Monday, June 13, 2011

Legos, Mega Bloks & plastics

I recently bought some MegaBloks at a garage sale for $3. I'd been thinking about Legos for awhile now but never could buy it because I wasn't sure about the plastic. The purchase of Mega Bloks made me do some research.

When Little Thumper was born, I was paranoid about plastics for a bit. But after awhile, seeing all these other parents with cool cheap plastic toys, and their kids seemingly fine, I relaxed my standards a bit. And we started buying some plastic toys. Recently I read Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax and it's made me stressed out and anxious once again. One of his reasons for the way boys are now adays is the phthalates that are in plastics. And it has a bigger effect on boys because endocrine disruptors are feminizing.

Greenpeace has a great breakdown of plastics in order of toxicity. I'll expand on them a bit.

1) Polyvinyl chloride (PVC #3) and other halogenated plastics

2) Polyurethane (PU), Polystyrene/styrofoam (PS #6), Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS #7), Polycarbonate (PC #7)

3) Polyethylene-terephthalate (PET #1), high/low density polyethylene (HDPE #2, LDPE #4), Polypropylene (PP #5)

PET is the one which Sax says leaches. Though there are arguments about PET being safe or not. Some say maybe PET doesn't leach but it can get contaminated if it's made from recycled materials.

4) Biobased plastics

Apparently, Polystyrene (PS #6) and ABS are used to make toys.

In a nutshell:
  • Use #2, #4, #5 plastics
  • ABS Plastic probably okay because it withstands high heat (which is when plastic leaches?) Just don't burn it as in liquid and vapor form it's pretty toxic. Legos are made from ABS. Mega Bloks are made from polystyrene.
  • Green Toys have plastic blocks made from HDPE #2 plastic. But the reviews say they don't interlock well.
  • Most Japanese bento boxes they sell here have #5 containers with #1 lid. This is why I won't be buying them.
I'm thinking I will get rid of the Mega Bloks since it's made of #6 plastic as well as most plastic toys in the house because Astroboy likes to chew on things.   Legos are a necessary evil because no wooden blocks interlock that I can find. And I couldn't find any research papers that says ABS plastic leaches. 

Interestingly, it's not just the plastic you should worry about. I found an article about Mega Bloks trying to prevent a company from publishing results that showed their blocks have lead in them. Healthy Kids doesn't list them as having lead anymore. But still, doesn't sound like a good business.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Treating Infant Eczema

Finally, my post about treating Astroboy's eczema. After a few weeks of trial and some repeated flair-ups, I think I've finally got it down.

So background again, but in very short format. Astroboy has had eczema since 2 months. Silly mama didn't know it was that bad and got it infected. By month 7, it was so bad, it had spread from 1 check to both cheeks, both lower legs, and started on the body. I went to see allergist James Nickelsen, read some books, and saw Vivia Kushner. Tried a few things.

What finally worked
A combination of an eczema salve from Momma Jen's blog, CeraVe, and antibiotics cream.

The eczema salve is made from one quarter size Shea Radiance Shea Butter, and one capsule Evening Primrose oil. It needs some warmth for the butter to become creamy. What I ended up doing was measuring out a few quarter sizes, and mixed the several capsules in (had to cut it open) and then put it in a glass container. I would use the baby's body to warm up the cream and rub it on. It really only takes a very tiny bit for each area. I was having trouble mixing and applying on the spot because a quarter size was kind of too much for a baby and I would get too lazy to do it.

The first week, I tried just the eczema salve but things got bad again and I thought it was not buttery enough. So I went back to CeraVe for a few days. But now I think it's actually because it's infected.

Because of our overseas trip and humidity, the only persistent spot are the cheeks. So if it's just read, I apply the shea butter after a bath. Then after every nap or before every nap, I re-apply the butter or CeraVe. I also re-apply whenever the skin gets "chappy". When the skin is bumpy, it means it's gotten infected again, so I apply the antibiotics cream when I know he won't eat it or smear it (so not before nap time because he starts rubbing his face).

