When my son, Tristan’s, eczema peaked at 3 years old, he was head to toe covered in red, itchy, dry skin that was inflamed and painful looking. I cried on and off throughout each and every day back then out of sheer frustration over not knowing how to help him and with worry about how this may affect his quality of life, both at the time and in the long-term. Sleep was rare because my husband and I had to take turns laying in bed with Tristan to prevent him from scratching himself until he drew blood. And we had a newborn child that needed us the other half of the night. To make matters worse, my husband and I disagreed, rather intensely at times, about how to best treat Tristan’s skin. My husband wanted to jump back to the topical steroids that were being prescribed at ever-increasing strengths by his pediatric dermatologist and I felt in my heart that it wasn’t the answer for Tristan. You can read more about our journey with topical steroids here. Read more
Posts tagged ‘wet wraps’
By Dr. Peter Lio (bio below)
1. Stop the Itch-Scratch Cycle
One of my favorite techniques to help a child stop scratching is to do a “Skin Reset”. The idea is that if the itch-scratch cycle is getting out of control, you can hit the “reset” button by doing the following:
- Give a short bath or shower in lukewarm water. Learn about natural bathing suggestions in Finding Eczema Relief: Bleach Bath Alternatives.
- Gently pat dry and then immediately apply their medication (if necessary) followed by a liberal amount of moisturizer.
This is a powerful way to help wash off any allergens and irritants that may be worsening things, helps to super-hydrate the skin. Read more
With severe eczema, nothing can provide immediate relief like wet wrapping. See the step-by-step instructions on how to wet wrap in my post here. Wet wrapping isn’t a long-term solution and isn’t necessary for mild to moderate eczema, but dry wrapping is!
Dry wrapping is VERY easy to do and you may have tried it without even knowing there was a term for it.
What is Dry Wrapping?
It’s simply heavily moisturizing the skin and covering it with a dry layer, such as mittens or gloves for hands, for an extended period of time.
Why does it work?
The dry layer helps hold the moisture next to the skin and is more effective than just applying moisturizer to the skin alone. Wet wrapping is even more effective as the wet layer will maintain the moisture for extended periods of time.
What are dry wraps?
Dry wraps are clothes or bandages used to wrap and protect eczema skin. You can use clothing made specifically for dry or wet wrapping, but items you already have at home can work too (pajamas, tube socks for hands and feet, etc). Clothing should be form-fitting and made of natural fibers like cotton or bamboo.
What do you need to get started?
- Cream or balm/salve
- (1) Set of clothing or bandages/dressings. Exact garments will depend on areas you want to treat, but can include:
- (1) one-piece pajamas or top & bottom, form-fitting
- (1) turtleneck for wrapping the neck, or scarf
- (2) pairs of long white cotton tube socks to cover hands and feet or cotton or bamboo gloves and stay-on booties like these.
- (1) sets of gauze bandages for wrapping the face and head/scalp or an stay-on infant hat like this one.
How to dry wrap step-by-step
You can dry wrap your entire body, but if the eczema is that extreme you may want to consider wet wrapping instead. Usually dry wrapping is done on specific parts of the body with chronic eczema or an irritating flare up. I like to lather my hands up with cream and slip on a pair of white cotton socks before I go to bed as it really helps the mild eczema I get between my fingers and on the backs of my hands.
- Moisturize the skin with a cream or balm/salve of your choice, making sure to liberally apply on the areas of the body that need treating. The skin should be very moist when finished. You may need to go back and apply another layer in some areas before moving to the next step.
- Cover the areas to treat with a dry layer of clothing or bandages.
- Leave the dry layer on for a minimum of two hours, overnight is great.
- If you’re able, remove the dry layer every few hours, re-moisturize, and cover with the dry layer again.
Tips for dry wrapping and your eczema child
- Try wet wrapping at night for minimal objection from your child. An added bonus, keep the hands covered to prevent night-time scratching.
