Eczema Treatment

 

Eczema Treatment & Remedies

There are a number of different complementary and alternative (CAM) approaches that have been used to treat atopic dermatitis (eczema), in part because the disorder is so widespread among children.

In fact, infantile eczema is one of the most common conditions for which parents seek help from alternative practitioners.

Most alternative therapies for eczema fall into one of the following groups.

NATUROPATHY. Naturopathy is a commonly used form of alternative treatment for eczema. In one British study it was found effective for 19 out of 46 children in the subject group. Naturopaths favor food elimination diets as a way of managing eczema, as well as lowering the child's overall intake of animal products.

They recommend adding fish oil, flaxseed oil, or evening primrose oil to the child's diet to improve the condition of the skin, as many naturopaths believe that deficient intake of essential fatty acids is a major cause of eczema.

With regard to botanical products, a naturopath may suggest herbal preparations taken by mouth as well as topical creams made from herbs. Oral preparations may include extracts of hawthorn berry, blackthorn, or licorice root, while topical preparations to relieve itching typically include licorice or German chamomile.

One German study found that a cream made with an extract of St. John's wort relieved the symptoms of eczema better than a placebo, but the herbal preparation had not as of 2004 been compared to a standard corticosteroid cream.

HOMEOPATHY. Homeopathy is the single most common CAM approach to eczema in Europe, although it is frequently used in the United States as well. One German study followed a group of 2800 adults and 1130 children diagnosed with eczema who were treated by homeopathic practitioners. The researchers found that over 600 different homeopathic remedies were recommended for the patients, although Sepia , Lycopodium, Sulphur, and Natrum muriaticum were the remedies most frequently prescribed.

Prevention

While eczema in children cannot be completely prevented, NIAMS offers the following tips to parents as they try to help control the severity and frequency of flare-ups:

* Keep the child from scratching or rubbing the affected areas whenever possible.

* Avoid dressing the child in rough or scratchy fabrics and protect his or her skin from high levels of moisture.

* Keep the house at a cool, stable temperature with a consistent humidity level, using a humidifier during the heating season in colder climates.

* Quit smoking and do not allow others to smoke inside the house.

* Limit the child's exposure to dust, pollen, and animal dander. Some doctors recommend installing special filters in the house to remove dust and pollen from the air, removing carpets from the floors, or encasing mattresses and pillows with special covers to control dust mites.

* Recognize when the child is under stress and lower the stress level in the household if possible.

Nutritional Concerns

Children and adolescents should avoid foods that trigger their eczema. The most common offenders in flareups are peanuts and peanut butter, eggs and milk, seafood, soy, and chocolate. Long-term food elimination diets as a strategy for controlling eczema are discussed below.

Children with moderate or severe eczema often develop eroded areas or open cracks in the skin around the mouth from licking their lips or from allergic reactions to specific foods. They should apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the mouth before a meal to avoid irritation from citrus fruits, tomatoes, and other highly acidic foods.

The doctor may suggest a food challenge in order to identify a food or foods that may be triggering the child's skin rash. In a food challenge, a particular food is eliminated from the child's diet for a few weeks and then reintroduced.

Children or adolescents with eczema must use extra care when bathing or showering. The doctor may recommend a non-soap skin cleanser, as standard bath soaps tend to dry and irritate the skin. If soaps are used, they should never be applied directly to broken or eroded areas of skin.

Children with eczema should also avoid unnecessary exposure to extremely hot, cold, moist, or dry outdoor environments. They should take care to avoid getting sunburned and should avoid participating in sports that involve physical contact or cause heavy perspiration.

When following these treatments to control and cure eczema, be sure to adhere strictly to the guidelines prescribed by your doctor for each one.

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