What I've noticed is that the shea butter needs to be applied only once a day because it's so oily. It keeps the skin moisturized. AND the primrose oil supposedly has anti-fungal properties? Anyways, his skin usually looks less inflamed over night. The CeraVe works as well. But I see chappy skin more often and so I'd have to reapply 2-3 times aday.

Also, I have to be very diligent about the anti-biotics cream. Otherwise, once the skin is infected the shea butter doesn't work as well and that's when I have to go back to CeraVe. BUT, if the infection is kept under control, the shea butter seems to work on the "root causes" more. By that I mean it makes is red splotchy area shrink in size. And it's also made his skin softer. His legs used to look like the texture of alligator or rhino skin. And now it's gone. The CeraVe moisturizes, but the problem doesn't really go away.

And I also have to be diligent about cutting nails. It's really hard because sometimes it doesn't look like there is nail to cut. But when I see scratches or raised skin, I know it's because he scratched and an infection is starting.

Now that I've read Boys Adrift, I'm more concerned with phthalates (CeraVe doesn't have it, but has parabens which have the same effect), so I'm going to see if the shea butter will do the trick and toss the CeraVe. But until I can be sure that the shea butter will do the trick, I can't toss it yet. Parabens are bed but right now his eczema is worse evil I have to deal with.

The other thing I did was to be diary, gluten, egg-free. I think it helped but the boy has some slow food allergy because his eczema is still there w/o the cream....

What didn't work
  • antibiotics
  • Still mad at my pedi for making me take that
  • Cetaphil
  • Didn't work as well as CeraVe
  • Zinc creams
  • Read somewhere that it could be zinc or vitamin-c deficiency so I thought I'd try that. It didn't work
  • Other brand "natural" eczema cream and oil
  • It didn't really work. I now realize that it's because it's not creamy enough. Eczema is about keeping the skin moisturized. Also the infection got in the way of healing. But it didn't really work on the parts that were infected either.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Using BioSet to treat eczema a scam?

This has been in my mind awhile and I'm semi-hesitant to post. Basically I want to say that I'm not sure BioSet is what it proclaims to be.

A few weeks ago we went back to our follow up appointment w/ our BioSet practitioner. The night before, I finally found the time to Google BioSet. There's a website out there that basically lays out what it's all about, how it's derived from this other type of treatment (N something), who started it, what she claims, etc. After reading that, I started wondering about the whole thing.

Bear in mind that during the 3-4 weeks between our appointment, our eczema got better. But I think due to the antibiotics cream and CeraVe we kept applying, not the neuropathic stuff we were given; because w/ my busy schedule, I only seriously fed Astroboy that for 3-4 days before I gave up. Just no time.

So at our appointment, I really looked at what the woman was doing and that's when I started thinking that she's manipulating the whole thing.

Let me back up and talk about how this all works.

During first appointment, we'd discussed what was going on. I talked about how I was on full-course antibiotics for 3 days due to blood infection, how Astroboy had baby acne and then eczema starting from month 2. How our diets have changed (vegetarian first month of life, how I craved carbs, how our trip to Taiwan cured his eczema mostly). At that appointment, that's when we found out what we were both sensitive to. She wanted me to bring the detergent and water to our next appointment to see if we were sensitive to it.

Now bare in mind that I think we're not like some children who are very allergic to many things and have very severe reactions to certain food. All our symptoms so far have been just eczema. The baby is very sweet tempered.

So our second appointment I didn't tell her that we hadn't even really been taking the medicine. She thinks his eczema has improved due to it. We talked about what's happened since then. She noticed how his breathing is kind of "wet/congested". I talked about how he'd caught a cold from sister. She then ran a whole body test to see what parts of his body is having issues. (it turns out to be only lung and some other related body part). The test is just like the first time. I hold a rod in my hand, with one finger touching his body. Then the machine will run some energy through this rod to see what part of body is "blocked" (that's how I think of it, whether or not the chi is flowing correctly).

