Are you having limited success treating your child’s eczema? Naturopath and Herbalist Rachel Boon has advice to give you. Read this interview and learn how eczema in children can be managed using natural remedies.
Hello Rachel, could you briefly explain what eczema is?
Eczema is just one type of inflammatory skin condition (dermatitis) that can affect people of any age or race, although it is most commonly diagnosed in infants.
Some studies show a slight male infant gender bias.
Is eczema a common skin condition in children?
Eczema is a very common condition in children, varying from temporary mild outbreaks in one part of the body to chronic ongoing, whole-body inflammation in the worst cases.
It is more common in children who have been bottle fed, immunized and those who have a family history of atopic conditions (e.g. eczema, asthma or hayfever).
Is eczema easy to diagnose?
Yes. Whilst eczema is simple enough to diagnose, as a Naturopath, I am not too concerned about the disease label, e.g.’eczema’.
I aim to treat the individual rather than the symptoms and so it is more important to me, what it looks like, how it feels (hot, cold, dry, moist etc.) and what it is better or worse for.
These factors, taken alongside a comprehensive case history and tongue, pulse and iris analysis, tell me all about the individuals’ current state of health.
Using all of this information, we can then discuss and decide together which would be the most effective way to treat the child.
Does eczema usually improve by itself or are treatments most likely needed?
Some infants will naturally grow out of their eczema and some will not.
If a toddler develops eczema, in my experience, they will most likely need intervention of some sort to help clear the condition.
Do you treat infantile eczema the same way as adult eczema?
I aim to treat the individual rather than the disease label, so in that way, everyone receives different treatments as everyone is different!
No two people will present with exactly the same eczema, in terms of aetiology, bodily location, better for/worse for etc.
But in general terms, infantile treatments may be given via the mother who takes the herbs and then breast feeds her infant or via adding herbal infusions or tinctures to the baby’s bottled milk or water.
Treating adults is done more directly as they can simply take their prescribed herbs orally and make the required dietary and lifestyle adjustments recommended.
What kind of treatments do you recommend to follow?
A good dietary starting point for treating eczema would be, where possible to follow a diary free, meat free, high organic diet.
It is also vital to ensure the infant/child has adequate omega 3 intake. Aim for a 3:1 ratio in your child’s diet.
Healthy Omega 3 sources are linseed (flaxseed) oil, shelled hemp seeds, tofu, live soya yoghurt, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and cabbage.
Then, depending on the likely origin of the eczema (i.e. nervous system, digestive system) you can use specific herbs to support the bodily system that needs help.
For example, eczema of a nervous system origin, may present when the child is emotionally stressed such as starting nursery or school or when another sibling arrives.
In these cases, herbs such as passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and wild oat straw (Avena sativa) may be of assistance as they are nervous system tonics, which means they have a normalising/balancing effect on the nervous system.
What do you think of the conventional medications that are usually prescribed to help with eczema, such as hydrocortisone cream?
I think that hydrocortisone creams have their place, such as when a baby or infant is extremely uncomfortable with itchy eczema and it is preventing sleep or where there is a risk of secondary infection with an open wound that they keep trying to scratch.
But I would like to see these creams used more as a last resort rather than a first port of call as is often the case in the UK.
Any effective remedies for relieving itching in babies and children?
There are many but it depends on where the eczema is located and also what the underlying cause may be. However, a general rule of thumb is:
- Itchy eczema with no open wound – Organic chickweed cream (Stellaria media)
- Itchy eczema with open wound – Organic calendula cream (Calendula officinalis)
- If eczema feels normal temperature – Add comfrey oil (Symphytum officinale) or sesame oil to your child’s warm bath
- If eczema feels hot and inflammed – Add organic hemp oil (Cannabis sativa) to the bath or fill a pop sock with two handfuls of organic porridge oats and leave under running bath water for 5 minutes. This results in a soothing, milky emulsion which will sooth and cool inflammed skin.
A few drops (3 or 4) of organic lavender essential oil to the bath will work wonders to calm an itchy inflamed little one!
What other advice would you give to parents of children who may be suffering with this condition?
Do shop around for skincare products that suit your child and their particular skin type.
Always buy the best you can afford and aim for organic throughout as 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream.
If you aim for food grade products where possible, you are reassured of their purity.
If you are having limited success treating your child’s eczema with your own efforts, do consult your local Naturopath or Herbalist.
They will undoubtedly be able to help and may save you a lot of time, energy and money in sorting out a total skincare solution for your child which could save a lot of tears in the long run.
Your child’s skin is worth it.