- Virgin coconut oil and raw shea butter work great for dry wrapping. We also love Manuka Honey Skin Cream. Take a look at some other great natural moisturizers here.
- Use caution with long wrapping bandages that could become unwrapped, potentially creating a suffocation hazard. This would be of particular concern if the child wears the wraps to sleep.
- Children’s eczema clothing is made specifically for those with sensitive skin and is great for dry wrapping. The Eczema Company also offers a few clothing items for adults and teens as well.
Have you tried dry wrapping? Did it work well for you?
Nancy, of Real Food, Allergy Free, and I connected via an eczema Facebook group, around the time I was starting The Eczema Company. When I learned that she was heading to National Jewish Hospital with her daughter, I was so excited for her and eager to hear first hand what her experience was like. NJH has such a unique, team approach to atopic dermatitis. I was sure you’d be just as curious as I was about how the hospital’s specialized clinic helps parents and children gain control over their eczema. So, I was thrilled when Nancy agreed to share her story with us. Thank you, Nancy!
An Incredible Experience with National Jewish Hospital’s Atopic Dermatitis Clinic
By Nancy of Real Food, Allergy Free (bio below)
Born just a few days after her due date, Bella was a content and healthy newborn. At six weeks old her skin turned bright red. It almost looked raw. I didn’t rush her to the doctor until it started oozing yellow fluid. The doctor diagnosed her with infected eczema.
I remember thinking it didn’t look like the eczema my other children had. My other children had small raised patches of itchy skin. Bella’s entire body and bald head was bright red and oozing. But then again, my other children never developed eczema this young nor had it been infected. We were sent home with oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics and steroids, and a referral to a dermatologist. That was the beginning of an exhausting five-year battle with the worst case of eczema I had ever seen.
As a newborn, eczema didn’t seem to bother Bella, but as she grew older and developed motor skills, the itching and scratching never seemed to stop. All of her clothing and sheets were covered in blood stains from the wounds she opened while scratching. We saw multiple pediatricians, dermatologists, and allergists. Allergy testing showed she was allergic to egg, dairy, soy and nuts, so we limited her diet accordingly. We tried every holistic approach we could find including consulting naturopaths, trying the GAPS diet, homeopathy, nutritional supplements and UVB therapy. I was thankful that these treatments made the days somewhat tolerable, but the nights were unbearable.
Sometime in those first years Bella developed night terrors. Even before she was able to talk in complete sentences, she would scream “no” and “ow” while tossing and turning like she was in pain. Because she dug into her skin like a crazed person, my husband or I had to sit with her and do our best to stop her.
The older she grew, the more frequent the night terrors occurred. It came to the point where there were more night terrors than sleeping. Two hours of sleep per night became the norm. We just couldn’t do it anymore. When Bella was four years old, we asked the pediatrician for something to help her sleep. After trying herbs and Melatonin, the doctor prescribed Clonodine. It helped, but she was still having a couple of night terrors per night. The doctor mentioned the next level of medication he could offer was Prozac. We were not willing to go there, so we decided to be thankful for what sleep we were now getting.
I HATED that my child was so dependent on medication and yet was still miserable. My pediatrician and my dermatologist both independently recommended I take her to Cincinnati for a therapy that was basically chemotherapy. I drew the line there. I would have to be happy with where we were in this battle. There were no options left. That is until I joined a Facebook group I saw Jennifer was part of called “eczema parents.” Everyone there was talking about a two-week program for children with severe eczema at National Jewish Health in Denver.
I cannot explain in words the emotions I felt when hearing about this program. I saw before and after pictures that blew my mind. They were helping children live normal lives without extreme medical intervention. I wanted to hope, but I was so afraid of disappointment. I had no idea how we would afford a program like this, but I knew we had to give it a shot.