I believe in Chi so this is why I didn't think this was a hack in the first place.

Amazing how the only body part he has issues with are his lungs. *sarcasm*

She then cleared his body a bit by having me still hold the rod while she massaged his back. I don't know how this helped but it supposedly did. I guess some sort of good chi was flowing through the machine/rod?

We tested to see if he was sensitive to the water and detergent. She pored some of each into a clear glass and put it on top of the machine. Somehow the machine can test the chi passing through this?

This is when it gets way too new-agey and highly suspicious for me.

We then cleared his body by again, having both things in the glass on top of machine, while she massaged him and I continue contact w/ rod in my hand and finger touching him.

Afterward, we tested again other food I had questions about. This is when I asked again how the machine worked. So, she takes a metal pen, dips it in water (for connectivity I assume), and presses it in the palm of my hand. The computer registers a particular food with a graph while making this swoosh sound. If the graph goes up really fast (or was it really slow?) then it means we're sensitive.

What *I* noticed was how she manipulated the pen. I didn't notice it the first time because I was busy talking to her and looking at the computer output. But this time I noticed that she'd press down on my palm (the graph starts low), then press down again. And that's when the curve graph goes up. Sometimes when it didn't go the way it's supposed to go, it's because she didn't press down twice.

This is why I think the thing is a hoax. First, I just don't think you can clear any chi/energy by having it in a container, passing through some machine, through a rod, to me, to baby. Remember, I actually believe in this whole chi thing. Being Asian, I've seen/heard a lot of chi-related stuff, things that may seem unbelievable to Westerners. But still, chi through a machine, chi with objects? hmmmm......

Don't get me wrong, the woman is also a nutritional consultant so I don't necessarily not believe what she says. BUT, now that I've read up more on allergies, I would say the same thing! I think she's basing her diagnosis more on what I say than anything else. I'm Asian, so very likely I'm sensitive to dairy. I was on antibiotics so not surprising I'm sensitive to wheat now. Since I am sensitive to these things, baby more likely to be. Baby has eczema, so obviously baby sensitive to something. I'd told her RAST test shows wheat and egg, so of course those show up on her test. The rest of the stuff he's allergic to, those are all things babies can't eat (eggs, dairy, wheat, citrus, nuts) before the age of 1 because many babies are sensitive to it. And since his eczema shows that he IS a sensitive baby, then she made the graph go positive on all THOSE things. Some of the things I was surprised at (apples) I've since learned from my slow food allergy book that it is a common allergen.

When we left, she said that now that the vitamin C sensitivity has been cleared, his eczema should get better in a day or two. That didn't happen.

Another thing that's changed my mind is how she couldn't explain how humidity helped because humidity usually exacerbates people w/ asthma/allergies. But from my allergist point of view humidity of course helps (and his reasons makes sense to me)

What I'm unhappy about is that people actually believe in this. I don't want to diss the people who really think it worked for them because one never knows. But it's one of those things that maybe it's not the machine or clearing that's working for people, but the change in diet, lifestyle, combined with neuropathic medicine (which I think COULD help) that's actually doing the trick. And I just wish if this were the case, why can't they treat people with the diet/medicine advices without the equipment?

Or maybe I should just say that maybe BioSet worked for others, but not for me/us.

Anyways, now that I've read up more on allergies, another post forthcoming on what I've learned.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Long road with treating baby eczema

The Story

Astroboy has always had skin issues since birth. During the first month, he had baby acne. From second month till now (8 months) he's had baby eczema.

At first, I kind of ignored it thinking it would go away. My friend told me it did eventually for her first born. I was trying to figure out how to juggle work and two babies and just didn't have time to deal with it.

As the months progressed, the eczema became worse and worse. It started with red, splotchy skin on his lower legs. Then the skin became white and scaly. For awhile I thought maybe it wasn't eczema but things like psoriasis. He even had two scabs on his head and lots and lots of cradle cap. By 6 months, it was so bad on his face they started scabbing. The dry skin (a precursor to the scaly skin) creeped up to his chest. He scratched himself constantly and wasn't getting good sleep. But because he's such a gentle tempered baby, he didn't complain much so it was hard to get my butt moving on treating the eczema.

