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
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.
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
* 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
* 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.
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
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
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.