Many families face the challenge of dealing with eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis). It’s an itchy rash that can appear on any part of the body, but is more commonly seen on the face, hands, arms, feet, or behind the knees. It often presents as dry patches of skin, but infants can have an oozing presentation.
Eczema can be stressful for both the child and the parents, especially if the child has severe eczema. A child may scratch his or her skin uncontrollably due to the itchy nature of eczema. Unfortunately, scratching leads to the release of inflammatory chemicals, which worsens the itch. This is called the itch-scratch cycle and over time, scratching can lead to the thickening of skin or a secondary bacterial infection. Children with eczema are also more likely to develop other atopic presentations including asthma and allergies.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but there are many theories to why a child develops eczema. Some theories include a hypersensitive immune system, defective skin barrier allowing moisture out and bacteria in, and a genetic predisposition. Naturopathic medicine can be use alone or in combination with conventional medicine to help treat eczema.
Some natural approaches to treating eczema include:
- Identify food allergies. Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, nuts and fish are responsible for over 90% of food allergies in children with eczema . Identifying and avoiding these foods can help reduce symptoms.
- Using an emollient. Using organic coconut oil can help moisturize dry skin. Coconut oil also has antimicrobial properties, which can help prevent secondary bacterial infections. A study using a pediatric population found that virgin coconut oil was more effective than mineral oil in the treatment of mild to moderate eczema .
- Find the right probiotic. Current research is looking into the application of probiotics and immune system modulation. Eczema is thought to be a Th2-dominant pathway. What this means is that our immune cells are producing chemicals that favour an IgE response that is associated with allergies, atopic dermatitis, and asthma . Using the RIGHT type of probiotic can help balance Th1 and Th2 pathways. Furthermore, children with eczema tend to have a different population of bacteria in their gut compared to children who do not suffer from eczema . Speaking to your naturopathic doctor can help you identify the right probiotic for your child.
- Avoid environmental allergens and irritants. Common allergens include dust and unfortunately pets. Common irritants include smoke, detergents, and chemicals found in clothes. New clothing should be washed before wearing to reduce chemical irritants.
- Use a mild pH neutral soap and lukewarm water.
Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice nor does it replace the advice of your medical doctor or other healthcare practitioner. Never delay seeking medical assistance.
1. Bergmann MM et al. Evaluation of food allergy inpatients with atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2013 Jan;1(1):22-8.
2. Evangelista MT et al. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2014 Jan;53(1):100-8.
3. Berger A. Th1 and Th2 responses: what are they? BMJ 2000;321:424.1
4. Thomas DW et al. Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics. Pediatrics 2010;126;1217; originally published online November 29, 2010;