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:

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!


Battle Royale: Me vs. Eczema

I have written, re-written, and edited this post about 10 times since I started it in late November. I keep holding off on posting it because I keep hoping that I’ll have something new and hopeful to add: a magic lotion that FINALLY gave my daughter relief from her horrific eczema.

OK, I take it back. It’s not “horrific”. I essentially got a gold star from our pediatrician for keeping it in check as well as I have this winter. But that doesn’t help my daughter, whose skin is so dry that her index fingers crack and bleed almost daily, and who scratched herself so much the other day (through 2 layers of long sleeves), that she made both of her arms bleed. It doesn’t help her at day care, when she runs to her teacher to tell her “I itchy. Help pwease?”

My daughter has eczema. For the most part, it results in dry, scaly skin. But sometimes — oftentimes — it turns into raised red welts. Her skin cracks and bleeds. She constantly itches. I can’t put her in a wool sweater. Cotton is king in our house. We use free & clear laundry detergent and dryer sheets. We forgo fabric softener. Aside from a small amount of cheese, she is dairy free — drinking rice milk and eating coconut milk yogurt and ice cream. I have an ultrasonic humidifier running constantly in her room.

You don’t want to know how much I’ve spent on lotion, Aquaphor, or hydrocortizone cream last year.

The doctors call a worsening of the condition a “flare up”. What happened this year when the weather turned cold felt — and looked — more like a fireworks show. The swath of skin on her outer wrist turned bright red, puffed up to 4x its normal size, cracked, and started bleeding. Her knuckles looked as through she had been boxing. The skin along her fingers — especially her index fingers — was cracked from tip to tail.

All within an afternoon.

We have tried nearly every lotion on the market, with varying success. Or disaster. Your choice.

Anything soy-based is out. She breaks out in a rash. Oatmeal baths help to a small degree. And in December, I spent $66 on a single tube of what is essentially prescription-strength Neosporin for the cracked and bleeding areas. One doctor visit, two prescriptions, and 3 packages of rolled gauze later, we had a routine: Slathering the bad areas with her prescriptions and Aquaphor, then wrapping them in rolled gauze and securing it with medical tape.

It looks like she tried to end it all with a razor blade.

Eczema: Greek for skin so ripped up it requires mummification on a nightly basis.

Eczema: Greek for skin so ripped up it requires mummification on a nightly basis.

We see a pediatric allergist on Monday. I can’t wait. I was in our pediatrician’s office yesterday because her entire body essentially blew up over the weekend — she has splotches all over both arms, legs, her torso, back, and forehead. We walked out with more steroid cream, another prescription cream, and instructions for a milk and mineral oil bath.

Some of the treatments/lotions/ointments we’ve tried so far:

  • Aveeno baby eczema treatment
  • Eucerin Intensive Repair Lotion
  • Curel Ultra Healing Lotion
  • CeraVe moisturizing cream (blue tub)
  • Dove Sensitive cream body wash
  • My True Nature’s Cushy By Nature Lotion
  • Vaseline
  • 0.5% hydrocortizone cream
  • 1% hydrocortizone cream
  • 1.5% hydrocotizone cream
  • 2.5% hydrocortizone cream (by prescription only)
  • Bactroban (by prescription only — essentially high-dose Neosporin)
  • Cortaid (pretty much all of them)
  • Sulphur tablets (from Whole Foods)
  • Manuka honey (also from Whole Foods — You spread it on the skin, don’t ingest it)
  • Fish Oil supplement (again, Whole Foods — couldn’t get her to touch the stuff, the smell was overpowering)
  • Aveeno oatmeal bath (2-4 packets per bath)
  • Adding 4 cups of olive oil to the bath water (this one should come with a warning label. Kids come out of the bath slipperier than eels and I had a hell of a time cleaning the tub afterward.)

Currently using:

  • Curel Itch Defense (endorsed by the National Eczema Association, for what it’s worth)
  • My True Nature’s Stinky By Nature shampoo/body wash
  • My True Nature’s Super Sudsy Hand Wash
  • My True Nature’s Cushy By Nature Lotion
  • For bath: 3 cups milk + 1/2 cup mineral oil. (Don’t add the mineral oil until AFTER washing their hair!)
  • Aquaphor
  • prescription steroid cream
  • prescription non-steroid cream
  • 100% cotton mittens over her hand treatments every night.

The mittens are a relatively new development. Our pediatrician suggested we try cotton gloves on her “If you can find some small enough.” I couldn’t. Not in the store. Not online. Nowhere. Regular winter mittens, no problem. But what I needed didn’t exist.

So I did what everyone does (should do) when they don’t know where else to turn: I called my mom.

She rode in on her white horse with fabric and my great-grandmother’s sewing machine, taught me how to use it, and made the first pair of gloves for me. Since then, I’ve been a cutting/sewing fiend, making enough gloves for naps and nightime at both home and day care.

I also opened an Etsy shop, so if you need gloves, let me know. So far I only have kid sizes, but I can also do adults. Just send a request. I’m trying to keep the prices down, and am working on some bells and whistles to keep the gloves on at night without having to tape them to clothes.

So there you have it. If any of you have eczema I’d love some tips — and to hear if any of mine help your skin.