Eczema is part of my life. I have become consumed by it. I have literally hit the ground running into battle. The battlefield unfortunately is the body of my innocent 3-year-old son, Tristan. He was diagnosed with baby eczema at 3 months of age when we first saw the obvious signs, dry itchy skin patches, but I’m rather sure he has had eczema since birth. He’s never had that super smooth, velvety soft skin most babies have. Not the lovely skin his sister was luckily born with. Our general practitioner at the time prescribed some cortisone to apply to Tristan’s small dry patches. This really seemed to help keep the eczema at bay until we gradually weaned him off of it, as the doctor recommended, and then we were back to square one, as if we hadn’t done a thing. We tried many different over-the-counter and prescription creams, but nothing cured the eczema, just helped it from worsening. Since his eczema was really mild, we weren’t too concerned.
Then April hits, a month we’ve come to fear – because each April, Tristan’s skin gets drastically worse. We’re not exactly sure why, perhaps it’s just the changing of the seasons, like we’ve heard so often with eczema. Perhaps it’s a seasonal allergy thing as we have found he is allergic to birch. Whatever the trigger, it’s not pretty and every April now makes us nervous. It’s around this first April that Tristan also had his first asthma attack. He continues to have asthma attacks to this day, but only when he develops a virus or cold and during tree and ragweed pollen season.
Tristan’s skin very gradually continued to get worse. We spent fortunes on different creams that only helped slightly, but it was better than nothing, which we also tried. We decided to have Tristan tested for allergies via skin and blood tests, just after his first birthday. The results indicated he was indeed allergic to some seasonal things, dogs, cats, as well as walnuts. (interesting because I ate handfuls of walnuts daily while pregnant with him). He was tested for dairy, wheat and all the other common food allergies, but all the results were negative. Although milk didn’t appear to be an allergy for Tristan, we were still advised that dairy products can be a big trigger for eczema, so we started substituting with rice milk and vegan cheese. Then after several months of use we found out rice milk naturally contains traces of arsenic. What?! You mean we were poisoning our son? That’s a bit over dramatic, as the traces are minimal, but still, arsenic…crazy! We obviously had to move on to another milk source and chose soy. Then I heard about all the estrogen and other harmful qualities of soy when ingested in large quantities, so that was short lived as well. We stumbled upon almond milk and hemp milk. So far we’re happy with these, but we have to be choosey with our brands as many contain allergic ingredients. Who knew it was going to be such a challenge to find a safe “milk?” Any of these milk products are wonderful for most adults and ok in normal quantities, but toddlers consume so much milk that they are more at risk for any negative side effects.
April just before his second birthday hits and BAM, it’s worse, much worse. It’s time to get more serious about this skin condition. The creams we’d been using all of a sudden start burning his skin. He cries. I cry. Eczema is so sad. I declare war. We started seeing a pediatric dermatologist who after a quick glance at Tristan’s skin, agreed he’s got a “pretty good” case of eczema and immediately prescribed cortisone in a stronger dose than before along with bathing only twice per week with mild soaps. I asked her if food sensitivities, maybe not true allergies, could be the cause for my son’s eczema. She said she was absolutely sure it had nothing to do with allergies because it didn’t “look” like the kind of eczema that was related to allergies. We stick to the prescribed treatment program to the tee, with one exception. She gave us a prescription for an oral anti-histamine in case he was itchy, but thankfully Tristan hadn’t been itchy yet, so we put it aside. His skin magically improves when we follow the recommendations. IT’S A MIRACLE! Then we slow down and then fully stop the cortisone after two weeks, as prescribed. Crap. His skin suddenly got worse. Much worse. How did this happen? We went to a follow-up appointment where the dermatologist prescribed stronger cortisone and for a longer time. Wait, at the last appointment didn’t she say that they don’t recommend cortisone treatment for longer than two weeks? Why is that suddenly ok now? It may work wonders for some, but cortisone didn’t seem to be the solution for us, so we moved on.
Desperate for answers we started seeking out alternative medicine and practitioners in hopes of a new tactic – curing him from within. We decided to treat the cause (hoping we could find it first), not the symptom. We saw a homeopath, osteopath, acupuncturist, NAET practitioner. No change in his eczema.
We didn’t lose hope. We couldn’t give up on Tristan. We found support groups, parenting groups on Facebook, all with stories similar to Tristan’s. It was great to learn and share with other parents going through the same thing. It motivated us – if they could find a cure for their child, maybe one day we could to. He developed his first, and only to this day, infection. Overnight his skin developed large, red, very scary looking bumps. The doctor prescribed anti-biotics, which started working right away. We were lucky it was just a staph infection and it only happened once. Children with eczema are prone to infections and some can be really severe, like MRSA.
Read the rest of our story in part 2.