My son’s eczema contributed to his behavior issues, and how I finally nipped his eczema in the butt!

Okay, so I will admit that this doesn’t have anything to do with fitness, it does have to do with wellness, and because this involves my child and his behavioral problems, I feel like this is relevant to the blog!

By now, if you’ve been following my past posts, you’ve probably figured out that my little ball of sunshine/hyperactivity (aka my seven year old child) has had some behavioral issues in the past. I guess I haven’t really dived–dove, with a long “o”?–into it a whole lot, because it gets incredibly tiresome and depressing to think about all that he and I have been through.

My son:

  1. Almost got expelled from kindergarten because of too many suspensions for behavior. Yes–kindergarten! This forced us to switch school districts for 1st grade. I didn’t want his self-esteem ruined, and I didn’t want him to be labeled as a “bad kid” in his mind as well as on record.
  2. Got kicked out of 4 daycares, all within a span of one year.
  3. Has several diagnoses for behavior, including ADHD, SPD, ODD, and a generalized behavior disorder.
  4. Has a Section 504 plan. This took a ton of struggle to even get the district to consider. I had to fight for every single thing in this 504… Many calls and emails were made to officials.
  5. Has an IEP. He got this at the school he’s at now… He got rejected at the first school even though the 504 did not fix the problems and even though he almost got expelled…
  6. Continues to struggle with listening, attention, being too physical with adults and children, being impulsive, and hyperactivity.

One of these days I will go into it more than on this post… I feel like I should explain this stuff in excruciating detail, as this will help people fully understand and appreciate what exactly we have gone through, as well as what we continue to go through, since this blog does pertain to using fitness as a tool for the both of us. (In my best Aragorn voice:) Today is not one of those days.

The reason I bring these behavior issues up is because he had some eczema issues that contributed to his behavior. I only recently changed his skincare routine. I feel like changing it had a humongous impact on his behavior.

The beginning of our struggles with eczema

My son was born with little red bumps all over his skin. We thought that it was just from being “in the oven” a little longer than he was suppose to (I was induced).

The little red bumps continued to get worse and worse.

They evolved into bloody open wounds that always itched and never ever healed. They were horrible in his arm pits and behind his knees for a long time. Then he started getting them on his bottom and on the backs of his thighs, and those were the worst hit. He would randomly get them other places, but the ones on the backs of his thighs never healed for many years.

My son was–accordingly–extremely sensitive in the areas that he had open sores. Imagine if you had itchy open wounds on a place that always touched your clothing on a place that was very weight-bearing. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

I tried it all:

  • I used scent-free laundry detergent and dryer sheets (Dreft, All Free Clear, etc.).
  • I bought every type of “sensitive” and “natural” version of shampoos, soaps, and body washes I could find in stores around town.
  • I cut out as many artificial ingredients and colors in his food and snacks as possible (hey, you never know).
  • I made sure to always put lotion on him so that his wounds wouldn’t stick to his clothes, and because his doctor said to do that so his skin wouldn’t itch as much.
  • I began washing him with my hands instead of a wash cloth or pouf.
  • I made his bath lukewarm to not further irritate his skin.
  • I used anti-itch creams on his skin.
  • I took him to the doctor and got a prescription corticosteroid ointment.

None of those things, including the combination of these things, fixed the eczema. In fact, some of these things made his eczema (and behavior) worse

He would often get more aggressive with me, mostly because he didn’t want me to use those things on him. Even though he loved playing in the bath, getting him in there was a struggle. He would scream and cry, and would always tell me that it hurt him to get in the bath. 😦 I cried a lot and felt very guilty. I told myself that I was doing the right thing and that it would take time for his eczema to get better.

I was pretty upset that even his ointment wasn’t helping his skin, considering that it was a prescription (and an expensive one, at that). I was mostly upset about it since I trusted my son’s doctor and she said to continue using it. We used it for years with no consistent healing. Plus, I worried about it being a steroid, as it seemed to make him incredibly aggressive… (He use to bite, scratch, punch, kick, and do all kinds of awful stuff to kids at the daycares for seemingly no reason! It definitely had to do with hyperactivity and impulsivity that goes along with ADHD, but I believe that some of it was caused by the corticosteroid as well as the constant pain and discomfort my son was in!)

I did some research and found that topical corticosteroids–especially high levels of them–can cause problems such as:

  • permanent skin thinning (skin atrophy)
  • permanent stretch marks
  • inhibition of body’s production of cortisol (adrenal suppression)
  • pink bumps
  • acne
  • redness around hair follicles
  • redness around hair follicles with pus bumps (folliculitis)
  • weakened immune responses
  • growth suppression

They can also cause more serious issues, including addiction (and accordingly, withdrawal).

