Babies and children are open to the world. They are receptive, taking in new impressions from their environment. In some cases, however, a baby might have difficulty digesting all these stimuli. Allergies and eczema can be the result.
The word eczema comes from ancient Greek and means “to boil over.” True to its definition, this itchy, dry, sometimes weepy, red and rashy skin condition is the body’s way of saying, “I am feeling overwhelmed. Please help protect me.”
A Common Concern:
The exact cause of eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis or neurodermatitis, remains uncertain. But one thing is sure—it afflicts many babies and children. “It is probably the most common skin condition I see in children under 5,” says Dr. Adam Blanning, a family practitioner in Denver, Colorado. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a research institute at the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 20 percent of infants and children in the United States experience symptoms. In most cases there’s a direct link to allergies—most notably those caused by food.
Water, soap, a lack of moisture, heat, wind, wool, sweat, urine, nutritional products, laundry detergent and scratching can also affect the skin, leading to eczema. Additionally, when areas of the body such as the knees and elbows of a child learning to crawl are in frequent contact with the outside world, they can become prone to irritation. Relief can be found in gentle skin creams and oils for soothing, whole-body protection.
Daily care with a natural cream or oil, free of synthetic and over-stimulating ingredients, will help protect and strengthen the skin. Bathing a baby every two to three days, without soap, in water no hotter than 100˚ Fahrenheit helps to keep the skin moisturized and calm.
Aim to keep skin care relaxing and fun. Massaging a baby with a nourishing oil, playing a game while applying a cream or letting a child care for him- or herself helps encourage inner and outer balance.
Whole body healing:
As a practitioner of holistic, Anthropo-sophic medicine, Dr. Blanning believes in a multi-faceted approach to supporting and healing the skin. Rather than relying on steroids, which suppress the eczema and the body’s healing processes, he promotes a natural approach.
To bring a patient’s entire body toward greater, long-term health, he relies on the gifts of homeopathic medicine. He suggests that parents begin with topical treatments, such as moisturizers made with calendula (see sidebar). “If these don’t do the trick,” he advises, “then a consultation with a physician [ideally one who practices integrative medicine] is appropriate.” Often he sees a child’s digestive system as crucial in the cause and treatment of eczema. Working from both the inside out and outside in, Blanning considers each patient individually.
He uses Weleda over-the-counter and prescription medicines to treat food allergies, digestion and other conditions that may be linked to the skin’s health.
The skin speaks for the whole body, and it has a lot to say. Listening to its messages tells much. When parents see how and when the skin reacts, they can help minimize eczema’s effects. Over time and with patience, a child can become less reactive and more harmonious within and with the world.