), he recoiled. As in, cringing, backing away, making the sign of the cross, and draping garlands of garlic around his neck. He told me he had only seen cases as bad as mine “in books.” Then he washed his hands about four times before he left, despite never coming near me without gloves.

I called in sick on Monday because the eye was constantly streaming liquid/tears/mucous and my vision was cloudy to the point that I couldn’t drive. I essentially had no peripheral vision on my right side. I spent half the day on the couch somewhere between a doze and a coma.

One day later, it had spread to my left eye. Because while I slept, my right eye leaked so much that the snail trail got into my left eye. (Are you disgusted yet?) So here I am, day 5 of medication. My left eye is mostly normal. My right eye feels normal, except for the occasional itching, but it still looks like a freak show.  Two more days to go, and if my right eye isn’t normal, I get to go back for a re-check. I’ve spared my coworkers from the plague — I’ve worked from home all week.

Which brings me back to Wednesday, when the Hubbs woke me up to this endearment: “I $%*!-ing hate you.”

“What’d I do? I just woke up.”

After I put my glasses on, I saw. Pink eye. Its the gift that keeps on giving.

But Hubbs’ pink eye didn’t get better after getting eye drops from the doctor. It got worse. So today (Friday) I got to take him back to the urgent care clinic — because his eye is so bad he can barely see — and then to an optometrist, who said his case is viral. You see — Hubbs has a cold. And  the mucous in his nasal passages got into his eyes. So we treat the symptoms. He gets a light steroid eye drop, artificial tears, and a lot of rest.

I won’t go into the details of how bad his eye looks today except to say that:

  1. From across the room, it looks like someone punched him in the eye — its red, swollen, and angry-looking;
  2. Its WAY worse than mine.
  3. It kinda looks like a zombie eye. And its totally creepy.

In other news, we’re keeping the instant hand sanitizer companies in business.

Update: 1 dose of new medication down and he no longer looks like he got punched in the eye. Progress!

p.s.

The pictures of pink eye on Google were highly disappointing. My eye was way grosser than anything I saw.

 

Melee of Malaise

I have five words for you: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD).

From the CDC (Centers for Disease Control):

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever, blister-like sores in the mouth (herpangina), and a skin rash.

Doesn’t sound horrible right? I mean, canker sores and a rash. Big whoop. WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.

Imagine a canker sore. It’s painful and annoying. Now imagine that your ENTIRE MOUTH is covered in canker sores. And that skin rash? Mostly on the hands and on the bottom of your feet so hit hurts to walk.

Both Hubbs and Sean came down HFMD last week. It started on Thursday, when Sean “had a hard day” at day care, according to his teachers. He didn’t want to participate. He was tired. Kind of like a zombie. They thought he was either sleep deprived or possibly coming down with something. When I brushed his teeth that night, he pulled away, saying “my teef hurt.” I worried that he might be getting a cavity or that he had a canker sore, because he bites his lip. That same day, Hubbs was complaining of canker sores that had popped up in his mouth and that holy bejeezus they were painful. I looked in his mouth but didn’t see anything — and teased him for putting too much hot sauce on his food.

In the morning (Friday), Sean seemed fine — no fever, no complaints, so on to day care he went. But when Hubbs picked him up, day care said they thought he might have HFMD, because 1. It was going around and 2. he was complaining of his mouth hurting and that his feet hurt. Hubbs mentioned it to me when I got homr and while I was on the phone making an appointment with the pediatric night clinic, he peeled his socks off because HIS feet were hurting — revealing red, raised bumps all over.

Thirty minutes later all four of us were sitting in an exam room at the night clinic. We walked out with the following knowledge:

  • Hubbs and Sean had HFMD.
  • Hubbs was more advanced, so he caught it first.
  • Sean was contagious for 7 days, which meant staying home all the next week.
  • Allie would most likely get it too.
  • HFMD starts with malaise — not feeling well, being very tired. Then moves to the mouth and then to the rash.
  • Its HIGHLY contagious, so stock up on soap and instant hand sanitizer.
  • Its spread through body fluids — saliva, mucous, urine, and feces.
  • For the safety of the free world we should stay in the house as much as possible.
  • He had seen 2 patients already that night and they both had HFMD. This year’s strain is new and infecting parents as well. Hubbs was the first person over 12 the doctor had seen with it.
  • The only thing we could really do for Sean was to give him Tylenol for pain management. Nothing else.

That night — and for the next 7 nights — I slept on the couch to minimize my exposure. For the next four nights I was awakened every 2 hours by a screaming 3-year-old, who was still more than half-asleep and crazy with pain — trying to shove his hands into his mouth to remove whatever was hurting him. At first, ice water helped, then it didn’t.  One night, in desperation, I called the night nurse line to see if there was anything — ANYTHING — I could do to help him with the pain. She suggested I try to put 1/2 tsp of maalox between the front of his teeth and his lip. It’s supposed to promote blister healing and help with the pain.

Ten minutes later I was covered in maalox and was dealing with a hysterical 3-year-old.

I retreated to the couch and he fell back asleep.

By Sunday, Hubbs and I had a plan. I would telecommute on Monday and Tuesday, while he called out sick and watched the kids. He was too sick to go into work anyway, and my work situation had someone on vacation, and another person out for surgery. Then I would call out sick Wednesday to Friday.

