In case you’re stumbling across this post without knowing me or my son, welcome! We have been battling extremely severe eczema for about 5 months now, and my baby is SO close to being eczema-free. For a while, I was really disheartened and didn’t understanding people saying you couldn’t “cure” eczema, you could just “treat” it, but now I get it. While my son may never lose his tendency to have dry, itchy skin, we’ve (mostly) learned, and removed, his triggers. That, for us as least, is curing eczema. His skin is almost completely clear! I wholeheartedly believe (along with a giant portion of the medical community) that eczema is always caused by something. Whether that be food allergies/intolerances, infection, gut imbalance, environmental factors, there is always something to blame. That gives me so much hope, because it means those factors CAN be found and removed! That’s been the overarching theme through my son’s eczema journey – finding the cause and stopping it. We still have some healing left to do, but I wanted to share what has worked and hasn’t worked for us while dealing with our infant’s eczema. I am obviously not a medical professional nor do I claim to be, and we quickly learned that every case is different, but we’ve tried quite a bit.
It has been an excruciatingly long and hard road, and I’m thankful for the insight I’ve received from other momma’s who have walked it before me. We saved a lot of time and energy by learning from others, and I only hope I can pass on the favor! We knew absolutely nothing about eczema before it hit our baby – I’m not even sure I could have spelled it for you (in fact, I spelled it wrong on several google searched as an “exzema…exema…eczxerma?… newb”). For a lot of people, you may be able to heal your own or your child’s eczema by natural means alone (i.e. sans steroids)- since our baby had a pretty severe case, we needed some extra *oomph* (to be shared at the end!). SO, here goes!
When our baby was 2 months old, we noticed an “off” diaper – our pediatrician told me to nix dairy from my diet right away, as I was breastfeeding, and we noticed an immediate improvement in sleep and temperament (removing dairy, by the way, is one of the most important and smartest first steps for fighting eczema!). Since going dairy-free is STINKIN’ hard (here’s a how-to guide if you’re interested), it took a while to completely eliminate it, so we dealt with on and off cheek rashes that we were prescribed topical steroids for. We used them whenever we saw a flair and they helped almost immediately, but as soon as we’d reached the maximum usage, the rashes would come back.
Around 4 months of age, our baby started getting bad rashes all over his trunk. After consulting a couple of doctor’s at our pediatrician’s office, he was prescribed 2 rounds of oral antibiotics (after the first didn’t work), and temporarily switched to a hypo-allergenic formula per our doctor’s orders, in order to help Archer’s body heal. We suspected that dairy was not his only intolerance, and as much as I hated to temporarily stop breastfeeding, I wanted to see my baby get better. A lot of people have great experience with these formulas – ours landed us in the hospital about 5 days after we started. We didn’t realize he was actually reacting to the formula (we went through Elecare, Neocate, and Puramino all without luck), and continued to feed it to him for the next two weeks. Luckily, we got a better perspective of what we were really dealing with once we spent a night in the hospital. Before and during our stay, we were instructed to:
-use either Aveeno Eczema Therapy products, Cetaphil Restoraderm, Vanicream, Cerave, Aquafor, or Vaseline, and use soap (preferably Dove) in the bath sparingly and occasionally
-give baby a daily bath and slather him in lotion within 3 minutes of bathing and without drying him off first; apply lotion in the morning as well
-use a humidifier in his room
-wear only 100% cotton clothing (still important, by the way! We have even had to cover his stroller and carseat with cotton)
-wet wrap at night
-and countless other tips I’m sure I’m forgetting, that didn’t seem to do a lick of good
We saw 3 pediatric dermatologists within a week who all said, “Uh, yeah..you’re doing everything exactly right..” but who also wouldn’t entertain my discussion of eczema being internally related, even though I knew for certain my baby reacted to certain foods. The last dermatologist we saw prescribed us steroids and antibiotics, and I did not even pick them up. That’s when I decided I was done with the methods we’d been using and moving on to something else. Since then, here’s what we’ve done:
- I started the Autoimmune Paleo diet. This was big. You can eat high-quality meats, fruits, and most veggies. That means no grains, nuts and seeds (including chocolate/cocoa and coffee), dairy, wheat, soy, legumes/beans, corn, nightshades (like tomatoes, white potatoes, and peppers), sugar (including artificial) , processed food, eggs, or NSAID’s – all of these items are either very common allergens OR have inflammatory properties. I would recommend this diet to anyone trying to eliminate eczema – it’s NOT a forever diet (read my getting starting guide here and how I completely erased my own autoimmune disease symptoms with this diet here). The goal is to reintroduce foods one by one until you figure out what is triggering your eczema. Here’s the caveat, this diet is still a good decision, but if you don’t see improvements within a month or so, you may have allergies or sensitivities within the foods you’re eating. Our baby still had reactions to avocados, bananas, peaches, apples, berries, melons, some coconut products, fish, shellfish, and several other things that are allowed on the diet (more later on how we discovered this).
- We’ve gone (mostly) chemical free. The eczema industry likes to market fragrances as the enemy – we’re finding that chemicals are. When we tested whether our baby was reacting to the “free and clear” and “hypoallergenic” products we had or the non-toxic products with essential oils and natural fragrances, the non-toxic products won every time. My favorites are these Pure Haven products and plain ol’ coconut oil, shea butter, lavender, frankincense, and tea tree oil mixed together as a salve. Now, fragrances can still be an enemy, since most of them ARE loaded with chemicals. The key is finding labels that say “chemical-free” or “non-toxic” (not just “all-natural”). We’ve stopped wearing perfume and cologne, and I’ve switched all my makeup products to chemical-free versions (especially important if you are the eczema sufferer yourself). We currently use soap nuts for our laundry detergent and love them – highly cost-effective and very efficient (I use them on my cloth diapers, too!). Beware of disposable diapers and wipes, too – they are packed with chemicals. Try brands like Honest or Earth’s Best if you’re sticking with throw-aways.
