Stubborn eczema can be one of the most frustrating conditions for both parents and young children. Depending on the severity of this skin disorder, it can impact both social interactions and self esteem of those afflicted, not to mention the risk of secondary skin infections, such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Conventional treatments include medicated creams and over the counter moisturizers, and for some children, the treatments offered may cause undesirable side effects or may not be 100% effective. Even though eczema is a condition many children outgrow, there is no reason why parents should not expect a treatment plan that decreases the severity of the symptoms without posing any other risks to the child’s health. Here are six Natural Treatments for Eczema that are safe and effective:
- Diet–identifying and eliminating food allergies and/or sensitivities from a child’s diet can make a big difference in symptom severity. Eczema has a strong correlation with atopic disease, asthma, and allergies, which means the eliminating the cause of the allergic reaction or inflammation will result in symptom reduction.
- Essential Fatty Acids–fish oil, high in the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA&DHA can be extremely helpful for treating skin conditions. This supplement is safe to give to infants and young children. It can take several weeks of supplementation to notice significant improvement, but it is generally helpful for most cases of eczema due to its anti-inflammatory properties. For dosing, administration, and product recommendations, you should consult a licensed Naturopathic Physician. Giving your child the wrong brand of fish oil could be detrimental to their health, since not all brands are tested for purity and may be contaminated with mercury and other toxins.
- Calendula–applying calendula topically in a cream or oil can help moisturize and repair the skin. Calendula is a flower with natural healing properties and is safe to use on infants and children. Creams and oils/ointments are preferable to lotions, since lotions generally contain a small amount of alcohol, which can dry out the skin and make the eczema worse.
- Evening Primrose Oil–some studies have shown that people who suffer from eczema have decreased levels of gamma-linolenic acid, an essintial fatty acid found in evening primrose oil. This is safe to take in conjunction with fish oil and may even be added to infant formula or breastmilk for infants as a preventive treatment for those with a strong family history of eczema and atopic disease.
- Witch hazel and Phosphatidylcholine–this topical preparation has been compared to topical steroids and shown to be effective in the treatment of eczema. While not as effective as the standard steroid treatment, it has fewer side effects and used in combination with the other Natural Treatments listed, it may be a component of a safer, effective treatment plan. This treatment should be applied to the affected skin 2-3 times a day. Talk to a Naturopathic Physician for specific product recommendations and instructions.
- Bleach baths–as “un-natural” as this treatment sounds, it is an effective and safe treatment. The key is that the bleach is VERY dilute. Most studies report that daily baths in a tub filled with water and 1/4 cup of bleach can greatly improve eczema in moderate and severe cases, reducing the need for topical steroid creams and antibiotics. You should discuss this treatment with your child’s healthcare provider and NEVER put bleach directly on the skin or into a tub that is not already filled with water, in order to prevent a chemical burn. If you are bathing your infant or toddler in a smaller than average tub, you will also need to adjust the amount of bleach you add, so the solution is not too strong. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider or a pediatric dermatologist if you have questions about this protocol.
If none of the above treatments help your child, consider taking your child to a pediatric dermatologist. It is possible that your child suffers from a different skin condition requiring a different treatment plan. A dermatologist may perform a biopsy or take a sample from affected areas and send to a pathologist to make a more accurate diagnosis. It is important that you seek the advice of a pediatric dermatologist rather than a regular dermatologist, since the treatment of children is sometimes very different than the treatment of adults with skin disorders.
About the Author: Dr. Bowker is a Naturopathic Physician and owner of Snohomish Valley Holistic Medicine. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Bowker serves as a Board member for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She has also been a guest speaker for community organizations and instructor of several community health classes. For more information, please visit her primary website: www.snovalleyholistic.com