A month or so ago, I started to notice that my toddler (nearly 21 months old) was beginning to get red splotchy dry patches on the insides of his elbows and on the backs of his knees. I sighed and realized that after several months of no issue, his eczema was rearing its ugly head. About a week later, I woke in the middle of the night due to his tossing and turning and realized that he was scratching his arms incessantly and was very restless. In the morning, I saw that the eczema had spread like wildfire and was up and down both arms, both legs, across the top of his back, and on his stomach where his diaper touches. My poor little guy.
I’m very familiar with eczema. My husband deals with it under certain conditions and all four of my children have had bouts of break outs over the years, especially in the infant and toddler stages. Thankfully, they have all grown out of it once they hit around age 4, but my youngest is right in the midst of it and seems to have gotten the worst case of it that any of our family members has experienced. Just a couple of weeks after I noticed the first small spots, it had gotten so bad that it had spread on to his face and into his scalp.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition where red, often raised, dry patches cause irritation. The patches can be itchy or can even crack and bleed. Often, this is caused by an external reaction to various irritants.
I generally always take precautions in other areas to make sure that I’m not agitating his (or any of my other children’s) skin by using known irritants. One of the biggest lifesavers for us is the usage of fragrance free detergent and soaps. Eliminating unnecessary chemically enhanced scents in the products that I use to wash our clothes, blankets, towels, etc. in makes a world of difference in keeping my little guy’s skin clear and baby soft. Here is where I make a confession: I’d let cheap deter me from what I knew was right. For the sake of saving a few dollars, I’d decided to cave and buy a cheaper detergent than my old faithful friend-all free clear. I’d penny pinched, but now my sweet boy was paying the price.
I hurried back out to the store and immediately picked up my go to laundry detergent for sensitive skin. I pulled all of my son’s clothes out of the closet and rewashed them in the hypoallergenic detergent. Following that, I rewashed my bed sheets (we co-sleep). While eczema is often caused by dietary habits, I am fairly confident from careful observation that my son’s is brought on by specific circumstances. The switch in laundry detergents definitely set off this outbreak as nothing in his diet had changed and he had been breakout free for months.
It’s been about four weeks now, and I’m so happy to see my little guy’s skin clearing up nicely. It’s so important to be vigilant in circumstances like this to keep eczema patches from flaring up. While using free clear laundry detergent and other fragrance free laundry products is at the top of my list of things to do to prevent eczema from rearing its head, I have a few other tips to share as well.
Tips for Healing Eczema Breakouts:
1. Use coconut oil on dry patches.
Coconut oil is like magic, in my opinion. I use it for everything from treating cradle cap to ridding my children of head lice, or even in play or for making my own baby wipes. It has soothing and healing properties and it is all natural. Apply liberally and as often as necessary.
2. Keep your toddler’s nails trimmed.
My little guy ended up scratching himself and having scabs on the back of his head and on his thighs because he was digging so much on the itchiest patches. Keeping his nails trimmed down helped keep the boo boos at a minimum.
3. Eliminate dairy and wheat for a bit.
Both of these can be known to cause and/or exacerbate eczema breakouts. My little guy isn’t normally effected by them, but when he is in the midst of a rough bout, I don’t let him have them until he clears up. It’s a precaution that I think is worth it, even if his eczema isn’t typically diet related.
4. Stay indoors.
High pollen days make the eczema worse in many cases. I’ve noticed that the more time my son is outside, running and playing in the grass and trees, the more agitated his skin becomes. If it is especially warm and he gets sweaty, it is even more of an issue. I’ve been opting to keep him inside more often during this particularly time of year when the pollen is almost so thick you can cut it.
5. Use fragrance free soaps and shampoos.
Just like switching back to a hypoallergenic detergent was important, ensuring that my toddler’s bath soaps and shampoos are the same is just as important. Also, don’t linger in baths. The warm water can also irritate and further dry out the skin.
6. Dress your toddler in loose fitting, cotton clothes.
Don’t agitate breakouts further by putting your little one in tight fitting clothing made of irritating fabrics. Let their skin breathe.
There are so many harsh irritants in our world today. I try my hardest (though often imperfectly) to provide my children an environment in which they are free to be children without stress. all free clear is one partner with me in doing this to the best of my ability.