My son definitely had some of these! He was prescribed a “class 4” or “mid-strength” corticosteroid called “triamcinolone acetonide.” Though it wasn’t the highest grade, it was pretty high up there. It didn’t seem to be helping a whole lot, and it seemed to be hurting.

I finally decided that enough was enough. It hurt me to see my son like this. I didn’t care what the doctor had to say about it anymore.

I began to research about eczema online. I researched for many weeks, as I wanted to help my poor little guy. I searched Pinterest, Google, Facebook, and everywhere I could think of.

I saw something that completely changed my son’s life on this article about eczema:

Climatotherapy uses sunlight and water (such as the ocean) as therapy. The Dead Sea in Israel is known for its healing properties, and many people with eczema go there to sit in the sun and swim in the water. Scientific studies support the benefits. One clinical study looked at the experience of more than 1,500 people with eczema and found that 95% of skin was cleared in people who had stayed at the Dead Sea longer than 4 weeks.

This struck me immediately.

I began intensely researching about the Dead Sea and eczema, and I was noticing that many of the more “natural” articles included this in their remedy list.

But how could I take the Dead Sea with me?

They sell Dead Sea Salt!

I searched every store I went to around town and could not find it… So I took what I considered to be a risk (since I am a single mom and the product was relatively expensive for something that would probably fail anyway), and I bought it on Amazon here.

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Nowadays, however, stores may carry some products with a little bit of Dead Sea salt in there. Trust me when I say that those mixed products are not likely to be potent enough to help, and the additives in those mixed products may react with your (or your child’s) skin! You need to get the real deal, which is 100% Dead Sea Salt from the Dead Sea. This brand is the best that I have used so far, and the pricing is pretty fair.

What I started off by doing was putting two whole cups in his bathtub. The first time I did this, he screamed and said that it hurt. I almost cried, but after reading all of the reviews on Amazon about this product (and other Dead Sea salt products available on Amazon) I felt like I needed to stick it out and try it. I went with my gut and told him that he needed to get through the pain for him to feel better. Luckily, I had just bought some new bath crayons, so he did give in.

A few minutes later he said, “Mommy, this feels so good!” 

Normally during baths he would itch his skin the entire time. However, when I began adding the Dead Sea salt in the bathtub I could tell that he was scratching significantly less and less.

I cried. It was a miracle! I did that for a few days, and it really seemed to be helping.

However, I wondered what I could use during the bath time for shampoo and soap that wouldn’t irritate his skin (and that would maybe help).

I researched ingredients to look for, and I made a list. I dedicated several days to making lists that had cross-overs in terms of ingredients. I began, again, scouring the internet for product solutions. This time, since I trusted Amazon a bit more with this problem and because they do have some great product reviews, I began obsessively checking out the reviews of every single eczema product available for bathing children. I was basically obsessed with trying to fix this problem–see, I’m a good mommy! 😉

I experimented with a few products based on their reviews and the ingredients that I saw in them, and I finally found one that immediately began helping. You can buy it here.

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That helped bath time amazingly! I noticed that his skin didn’t get irritated when I washed him with it (his skin use to get redder and itchier), and it seemed to help heal his wounds a bit! It also seemed to help soothe him. 🙂

(I will say that this type of body wash is more of a concentrated type of product. A small blob goes a long way, but you have to get a good lather. To achieve a good lather, as well as a soft touch, I bought two packs of microfiber towels from the dollar store. I wanted to make sure that  was able to feel how soft they were before buying. Some dollar stores have some great ones!)

Anyway, I also had been using that product on his hair until I found this:

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I like this product for his hair because it lathers a lot more than the previous product I mentioned, which makes it easier to clean his hair. I also loooove that it has a slight citrus scent, and it is so slight that it doesn’t cause him to break out!

However, as much as this combination of skincare was helping, it wasn’t taking away the itch during the day and allowing my son’s wounds to fully heal. I had read that you should keep eczema moist for the skin to heal and to prevent further itching, and I felt like some kind of lotion would definitely help with that part. Here’s what I found to do the trick!

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This stuff is so amazing!

At first, my son absolutely hated it. I think he felt like it was going to sting and have an uncomfortable feel like the prescription steroid ointment he once used. The first few times he would scream and cry, and I felt horrible again, but then he would say that it felt a lot better! It also is nice because it is a lotion that soaks into your skin and doesn’t leave gross residue behind.

This stuff is like “superfood” for your skin! His “itchies” began to heal up very quickly! (If you don’t believe me, read those reviews on Amazon and look at the before and after pictures!)

