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   Infant Allergies & Eczema

INFANTS AND ALLERGIES

There have been some studies, although inconclusive, that suggest that breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t eat peanuts and other potentially highly allergic foods while breastfeeding.  I hadn’t read any of this when I was nursing and ate peanuts along with most other foods.  My son didn’t exhibit any intolerance to the breast milk, and had no crying bouts, etc. after nursing.  I therefore assumed everything I ate was acceptable.

There are other studies that state that eating allergenic foods while breastfeeding is just fine! Were I to have another chance at nursing, I would probably not eat the shellfish and nuts, especially in light of the allergies in the family.

An infant may have a reaction to breast milk when the mother is ingesting milk products herself. One baby girl had what the doctor diagnosed as colic for months until her mother discovered her crying bouts coincided with the milk products she was eating.

If allergies run in your family, be cautious of what you eat when breastfeeding if your child appears to be suffering.  The likely foods to cause allergies:  peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, wheat, fish and seafood, can cause stomach upset and long term allergy problems in infants who are nursing.  These are not the only products that can cause upset to little stomachs – the list is endless.  The foods mentioned are the most likely culprits.

To date, research has been confusing about whether a mother’s diet during pregnancy and while nursing affects her child. Proteins from foods do pass through breast milk, and more research is needed to determine if this might be a factor in the increase of food allergies.

We have found some suggestions that might help in your quest to minimize your infant/child’s allergy and/or eczema:

  1. Use a laundry detergent that uses no bleach or perfumes.
  2. Use a dryer softener that uses no perfumes.
  3. Use soap such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser that has no perfumes. There are some Cetaphil products that contain almond oil. If your child has tree nut allergies, make sure to read the label to ensure no almond oil is in the product you are purchasing.
  4. Use lotion such as Eucerin paste that has no perfumes.
  5. Have your child wear cotton clothes.  Don’t allow your child to wear wool or lamb’s wool clothing.  Some polyester bothers my son, as did flannel sheets when he was a baby.
  6. Your child’s pillow should be hypoallergenic and certainly not filled with down or feathers.
  7. Keep stuffed animals out of your child’s bed, and any other cloth toys.  You might need to keep all stuffed animals out of your child’s room completely if they are exhibiting asthma symptoms.
  8. Don’t spray chemicals in your child’s rooms, such as pledge furniture polish, carpet cleaners, or exterminating sprays.
  9. Wash your child’s hands thoroughly after playing with art supplies, or after playing outside.
  10. Bathe your child before bedtime to “wash off the day.”
  11. Change your child’s clothes before naptime and before bedtime if he/she has been outside.
  12. Don’t smoke in your house, and don’t allow your child to be exposed to smoke.
  13. Don’t allow pets in your child’s bedroom.  Depending on the severity of your child’s allergy, you might need to remove the pet from the house entirely.  In some cases, your child might not be able to even enter a house that has pets. 
  14. If your child’s seasonal allergies occur at the same time the fresh pine Christmas tree is added to your house, suspect an allergy to the tree!  Try an artificial tree for one year to determine if this is the cause of the allergic reaction.

Most of the other skin ailments my son has had can be traced back to one of the items from above.  I followed directions when he was a baby and bought a special laundry detergent to launder his clothes.  I later found out there was perfume in the detergent and bleach, which he reacted to by getting dermatitis!  He sure did smell good, but felt awful.

INFANTS & ECZEMA

Living with food allergies and eczema has become quite normal for our family. Our son, Morgan, is now almost 15 years old and has lived with food allergies his entire life, however his eczema is our ongoing battle.

From his first few months, Morgan had severe, weeping eczema across his body. It was everywhere – behind his knees, on his hands and feet, and even behind his earlobes. His skin was constantly infected, and I coated him with lotions and over the counter steroid creams to not much avail.

Morgan’s eczema was helped by using Eucerin® lotion in the paste form, and by sparingly using Elocon® lotion (a steroid) when he was an infant. The Eucerin® is almost the consistency of lard.  Wal-Mart sells a generic brand of this that costs about 1/2 the amount of Eucerin®, and we’ve found it to be equally as good.  We slathered it on him every night.  When he was a baby, we applied it every time we changed his diaper.  The Elocon® lotion is a steroid cream, so we tried to use it only when his eczema got very severe. 

The eczema moved around his body as he grew older, but it has never entirely disappeared.  For a while, he had one finger that regularly sported an eczema spot if he ate any food with food dyes!

The use of heat in the winter time dries out his skin, as does swimming in chlorinated water in the summertime.  So, there isn’t a season where he gets a break.  If we forgot to use the Eucerin® paste, his eczema would crack and fissures would form.  He has been put on antibiotics, which ended up curing the fissures.  However, we tried to not allow the eczema to get this out of control.  The Elocon® lotion will sting if put on eczema with fissures.  He would cry in pain which hurt me almost as much as him – and made me more aware of staying ahead of his skin problems
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Morgan’s eczema gets worse when certain foods are added to his diet.  We notice that processed foods with yellow and red dyes made his skin much worse, so we removed these from his diet entirely when he was young.  This helped the eczema to disappear, yet it would amazingly reappear for no apparent reason. When he was a baby he was severely allergic to eggs; when this allergy disappeared, we started feeding him foods containing eggs, only to find that his eczema flared up.

We live in Colorado Springs, which has hot, dry air in the summer.  However, combining the heat with sun lotions is a recipe for disaster.  We use titanium dioxide sun lotions since they seem to be kinder to his skin.  Certain fabrics such as nylon bothered his skin when he was younger, creating eczema-like blotches.  Long ago, I began using laundry soap that is free of all dyes and perfumes.  None of this cures his eczema, but it helps it to not become worse.

Now that he’s a teenager, he’s responsible for taking care of his skin. As with most teenage boys, hygiene is a difficult daily practice! For a while, the prescription medication Singulair® cured his eczema completely. Now it doesn’t work at all. Since he started allergy shots his eczema seems to be worse, yet he is also in the middle of puberty. Our allergist had told us that some patients experience worsening eczema with allergy shots, yet his environmental and pet allergies are much better. It’s a difficult trade off!

When he has a bad eczema breakout, we have begun wet wrapping his skin with CeraVe® moisturizing cream and Fluocinonide steroid cream. (He also takes an antihistamine, such as Xyzal or Zyrtec once a day.) We apply the steroid first, then the moisturizing cream and then hot, wet gauze to wrap his skin sealing in the moisture. Adding socks or ace bandages over the top insures the gauze stays in place. Keeping the wet wraps in place overnight helps the worst eczema spots. Twice a day wet wrap treatments can do wonders for his skin!

There is a prescription drug called Elidel or Protopic that is for severe eczema sufferers.  Our allergist didn’t think that Morgan’s eczema was severe enough to warrant such a treatment.  However, if your child is really suffering – you might want to discuss this with your allergist. There have been FDA warnings regarding this drug that you might want to read here first.

We feel like detectives on most days, attempting to find the cause of the eczema. It might be food related, contact related (such as grass or clothing articles) or none of the above. We would love to find the magical cure to make his eczema disappear. In the meantime, we’ll keep searching for what works for today to ease the itch!

You may be interested in reading other Web sites dedicated to Eczema:

Description

Web Address

National Eczema Association for Science and Education

http://www.nationaleczema.org

The National Eczema Society

http://www.eczema.org/mainpage.shtml
Online information and support service for eczema sufferers and their families. http://www.talkeczema.com


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