Finally, I asked our doctor, Elizabeth Salsberg, at Kiwi Pediatrics during our wellness checkup. It turned out it was infected. This is what happens when you're a lazy mom and don't cut nails religiously.

I asked to see an allergist and she recommended that we just get a RAST blood test as that's what the allergist would have us do anyway. They drew two vials of blood! It was very hard as he's so small and it's hard to find the veins. It turned out that Astroboy is allergic to egg whites and maybe wheat. I say "maybe" because the doc didn't even mention wheat till we asked more questions about the allergy; because the #s for wheat allergy were so low.

We then went back to Taiwan for 3 weeks, where most of his symptoms went away by themselves except for the red cheek. Even that got smaller and smaller. He stopped scratching, the scabs on his head went away, and depending on the food I ate (I stopped eating egg mostly but continued with the wheat) the red cheek would flare up more.

When we came back, the red cheek got very bad and oozed and scabbed terribly. Within the first 3 days the itchiness came back and the dry skin came back. We'd made appointments to see Vivian Kushner in Kentfield the Friday we got back. She's a BioSet practitioner. We tested both Astroboy and I for food sensitivities. It turns out that Astroboy is sensitive to: wheat, dairy, vitamin c foods, spicy food, some mold, egg, vinegar, peanuts, and some other stuff. I was sensitive to dairy and peanuts. Another thing Vivian brought up was the possibility that he was sensitive to the water we have. It has chloramine in it which is fairly harsh. I'll bring that in for her to test next time. She didn't know what to do with the info that he got better in Taiwan with the high humidity though.

BioSet is a funky alternative treatment thing which I'm willing to try as it's kind of based on Chinese medicine ideas. My thing is that I don't want Astroboy to grow up and be allergic or sensitive to all these food, or have eczema all his life, as a lot of people seem to have. It seems very suitable for babies because there is no acupuncture or a lot of Chinese medicine, which is hard to get young child to take.

Anyways, the following Monday, we then to see an allergist, James Nickelsen in Berkeley. I love the doc! He's the first doc I've ever met who doesn't look like he's in a hurry to get out the door. He really sat and listened, and waited and waited while I thought of more and more questions. And didn't laugh at me or judge me for trying alternative treatments. This made me realize that I really must change my pediatrician.

Dr Nickelsen took a much different route. His whole attitude was that this was not really terrible eczema, just infected. And that Astroboy will probably grow out of it, as most children do. That based on the RAST test, I should definitely avoid egg whites, but not wheat. And maybe when he's older, we can test for other allergies, like nuts.

While I don't agree with his attitude that Astroboy's food allergy isn't that bad, I'm definitely going back to see him again. His attitude made everything seem treatable, rather than this condition he'll have to live with his whole life. But at the same time, because Thumper didn't have this problem, I feel that Astroboy's body is sensitive in general and it's a condition I would like to improve upon through diet and herbs. I don't want to wait till he grows up to see if this is something that'll be there all his life. From everything I've read, they either grow out of it by 5-6 or they have it for life. And I have a chance right now to guide him toward not having it for life.

The Cause

Since the reason for eczema can be very varied, I'm still trying to figure out what Astroboy is allergic to. I say this because in Taiwan, his symptoms improved so much even though I was still eating wheat every day. So it's hard to believe that he's that sensitive to wheat. Yet at the same time I can't deny that he scratches more when I eat things other than egg white.

What I'm learning is that there is a difference between food allergy and food sensitivities. Allergy is body's antibodies (blood) complaining about the food you ingest. Sensitivity is when the body shows other symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, etc. Another example is peanut allergy vs milk sensitivity. You don't get a rash from being lactose intolerant or go into shock. But your body does complain about how it doesn't like it in other ways.