A phone call later I learned that National Jewish has a unique approach. Every patient is assigned a team of doctors and nurses including an allergist, dietician and psychologist with specialized training in Atopic Dermatitis. The skin is treated with hydration therapy (wet wraps) while extensive testing is completed to find triggers that cause the eczema to flare. The child also attends individual therapy and group art therapy, and the parents attend group therapy. I was thrilled to learn that our team would also include a sleep specialist.
National Jewish Health was a true answer to our prayers! Through the miracle of wet wraps, Bella’s skin was 99% clear within three days! You can read a daily log of our experience here.
The rest of the two weeks were spent teaching us how to maintain her new skin and testing and challenging her food allergies. To my utter and complete amazement she passed all of her food challenges. Not only did we leave there with new skin, but we left with only one dietary restriction: nuts.
Going into this program, I felt fairly confident that they would help Bella’s eczema and maybe open up her diet a bit, but I had no idea if they could help with the night terrors. In just a few consultations, the sleep specialist gave me the hope I was looking for.
The sleep specialist explained that night terrors were nothing more than the child getting stuck between stages of sleep. Night terrors are usually triggered by lack of sleep. It was normal for kids with severe eczema to wake up from the itching several times per night. She was sure that once we got the itching under control, the night terrors would go away. We would no longer need medication. To my amazement she was right! Bella started sleeping through the night while we were there. In the five months since, she has had three or four night terrors, and they were obviously connected to not getting enough sleep (sickness, house guests, etc.).
Should you take your child to National Jewish? Absolutely! Can you imagine walking into a hospital where all of the doctors just “get it?” Everyone from the doctors to the nurses and even the sleep specialist, who isn’t normally part of the team, understood exactly what we were going through, and were confident they could help. There is no cure for eczema, but the team at National Jewish has come pretty close. Ourlives were forever changed by the team at National Jewish. I only wish I had known about it sooner.
Bio: Nancy is a home-schooling mom of four beautiful children. Her youngest struggles with severe eczema. Nancy is passionate about the real food movement, but is also a real mom with a limited amount of time and money. Her blog, Real Food, Allergy Free , features fast, frugal and (mostly) healthy allergy-friendly recipes that even “normal” people would enjoy.
I am one proud mama. My first ever YouTube video is up! I hope you love it because it’s for YOU!
This video is dedicated to all the parents helping their children deal with the daily stress of eczema. Eczema is not easy. Eczema is not pretty. You are there for your child through all the sleepless nights and allergy testing. Your stress, your frustrations, and your triumphs do not go unnoticed.
Without further ado (drum roll pretty please)…….turn your volume way up (the sound quality isn’t the best) and ENJOY!
Stuff Eczema Mamas Say
For the written version of Stuff Eczema Mamas Say, see this post.
This video is inspired by “Sh*t Girls Say” and “Sh*t Crunchy Mamas Say.”
Wet wrapping therapy is a miracle short-term fix for moderate to severe eczema, psoriasis, allergic contact dermatitis, and even dermatomyositis.
While in no means a cure, wet wraps can offer a much needed break from the everyday stress of dry, itchy eczema and many other skin conditions. Results can be dramatic after one time, but it will usually take 1-2 days with wrapping 2-3x per day before major changes in the skin can be seen.
Wet wrapping is a commitment (both in time and energy) and can be a challenge getting little ones to cooperate. Good distraction techniques are crucial – read my tips below for wet wrapping and children. Read more
If you missed Part 1 of the story, you can view it here.
On April before his third birthday, Tristan’s poor body was 90% covered in eczema and what appeared to be severe burns. It pains me to even remember him that way now. I just can’t articulate how horrific it was to see my lovely little son in such misery with red, inflamed irritated skin. And the itching! Wow, don’t get me started. Thankfully, it only started around this time and he didn’t have a problem with itching before, but when it started, it was hell and back. No sleeping at night (him or us), screaming hysterically day and night, and the “scratch trances” (as I call them, when his eyes would blur over as his mind shut down and his scratching instincts kicked in). Read more