I never would have guessed that a little dry skin could turn my family’s world upside down. I say “a little” but in reality there was a whole lot of it. Also, what I’m referring to as “dry skin” was actually some pretty severe eczema.
Prior to a couple of months ago, I had never given the word eczema much thought. I didn’t have it, my husband didn’t have it, and none of my three daughters had it. I only knew it caused dry patches on your skin, and at times it could flare up, whatever that meant. It wasn’t something I had to think about because it didn’t apply to me or anyone I loved.
Little did I know I would soon be getting a very good lesson on eczema, the good and the bad.
Who am I kidding, there is NO good when it comes to eczema. Especially not when it’s on your sweet little baby.
Shortly after my son’s 4 month well baby visit, I noticed he had some areas of skin that were raised, red, and kinda scaly. Since it wasn’t something any of my daughters ever had, I sent a picture to my midwife to see if she knew what it was. She told me it was eczema, and there was something he was allergic to.
I don’t think it took 2 weeks before we were at the pediatrician because his body was covered with the red patches. The doctor agreed that it was indeed eczema. She prescribed an oral antibiotic, in case of infection, as well as hydrocortisone. She was also sending us to get his blood drawn so they could check for a milk, soy, and egg allergy.
I left that appointment thinking all we had to do was take the prescription and we would be in the clear. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One week later we were back in the pediatricians office. The eczema was worse than it had ever been. During that visit she told us the blood work showed he had a very slight allergy to both eggs and soy. What she couldn’t tell us was the best way to treat the eczema. She decided to refer us to a dermatologist and an allergist hoping they might have some answers for us. In the meantime, she advised me to avoid eggs and soy, and to continue with the hydrocortisone.
This advice wasn’t exactly music to my ears. I didn’t really care about not being able to eat eggs and soy. But the idea of covering my baby in a topical steroid made me feel uneasy.
In the weeks since then, we have been to the Emergency Room, the allergist, the dermatologist, the pediatrician, and then back to the dermatologist. I’ve met with 8 different health care professionals, and the only thing they’ve all agreed on is that it is eczema.
As for everything else, they each have an opinion on what might be the cause and the cure. From bleach baths and wet wraps to ointments and creams, they’ve all suggested a different course of treatment.
As for what I should eat, well I guess that depends on who you ask.
According to the allergist, the positive allergy result to soy and egg we had received from the pediatrician was actually a false positive. So now instead of avoiding eggs, she told me I should actually start feeding him eggs every day to try and prevent him from developing a future egg allergy. Well since he currently isn’t eating anything but breastmilk, I didn’t feel super comfortable with this. I felt even more uncomfortable with it after two other doctors told me they would NOT follow that recommendation.
We also learned via a letter (which I think should have been accompanied with a phone call) from the allergist that he has a HIGH allergy to peanuts.
Because I’m completely ignorant to food allergies, and the doctor never called to touch base with me, I called her. I knew as much about a peanut allergy as I did about eczema, which was not very much. As you might imagine, I had quite a few questions.
Could my other children still have peanut butter? Did I have to get rid of all the peanut butter in my house?
She stated that he should avoid peanuts and tree nuts, but I could eat them if I wanted to. How that wouldn’t affect him through breastmilk I still don’t know. But then again, I’m not the professional.
During the last conversation I had with the allergist she told me she didn’t think his eczema was food-related.
According to her, the fact the eczema hadn’t cleared up meant it must not have been something I was eating. So even though it had only been a couple weeks since I started the elimination diet, she said I could start introducing all the foods I had previously stopped eating.
Again, that didn’t feel right to me. I decided to speak with a couple other doctors and read articles from other parents who have babies that are struggling or have struggled with eczema. My conclusion was to stick with the elimination diet for at least 6 weeks. That means no eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, fish, shell fish, peanuts, and tree nuts.
If I told you I wasn’t dying for a cup of coffee with cream, I would be lying. I tried almond milk and coconut milk. I also tried a combo of the two, but none of them have the creaminess of half and half so I quit coffee. Let me tell you, I really enjoy my coffee. And more than that, my family really enjoys me more when I’ve had my coffee!!
But at this point I’m willing to do just about anything to try and find the cause of his eczema.
The past 2 months have been exhausting, both mentally and physically.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that all new moms are tired. I don’t think there’s a single mother that wouldn’t love a little more sleep if they could get it. But what I really really really want is to not have to hold my sweet baby ALL NIGHT to prevent him from scratching at his face because it’s so itchy.
There’s a difference between co-sleeping with your baby and having to physically restrain them from hurting himself. We even purchased scratch sleeves to keep him from scratching his face, but I still need to hold him.
As if having to hold him throughout the night wasn’t tiring enough, he also needs to be held all day long. Well as you might imagine, this makes it REALLY difficult to accomplish anything else during the day. Being the mother of 3 older children, one of whom is homeschooled, means there’s a lot that needs to be done everyday.
Maybe if he was my only child I could convince myself that this is an opportunity for some extra snuggles. Maybe the sleepless nights wouldn’t seem so bad if I could nap with him throughout the day. And just maybe those naps would make my days without coffee not seem so horrible. But that isn’t my reality.
I do have 3 other children that need me.
Meals need to be made, school needs to be taught and bums need to be wiped. I can tell myself how the dishes can wait, and the laundry can stay in the basket but mentally it gets to me. It stresses me out when I think about the money I’m not making because I can’t work and hold him.
I also have a sense of guilt for not being able to really give his big sisters everything they want and need from me.
I’m trying to stay positive and remind myself that there is a light at the end of this tunnel, but sometimes it’s hard.
A little less than a month ago, my midwife told me to go have him checked to see if he had a Strep A infection. Come to find out he not only had a Strep A infection, he also had a Staph infection. Once again, I thought he’d take the antibiotic, his face would clear up and it would be over. Well, once again I was wrong.
He is only 6 months old and has already been prescribed multiple oral antibiotics and even more topical steroids. We have purchased more creams, oils, and ointments than I have used in my entire life. I have stopped eating all 8 of the top allergens. We no longer use scented laundry soap or dryer sheets. And he gets a bath every day.
So far none of these things have been the magical cure I was hoping for.
I’m trying to be optimistic. Now that the infections have cleared up, I’m hoping the worst is behind us. So for now, I’ll continue to do my research, and seek advice to try and find the cause. While I know there are times when medicines are the only cure, I REALLY don’t want the only solution to be a never ending rotation of steroids and antibiotics.
So far, each time we’ve used a steroid the eczema has almost completely disappeared. The problem is that when we stop using the steroid, within 2 days the eczema is back just as bad.
Between the lack of answers, the lack of coffee, and the lack of sleep I have not been the best version of me. I’m frustrated, tired, and pretty irritable. Luckily for me, my son is handling this all much better than I am.
Despite the severe eczema he’s been dealing with, he is the happiest, sweetest, most smiley baby boy.
I feel so incredibly blessed that I have 4 amazing children and so far eczema has been the worst health issue that we have faced. But it still breaks my heart knowing that I’m his mother and I can’t make it better.
If eczema is something that you or your little one has struggled with, I would love to hear any suggestions you might have to manage this.