Anyways, the problem is that there are so many variables on what could be causing his eczema and I'm trying multiple treatments at once. So I can't see what's working, what's not, and consequently, what's causing the allergy.

One thing I forgot to mention is that a week after birth I was admitted to the hospital for a blood infection (VERY BAD) and had 3 days of various antibiotics coursing through me. Plus antibiotics 1-2 days before the admission and 7 days after. I feel that this is partly to blame for his allergy right now though of course it's just an unproved theory.

The Treatment

Here are the things we've tried so far.

First, I changed my diet. In the beginning I was only half-assed about it. It takes a few weeks for the food to leave your system and I felt like his symptoms improved with the humidity more than anything else. But, now that I know what we need to cut out via BioSet, I'm on a very big diet restriction. Then I'm going to add food back in to see when he itches.

I have to say that he definitely doesn't scratch his face and head as much as before. But I can't tell if it's because his infection is gone or if it's because of my diet.

As Astroyboy's eczema symptoms got bad, I started reading up on it and bought lots of different creams. First I tried the more "natural" route and bought Eczema cream and eczema oil from Healing Scents. The cream and oil worked on reducing the scaly skin but I had to apply often. They weren't really creamy enough.

Next I tried Cetaphil, as recommended by friend whose boy also had eczema. I did a comparason test with Cetaphil on one leg and Healing Scents eczema cream on the other. Cetaphil definitely worked better. But I don't like it because it's got paraben in them. In any case neither of these really helped w/ his cheeks.

The doc at Kiwi Pediatrics prescribed a 7 day antibiotics regimen for the infection. I wish I'd taken pics. His one persistent red patch on his right cheek was super red, raised, and splotchy. The treatment only worked to improve it a bit. And as I've stated above, it's really over kill for this. Plus bad for a body that's already got sensitivities as anti-biotics kills all the good flora in the gut.

We went back to Taiwan the day after we were done w/ the course of treatment. Within three days of high humidity, most of his symptoms were gone! By the end of our 3 week stay, the only symptoms he had was one very red cheek.

James Nickelsen (allergist) prescribed some antibiotics cream and that did the trick for us. I think he didn't like how we were prescribed antibiotics as he found it un-necessary. I'm going to switch pediatrician soon. They just havn't really spent the time helping us w/ this issue.

He also recommended CeraVe Moisturizing Cream . It's the same as Cetaphil but he liked it better.

On the improving body front, we're taking some homeopathic remedies from Vivian Kushner. 3 drops of SyDetox and 5 drops of Notatum drops twice daily. In addition, we got some Chinese medicine from Taiwan, also twice daily. There are some probiotics in there which is one thing many people recommended in the blogs I read for eczema.

Going Forward
I would say that the antibiotics cream and cream in general is first defense against the symptoms. But if I want him to be completely cured and not be allergic, it'll require some diet changes.

I'm continuing to look for other eczema creams that aren't full of paraben. This blog entry for an eczema salve sounds promising. When I get the money, I'll also switch over to Whole Child Wellness as our backup pediatrician.

I think Whole Child Wellness kind of reflects my philosophy in general. That you can try alternative, more gentle, approaches to treat any medical condition. But when it gets down to it, Western medicine has its place and you need to use it.

Another thing I learned is that I can't discount things just because they've got terrible ingredients like paraben. Clearly the CeraVe works so much better than Healing Scents's eczema cream. What I needed was some education (which was courtesy of our allergist) that I need heavy heavy cream to keep Astroboy's skin hydrated.

That's the hardest part in all of these. Too much info on the web about eczema and hard to distill them. Yet another reason to have really good doctors!

I still need to do more research. But other things I've read about are evening primrose oil and good long soaks in baths with oatmeal. The funny thing is that I don't think Astroboy's eczema is that bad compared with the true food allergies of other babies. It just looks bad because of the infection. So some of these remedies may be overkill for him. But I'm going to try them all in order to get an idea of exactly what works for him and what his conditions are.