- We only let filtered water touch our baby’s skin. It is very common for eczema-prone skin to react to tap water. We purchased this filter for the bath and have one on the kitchen sink, too. Ideally, we’d have a whole-home filtration system, but that wasn’t in the cards right now.
- We started probiotics. Archer takes these mixed into solids. I take these. They’re both allergen-free! Probiotics are essential for restoring gut-health and good bacteria during and after taking antibiotics. We both also take a Vitamin D supplement since we’re not getting it much through diet. Archer recently started on a Briar Rose supplement, too, for immune support (doctor’s orders – check with yours first).
- We got allergy testing. This had good and bad outcomes. The blood work did give us a better picture of what we were dealing with, as it came back with allergies to milk, egg, soy, peanut, dog, tomatoes, wheat, and oats (way more full-blown allergies than we thought we were dealing with) BUT, it does not test for food sensitivities. This is super important. According to the test (and to the allergist I saw concerning the test), my son shouldn’t react to fish, shellfish, and a handful of other things that came back negative, but he does. Finding food sensitivities, and not just allergies, is extremely important when trying to conquer eczema. We found Archer’s through NAET treatment, which leads me to…
- NAET allergy treatments. It has done wonders for us. This treatment is usually done by an acupuncturist or chiropractor and is designed to both determine allergies/food sensitivities/vitamin deficiencies and also heal them. We have seen our son lose several of his food intolerances through this treatment! Even without the healing, we have been able to pinpoint several food sensitivities, as well as several “safe” foods, through the muscle-strength test used in this method. You can read more or find a practitioner here. (If you’re in the Allen/McKinney area, send me a message for our practitioner and more details!)
NAET was working very well, but a common cold, teething, etc. for an eczema sufferer can flair into something much worse, and before long we were right back where we started. So,
- We started the Aron Regime. This was our hail-mary. Dr. Aron’s medication, along with the NAET treatment, has been what brought immense healing. Dr. Aron is a highly experienced dermatologist who has patients worldwide. He approaches eczema a bit differently than others, and instead of giving extremely potent steroids and antibiotics for a short period of time, prescribes very diluted medication for longer-term use (which also helps avoid Topical Steroid Withdrawal). We have been on his treatment for almost two months and have gone from 5 applications per day to 1-2 per day, with the end goal (for us) being to wean completely from the medication. It has given us and our baby life again and made it exponentially easier to determine triggers. It has also helped attacked the nasty staph residing on our child’s body, which is a major component of eczema for a lot of cases. You can view Dr. Aron’s website here. (Please know the only benefit I receive from passing this information on is knowing that someone else may use him!)
The left-hand pictures are the day I decided enough was enough and, in tears, emailed Dr. Aron. The right-hand pictures are from a little under two months into treatment. If we didn’t have budding teeth, I’m convinced the face rash would be gone as well! Know this – Dr. Aron’s medicine is and isn’t a magic cure – it has totally changed our lives, but we have also removed countless other food triggers (that we found through NAET and trial and error) and worked toward healing his gut lining; the combination is what has put us over the hump. We’re still dealing with a bit of a teething rash and some stubborn spots that have yet to heal, but we have a completely different child from when we started. Here’s the beauty of Dr. Aron’s medication: it’s the only thing we use (as opposed to the 25 different lotion brands we’ve tried in the past), we don’t wet-wrap anymore, we don’t rush to cover Archer in lotion after his bath, we don’t freak out about putting him in the church nursery, we don’t use scratch sleeves or swaddles, we don’t worry about Archer going through TSW, I don’t spend most of my nights crying over my baby’s terrible skin. It is SO freeing. We fought long and hard against eczema and I finally felt peace from the Lord about beginning this medication. We absolutely did not want to use steroids. I was bound and determined to see my son healed “naturally,” but this was part of our answer and has been for so many others whose story is eerily similar. All of our other treatment has been very holistic; we are continuing to pursue full-body, inside-out healing for our little baby, and I finally realized it was okay for that to include a topical, medicinal approach, and I’m so glad I did.
With that said, we still do not want to use a topical steroid long-term, although many are comfortable doing so using Dr. Aron’s method. We have recently started working with a naturopath pediatrician who is helping us piece the last of the puzzle together. So to add,
- We see a holistic pediatrician. As helpful as Western medicine is for acute issues, we’re had a difficult time seeing healing through Western approaches for chronic issues, like eczema. Again, eczema is always, always caused by something, and holistic doctors will be diligent about finding that something. So far for Archer, we have had blood work and a stool test done to reveal low zinc levels and high levels of a few strains of bacteria, which we are now taking doctor-given supplements for. The goal for Archer now is to regulate these levels and pursue over-all gut and immune system healing. We are finding more and more (as is the rest of the medical community) that allergies and sensitivities are often caused by poor gut-health. The more he heals, the more foods he can tolerate. To propitiate this, we use the next step:
- We include gut-healing, inflammation-fighting foods. This is equally as important as avoiding foods (like dairy, grains, corn, tomatoes, etc) that can be detrimental to eczema sufferers. Archer eats bone broth (which is offal, yay! – read about the benefits of offal here) mixed or cooked into foods several times a week, turmeric and ginger, coconut oil, collagen peptides/gelatin, high quality meat like grass-fed beef, and lots of leafy greens.
If you’re an eczema sufferer, or a parent of one, I hope that you can take away even a small piece from our story. Please know that most people do not have to go through all that we did, and that one of these methods alone can often bring healing. I desperately hope to see this terrible disease alleviated! Please reach out to me with any questions, and know you are not alone.
Thanks for reading!