Now, bath time is something he looks forward to!

He is not constantly anxious, upset, or mad about his skin, and his skin does not have itchy, bleeding sores or red bumps! It is smooth skin that now matches the surrounding skin!

I cried when the last open wound healed. It was a 6 year battle!

I know that it was the combination of things that cleared this up, and these are the only things that worked for my son!

If you are on a tight budget (such as myself) it may seem like this stuff costs a lot more than other kid’s shampoo, body wash, lotion, etc. But, comparably, you might be saving money. I know that this small bottle of body wash for my son costs $20. However, I am almost out of it (as of today), and I bought it right before Christmas!

Difference between then and now

A little really goes a long way…

I have always used a dollop of the shampoo and the body wash. I don’t have to work the shampoo into a lather because it lathers quite easily.

However, I do have to work the body wash into a lather. I do so by putting the dollop directly on a damp microfiber washcloth and briskly rubbing the washcloth on itself. Sometimes I’ll quickly dip the corner of the washcloth in the bathtub and rub it on itself again.

But don’t be too stingy with how much lotion or Dead Sea salt you use in the beginning! Basically, the more the better when you’re getting started with that stuff. Once the open wounds heal, then you can back off of using so much product!

When my son first started using the lotion, I would slather his entire body up. I made sure to put enough on him that after I had (very gently, but effectively) rubbed the lotion into his skin, I would create a second, thick layer of lotion on the areas that were problematic. Imagine the dorky 90s dads that put the sunscreen lines under their eyes: that thick. I would not rub this second layer in; I would put him to bed like this or in his clothes in the morning like this.

Now, when my son’s “itchies” flare up, they are literally a localized small pink patch of skin that itches slightly. We just put some of the relief lotion cream on, and his skin stops itching! I only use the lotion as needed, which is not often at all! We used it the other day for a spot that was itchy, two days in a row. That was the first time we had used it in several weeks!

When I first started making his Dead Sea salt baths, I would start with 2 cups of the salt. When his skin started healing more, I began to put less and less into the bathtub. I am now down to 1/4 of a cup in his bathtub for maintenance and to help him detox his skin.

Just so you know, we still use special detergent and dryer sheets so that his clothes don’t cause his eczema to flare up. Here’s what we use:

All Free Clear Detergent

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All Free Clear dryer sheets

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We did, however, start off using Dreft detergent. All, however, was more affordable and readily available in stores when I needed something immediately.

Most of these products, as far as I know, are only available through Amazon or through their websites (if they even have them). The exception is the detergent and dryer sheets. As I mentioned before, I have an Amazon Prime account, and I highly recommend getting one because you get free 2 day shipping (plus all kinds of other great stuff)! Get a free 30 day trial of Prime on me by clicking here! 

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When I’m running low on a product, there is no need for me to wait too long. If I order the products I need, even at the last minute, I’m comforted to know that I’ll get them in two days. They have always been in stock when I’ve needed them! This means no wasted trips for me to the store to find what I need is not available, plus no using gas and money to go to the store to purchase things, and no “oh no!” moments where I am freaking out trying to put in the time to make it to the store. I really love that these products are available through Prime, as it has been incredibly helpful in keeping our house stocked!

Revelations from this nightmarish experience

  • January 21, 2015 is the day I began his new skincare regimen.
  • February 20, 2015 is the day my son began to have his Section 504 plan implemented.
  • My son’s behavior began to dramatically change around the end of April 2015.

Now, most people would justify the change in behavior due to the Section 504. While it certainly helped, his teachers and other “professionals” involved with him at school were not consistent enough to help proceed with his changes, and the changes that were in his Section 504 plan were not that much different than what was already being implemented in class.

His behavior changed more dramatically in terms of how “aggressive” he was with others. His listening, attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity issues were still there. However, he stopped getting suspended for “aggression” around the end of March 2015. He was much more cognizant of his classmates in April 2015.

The only explanation, in my book, is:

  1. His eczema was nearly healed.
  2. He was off the topical steroids for several months, and so any residual steroids had left his system.
  3. He was addicted to topical steroids.
  4. He was past the withdrawal stage for topical steroid addiction.

As the months went by his aggression towards others has significantly decreased. He occasionally will have some issues, but they are more-so impulsive issues that are not nearly as intense or aggressive as before, and they are quite rare.

 

My only hope is that this helped at least one other person out there!

I hope what I’ve shared with you sheds some light on how to treat eczema and/or the fact that behavior and disorders such as ADHD can be further agitated by eczema!

If you have noticed any correlation between bad behavior and eczema and/or if you have had any successes with treating eczema, please comment below! 🙂

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