Monday-Tuesday went something like this:

9 a.m.: Me hiding in the master bedroom with my laptop and coffee.
9:45 a.m.: (knocking on the door — Allie’s voice) “Mama? Mama?”
9:46 a.m.: (Hubbs) “Come on honey, nobody is in there.”
10:30 a.m.: (my work phone rings)
10:31 a.m.: (Allie again) “Mama? Mama?” (Pause) “On? ON!” (<- Allie speak for Sean)
Me: “Crud.”
(door handle jiggles, then opens revealing both kids.) Sean: “Mommy!” Allie: “Mama!”
Both kids pounce on the bed, me, and want to play with the laptop. I compromise by putting a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode on Hubbs’ computer and settle back on the bed to work.
10:40 a.m.: (Sean) “Mommy? I thirsty.”
(Allie): “Juze!”
(Sean): “Mommy? I want juice. Mommy? Owie want juice too.”
(Me): “OK.” (goes to get two sippy cups)
10:45 a.m.: (Sean) “Mommy? I want cookie.”
(Allie) “Coogee! Me!”
(Sean): “Mommy?”
(Me): “Does Allie want a cookie too?”
(Sean & Allie): “Yes.”
(Me): “What do you say?”
(Sean): “Please!”
(Allie): “Peas!”
(Me): “OK.” (Goes and gets cookies)
11 a.m.: (Sean) “Mommy? I watch Kermit the Frog.”
(Me): “HUBBS?!”

After working an additional three hours after putting the kids to bed on Tuesday, Wednesday finally rolled around and I was able to give them my full attention. I also took them to their regular pediatrician because Allie’s eczema was just out of control and I wasn’t sure if it was eczema or HFMD or something new. It was eczema (thank you!), and we decided to get more aggressive with our treatment and figuring out what can be causing it. So we are now cutting off her dairy intake. No milk. No cheese. No yogurt. Soy only. She also got a new steroid cream for trouble spots and we’re using a new moisturizer — CeraVe cream.

While we were there, she also took a look at Sean. According to her, he had a “mild” case of HFMD, because his symptoms were limited to his mouth. She had patients who couldn’t walk because the rash on their feet was too painful. On others, the rash was causing their fingernails to fall off. I know.

After that, we had to go to Target, because as of 7 a.m. I was officially OUT of baby Tylenol and I needed to pick up the new creams for Allie’s hands and get her some soy milk. So how do you get around that whole contagious thing? Since the main contaminator was saliva, I put both kids in the double stroller, buckled them in, and handed them their own toys.

And then I practically ran through the store.

Fast forward to Friday. Sean is 100%. Allie NEVER got sick. She must have an angel holding a bubble around her or something, because I was bracing for it all week and it never came. On Saturday, we went to the zoo — to treat ourselves for being cramped up in the house for 7 straight days.

By the way, my house LOOKS like we were trapped inside for 7 days. (Translation: If a bomb went off inside, you wouldn’t be able to tell.) Also? I’m exhausted.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Guess who threw his breakfast up all over the dining room on Wednesday morning? Little man. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. He threw up, and as I was trying to clean him up, he turned, looked at me, and asked in a very small voice, “Mommy? I go see doctor?”

Turns out there’s a “tummy bug” going around. It lasts 24-72 hours. High points are vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and malaise. He slept most of yesterday, alternating between the couch and his bed. I was actually able to work as well. We’re about 12 hours from the last time he vomited, so we’re probably in the clear by now.

That being said, when he threw up yesterday, I wanted to give the heavens the finger. I mean, really. REALLY?! The boy is exhausted from all he’s been through, and frankly so am I.

Pro tip for vomiting children: Pedialite pops. Our pediatrician told us about them. Its like a Pedialite otter pop. It helps with vomiting because it keeps them hydrated, but it also makes it easier to pace them with the intake. If I give the kids regular Pedialite, they’re prone to guzzle it and, consequently, throw up again. Not so with the pops.

Pro tip No. 2 for vomiting kids: Put the Pedialite pops in your blender or food processor to chop it up into the consistency of shave ice/slushee. Serve in a bowl with a spoon. Great for hot days too. Makes it even easier to eat and little hands don’t get too cold holding the popsicle. (Also makes it easier for you to feed them if they’re camped out on the couch and are barely moving.)

Three Magic Words

Just a quickie today, loves. It’s all I have time for.

But I was at my annual OB appointment this morning (the joy!), and as my doctor and I were catching up — any new medications, how’s the birth control pills doing, you feeling less crazy on these ones, super! — she asked how the kids and Hubbs were doing. So I launched into my (what feels like) standard diatribe about us all sharing plague since mid-January and how I feel like my head is literally going to explode from all the pressure in my sinuses right now, and when I stopped for breath — with most likely a wild, crazed glean to my eyes — she smiled.

“It gets easier. I just want you to know that.”

She went on to say that the younger years with kids are just … terrifically wonderful and amazingly difficult at the same time. Especially with two little ones. She’s been there. Her kids are in high school now. And while parenting is never easy. Its easier physically and emotionally when the kids are a little bit older, because they’re more independent and they don’t need you for EVERY.SINGLE.LITTLE.THING.

And then she shared a really good smoothie recipe with me.

But seriously folks. There will be ups and downs, and horrific cold and flu seasons, and kids keeping you up all night for no other reason than that they want YOU near them.

It gets easier. It gets easier.

Just saying it makes me feel better.