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.

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