When a parent visualizes their unborn child, they usually picture soft, perfect skin - smooth and unblemished. The growing reality for many parents, however, is learning to help their children cope with irritating and sometimes disfiguring skin disorders. Conditions such as eczema, diaper rash, and even the more benign cradle cap are on the rise. Although many parents have found ways to temporarily suppress symptoms, many have now become determined to resolve their child’s skin condition altogether. The following four steps may do just that. Eliminating a skin condition takes a great deal more effort than suppressing the symptoms, but the reward is once again seeing that perfect skin on your child.
STEP 1 - EASE THE DISCOMFORT
If your child is suffering from itching or pain, it is best to first try offering immediate relief. Constant scratching will inevitably cause further irritation, and potentially a secondary problem such as a bacterial or fungal infection.
Chamomile, Plantain, and Calendula are herbs frequently used for skin conditions. All are soothing and healing and calendula has the added benefit of being anti-fungal. They can be used in an oil, cream, or salve, or prepared as an infusion (tea) and used as a wash.
Vitamin E is soothing and aids healing. It can be added directly to the lotion you are using, or applied by itself.
Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil are both useful for reducing inflammation and relieving discomfort. Topical applications are also ideal for infants who would otherwise have difficulty taking these supplements internally (see below).
Rescue Remedy Cream can bring quick relief to raw and irritated skin.
Herbal nervines such as catnip, passionflower, skullcap, chamomile, and valerian will better help your child relax and lessen the pain and itching. Children may have difficulty sleeping when their skin is itchy and sore, but sleep is vital in helping the body heal itself. Parents will often use over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as Benedryl for relief and to induce sleep. A combination of the above herbs has proven an effective substitute for children.
Bach Flower Remedies will address the emotional component of a child’s skin condition. Stress and anxiety are common triggers, and until addressed will continue to aggravate the skin. Life changes such as starting daycare or school, moving to a new house, or the arrival of a new sibling often correspond with flare-ups. For example the remedy Walnut helps a child cope with change, and Holly can address jealousy. Other remedies may be useful, depending on the needs of the child.
STEP 2: ADD TO THE DIET OR ENVIRONMENT
When working with children and their parents, I often hesitate to ask them to start eliminating many things from their diet and environment. It can become extremely difficult to feed a child a restricted diet if they are already a picky eater. Occasionally the problem can be more simple resolved with the addition of something that may have been otherwise lacking.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are critical to the health of our skin. Breastfed babies obtain their EFAs through breastmilk, so nursing mothers would do best taking additional supplements such as evening primrose, borage, or flax seed oil. Both bottle-fed and breast-fed babies can absorb evening primrose or borage oil directly though their skin. Older children can get their EFAs from foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, flax seed oil, and leafy greens.
Probiotics, commonly referred to as acidophilus, will help support the child’s immune system and is effective in combating a fungal (yeast) infection. Many parents are directed to apply strong anti-fungal creams to their child’s skin. But addressing why the body is unable to resist the infection in the first place is paramount. If your child has ever been treated with antibiotics, you will likely witness a greater susceptibility to fungal infections until the probiotics are re-established in the gut.
Colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and vegetable proteins will provide the nutrients needed for cell growth and immune functioning. Mothers should also consider breastfeeding for as long as possible - especially if their child is susceptible to skin problems.
Garlic is effective in combating infections including those that are fungal. Include plenty in your child’s diet. Hummous, garlic bread, sauces and dips are great vehicles for fresh garlic.
STEP 3: REMOVE SOMETHING FROM THE DIET OR ENVIRONMENT
Food sensitivities and allergies are common amongst sufferers of skin disorders. Dairy, wheat, corn, egg, soy, citrus fruits, and chocolate are the most common triggers. An elimination diet is usually necessary to detect which foods, if any, are causing problems for your child. Breastfeeding mothers should consider altering their own diets as well. Dairy seems to be the most common culprit and therefore is often the first to be tested. Once a food has been completely eliminated, observe any changes in your child’s skin. Occasionally a child may be sensitive to more than one thing in their diet and detective work becomes more crucial. Don’t be surprised to see other changes in your child once the offending food or foods have been eliminated. Symptoms such as respiratory problems and digestive upsets may also disappear.
Refined Foods and Sugar are nutritionally unnecessary and detrimental to your child. Easily converted into simple sugars, refined grain products such as white rice, bread, and pasta may contribute to an overgrowth of yeast. These foods also offer negligible amounts of nutrients and therefore do not support the body’s healing processes.
Environmental sensitivities and allergies are harder to avoid, but important to identify. Some such as second-hand-smoke, animal dander, and household cleaners are easy to eliminate and control for most households. Other concerns such as mold and dust are harder to avoid. Air purifiers are a good step toward control. Avoiding potentially allergenic soaps, shampoos, perfumes, and laundry detergents is especially important.
STEP 4: PREVENT A REOCCURRENCE
Vitamin C, taken regularly, will promote healing and support the immune system. It should be taken in conjunction with bioflavonoids for optimal utilization.
Zinc, Vitamin A, and Beta Carotene will all help protect against infection and aid in healing. Foods rich in zinc include soy beans, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Vitamin A and beta carotene can be found in egg yolks, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and apricots
Keep your child’s skin exposed to fresh air and moderate amounts of sunshine whenever possible. Both will help the skin heal itself and stimulate the body’s healing capabilities. Choose clothing that is ‘breathable’ and non-irritating. Hats, in particular, can aggravate scalp conditions if they restrict air-flow for too long or trap moisture.
Soups, teas, and water will keep your child hydrated. All will moisturize the skin from the inside out and aid the body in eliminating toxins and waste material.