Big Changes Part I – Solving Eczema

There are several big changes that have happened in the last couple years in our home, and I want to address two of them specifically – eliminating detergents in our home and secondly our change in diet.

I’m probably trying to tackle too much, so I’m going to break this up into two longs posts, and hopefully this will be OK.

This story starts with Jasper. We welcomed him in our home as a foster child when he was 2.5 months old.

Soon after we began fostering Jasper, we learned he had some serious skin issues on his head and face. In particular, at night he would wake up sometimes 15 times or more screaming and scratching his head with all the force a 3.5 month old baby could muster. I’d hurry to his crib and find him scratched up, bleeding on the sheets, and nearly in a panic. I tried my best to put socks or mittens on his hands, and he would do his best to take them off. I tried to cut his nails as short as possible, and it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference. He still found a way to dig into his skin. It made for some very long nights for both of us and some very un-approving looks from other moms when we were out in public. And even worse, I hated having to pin down his arms so he could fall asleep.

The doctor was determined it was eczema, most likely caused by milk formula- which he was spitting up large quantities of, so off we went and switched him to soy formula. Within 2 weeks, he started to spit-up large quantities of soy formula and off we went to the next formula. Within a month or two, we found ourselves at the pharmacy ordering Nutrimagen AA – which is an amino acid based formula that is priced at a hefty $56 for a small can.

The new formula helped. He was keeping down his food, gaining weight, and his skin improved some. What I noticed most was the eczema that seemed to largely cover his scalp was now gone, but instead his cheeks became red and inflamed.

I was completely at a loss as what to do. I felt so horrible for him. You can see in the photos below the rash covered nearly every area on his head/face. In the first photo you can even see some on his eyelid.

And then I began to notice a few things: 1) about 15 minutes after I laid him down at night is when it would start; and 2) he looked his best on Monday morning and then would look worse as the week went on.

I began to put the pieces together and realized he was having an allergic reaction to chemicals mainly on his bed sheets. So, I changed detergents a few times to see what happened. Tide resulted in a fierce reaction, other detergents more minor, but washing his sheets in baking soda had the best results – in this case measured by how long it took for him to break out and start screaming.  With the baking soda he was good to go for several hours before waking up, with everything else it took no more than half hour before he was screaming with a red rash covering his cheeks.

So, from that moment forward, everything in our house changed. Everything with detergent was thrown out or given away – laundry detergent, dish soap, dishwasher detergent, cleaning supplies, shampoos, lotions, and even toothpaste. They all were replaced – which I will discuss in another post.

And I made a call to the day care center, I was sure he was looking worse on Friday because of whatever he was being exposed to there. I think they were slightly affronted when I called and asked them what detergents they were using in the baby room. It turned out they had changed detergents, from a “baby-safe” detergent to Tide at the exact time we switched his formula. And according to them, they hadn’t noticed any babies having a reaction. I’m not sure what they were thinking; my child was coming home every day redder than when he arrived and more scratched up.

So, I tried to nicely explain the issue and asked if I could bring him clean sheets and blankets in each week. I also asked the workers to please use one of his blankets as a barrier between them and him whenever he was held since they still had detergents on their clothes. This didn’t work. Every day he still came home redder, and he smelled like detergents and perfumes. I could not for the life of me figure out why the day care workers thought it was appropriate to wear heavy perfumes around newborns. And since we couldn’t control his environment at day care, we did what we thought best – we pulled both the children out of day care and hired a nanny to stay at the house with them. She is a God-send and has no issues washing her work clothes in the laundry soap we gave her, and keeps her hair pulled back away from him. This was May 2009.

I found a great website that helped me through the transition of coping with detergent sensitivity, that helped me find solutions and explained what I should be doing-

This shift in our lives was pretty dramatic. All of the sudden we had so much more room under the kitchen sink from throwing out cleaning supplies that I had room to add two paper bags for recycling trash. And what I loved most is that everything was simpler – now I only needed a handful of basic cleaning supplies such as vinegar, baking soda, and borax, to clean nearly anything and everything.

Jasper’s skin improved. But we weren’t out of the woods yet. He still had problems. At first it seemed that attending nursery at church was a big culprit, but then other things caused breakouts as well, and just being at home all the time didn’t solve the problem. Honestly, I had no idea what to do once again.  His cheeks were still a rosy red, especially one cheek. And each night I resorted to applying medicine and didn’t really know what else to do. The doctor didn’t seem the least bit concerned and didn’t recommend anything. Jasper had drugs in his system when he was born, cocaine and marijuana; and the doctor chalked it up to an issue that probably stemmed from a drug-addicted mother.

But by now, the eczema had started spreading to more places on his body. His elbows were covered and he would lie on the rug and scratch them furiously on the rug as hard as he could. The back of his knees were covered as well. It was just two months ago we headed to church and on the way he gave a blood-curdling scream. We looked at him and saw blood pouring out of his elbow and covering his car seat.

This picture was taken in March 2010, and it is obvious Jasper is still having problems.

Then this spring we shifted our diets. I went completely raw for 45 days for my health concerns. Thomas and the children joined me in eating almost all raw foods plus meat, eggs, and the children still had milk. Then Thomas made the decision to follow a paleo diet. (My next post will focus more on our diet) At this time, the children had been almost completely off all crackers, breads, pastas, white sugars, cheeses, yogurt, and other processed foods. And we made the decision the children would also follow a paleo diet with a lot of raw foods, and so we cut out the milk too. I’m not going to lie; this caused some reservations for me.  As their mom, it is my job to make sure they get the nutrients they need, including calcium, and I was worried about taking away the milk. But I did some research on alternatives, and we did it.

Two weeks later, Jasper looked worse. I almost headed to the store that night and bought the children milk. But my busy life prevailed and honestly I just didn’t get around to it that night. And by the next day, I decided to wait it out a little longer because after all we were doing it for other reasons.

A month later after removing the milk and following a paleo diet with the children, we noticed the skin on Jasper’s face looked nearly perfect. There was no sign of eczema. I hadn’t put any medicine on him the last week so I knew it wasn’t from the meds. That night I checked his body. The skin on his elbows was healing, as well as the skin on the back of his knees. There was absolutely no sign of eczema on his body, except the light patches of new skin growing.

His skin was absolutely perfect for the very first time and this is what he looked like:

It’s only been two weeks since this amazing recovery! Here it is a year and a half later and I am so thankful we seem to have it solved! This week he does have a few bumps on his face, very minor to what he has had in the past, but it looks like poison and he had been playing in some weeds. He is still scratching his face slightly, so I think he probably spread the poison easily to this same part of his body.  His elbows and knees are perfectly clear.

I’m sure in the next few months I will be learning if certain foods cause a reaction. But in the meantime, I am enjoying having a child that is finally sleeping completely through the night and does not wake up with blood stains on his sheets.


2 thoughts on “Big Changes Part I – Solving Eczema


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