Although eczema is very common, this does not mean that it is normal or healthy.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a red, dry, itchy rash that develops in the folds of the elbows, behind the knees, or on the hands, neck and face. However, it can pop up anywhere on the body, especially in babies. That said, there are many types of rashes that can occur in childhood and it is important to have your baby evaluated by a medical professional before assuming your child has eczema.
Eczema, also known as Atopic Dermatitis, signals an imbalance of the immune system. ‘Atopic’ means allergic or hypersensitive, and ‘Dermatitis’ literally translates to ‘inflammation of the skin’.
The immune system is a finely balanced mechanism. Most of us know that when it’s not working hard enough, we get sick. But when it works too hard, we are at risk of mounting reactions to things that we shouldn’t, and this results in allergies. Eczema is a hypersensitivity of the immune system and has also been linked with asthma and other allergies later in life. So the sooner you can nip it in the bud, the better.
Eczema is a hypersensitivity of the immune system and has also been linked with asthma and other allergies later in life.
What Contributes to Eczema?
Eczema can pop up at anytime in one’s life, but here are some notable contributing factors to childhood eczema:
1) Birth: The first exposure a baby has to a healthy immune system is the microflora obtained through the vaginal canal. Studies have shown that babies born through C-section have increased risk of allergic disorders.
2) Antibiotics: Given early in life, antibiotics disturb the natural immune system and may contribute to eczema and other allergies. Antibiotics given during pregnancy or labour may have a similar effect.
3) Environmental Factors: Reactions can occur as a result of anything new that touches the skin. Think laundry detergent, soap, and moisturizers, which can all cause this type of rash.
4) Food allergies or sensitivities cause inflammation in the body (remember, dermatitis means ‘inflammation of the skin’) and contribute greatly to the development of eczema.
What Treatments are Available?
Coricosteroid cream is often prescribed in the conventional medical field for babies with eczema. Corticosteroids depress the immune system, and they work only as long as you keep using them. Side effects include thinning of the skin, stretch marks, skin pigment changes, and increased risk of infection. If you are looking to address the cause of the eczema, there are several alternative and natural treatments available.
An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.
Naturopathic treatment is aimed at addressing the underlying immune system dysfunction, while also providing symptomatic relief for that angry, itchy skin.
1) Prevention: When possible, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure! Ensuring proper nutrition and supplements during pregnancy, breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months, as well as introducing foods properly is key to the healthy development of your baby’s immune system.
2) Immune System: Rebalancing the immune system is key to treating the underlying cause. Ensuring the right amount good vs bad bacteria in the body can be achieved using the right probiotic, among other interventions.
3) Food sensitivities: Eliminating the most commonly allergenic foods from mom and baby’s diet can help immensely with those nasty symptoms. Start with dairy and wheat.
4) Inflammation: Reducing inflammation is important in the treatment of eczema, and there are numerous natural anti-inflammatories for mom or baby that can help significantly.
5) Topical creams: It can be heart-breaking to see your baby scratching at that terrible rash, and the above treatments may take some time. Herbal creams can help calm the skin in the meantime. Your regular moisturizer may also work—you can check on toxin levels at the Environmental Working Group’s website (www.ewg.org/skindeep).
Eczema is a distressing situation for parents and babies alike. It shouldn’t be ignored, and it can usually be dealt with quite easily with some simple interventions. Remember to always consult a medical professional before starting a new medication, cream or supplement.
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Wondering what other pediatric conditions Naturopathic Medicine can treat? Click Here to find out.