Reviewed by Sheila Kilbane, MD.
Nine-year-old boys are a little oblivious to life sometimes.
They could probably have a frog stuck in their ear and not notice for a few weeks.
If they hadn’t had a shower in a month, I doubt they’d remind the parents they’d been forgotten.
And if a 4×4-inch spot on their leg is supremely itchy, bleeding and crusty, they might not say a word for weeks.
Weeks, I’m telling you.
I know this because I had a 9-year-old boy…who didn’t tell his parents about just such a rash…or sore…or who knows what? By the time we found it – perhaps because he was digging and scratching at it like crazy – we didn’t know if it was road rash from a fall gone infected, poison ivy, some unknown skin condition or what!
Me: “Did you fall, or get an injury of some sort? Did you scrape it while climbing a tree maybe or fall off your bike?”
9-year-old boy: “Ummm…I dunno.”
Me: “You don’t know if you fell down or not? You can’t remember if this is bleeding because of a tree?”
When after a few days or a week of observing and applying some salve when we thought of it, the thing was clearly getting bigger, we figured it couldn’t be a scrape or abrasion.
We hit it harder and daily after that, using a few salves infused with things like comfrey, plantain, some healing essential oils and nourishing base oils, our hard lotion bars, and Redmond clay, and we kept it from spreading for a month…but we couldn’t make any improvements beyond that. The clay seemed to help the most especially if I applied a layer, waited 15-20 minutes and then washed it off, and we’d also usually follow with salve as well (so maybe it was just because we used two things).
In the face of the unknown, we treated the “rash” as if it might be contagious, washed our hands religiously, and didn’t let other kids touch it or reuse any washcloths. But it was still pretty nasty looking, bleeding enough that blood was on his sheets and pajamas, and while it wasn’t spreading, it certainly wasn’t showing any signs of receding either.
He had given up sweets for Lent and our family went 100% gluten-free during that time as well, and I wondered if going back to junk food after that made him flare up somehow. The timing was likely about right, although of course we didn’t know exactly when the beast had shown up, so who knows…
We had well-child checkups in mid-June, about 6-8 weeks after we discovered the problem.
“Any other questions?” doc asked.
“Well…what do you think this is?” I asked, pointing.
I didn’t expect the answer to be something I recognized, to be honest.
I’m pretty well-versed in eczema, since this same boy had had it mildly but often as a little one, and my husband has some chronic spots on his hands, ears, inner eyes and feet (I always wonder how much this may be related to his Crohn’s Disease).
My eyes popped out of my head and my jaw dropped when she quickly diagnosed the “unknown rash” as eczema.
I couldn’t believe it, not only that (a) I hadn’t recognized it and really hadn’t even considered it, but most of all that (b) it was soooo severe. Its severity is likely why I didn’t recognize it, and I was also shocked that (c) it had returned on this kid after a number of years without any issue. (At least, that I knew of. When a child starts taking his own showers instead of bathing like a small child, the mother doesn’t get as many opportunities to see all of his skin.)
Now at least we knew what it was and could start treating it like eczema, which really was about the same as what we had been doing (salve, clay) except that we knew we should also moisturize it and keep it from drying out. With something like poison ivy, it’s better to let it dry out, so now we could start using our hard lotions bars more regularly. We tried to do lotion in the morning (when we’d remember) and a salve at bedtime.
Serendipitous Eczema Solution in my Email
Right about this time I rediscovered an email buried in my awfully full inbox from Ashley and Katie of the Crunchy Mamas. I had asked them if they had any new products to highlight, and their reply, which had been far too long ignored because I wasn’t sure how to answer, was this:
We are so stinking proud of Inflamed! Does someone in your family suffer from severe acne, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea? If so, we would love for you to give Inflamed a try. Our lotion stick is also new and so amazing. I think people are scared to try lotion in a stick form and minus synthetic fragrance oils, so it would be nice to shed some love on our lotion stick as well.
What timing! I replied right away this time.
“Inflamed took us a long time to research and test and we are beyond thrilled about how it works but just to be on the safe side you may want to check into all of the oils for yourself. I’m sure you will. You seem like a gal that does her research and I can definitely appreciate that 🙂
I sincerely hope that Inflamed helps your son. I have a girlfriend and her son has the worst eczema I’ve ever seen. It hurt my heart so bad to see him itch to the point of bleeding and to see my friend feel so helpless and lost. We started making Inflamed for them and fortunately, combined with a change in diet, it has been helping them so much.
I’m so impressed with the mandarin, sweet orange, and ylang ylang essential oils [In the lotion]! They do a great job of softening skin and relieving dryness.
I told the boy that we were going to get a new salve to test that’s specifically for eczema, and he wanted to know what’s in it. 🙂 That’s my boy!
We started our regimen of applying (at least) the lotion stick in the morning and the oil at night. The lotion stick is really nice because the boy can easily apply it himself – it’s a bit softer than our hard lotion bars, has beneficial essential oils in it for particular healing, and being in stick form is helpful for little ones to apply.
The “before” pictures were taken literally the night before we started using Inflamed, June 24th.
The Eczema Story Continues
Somewhere in mid-summer the eczema jumped to the other leg, much to our dismay although thankfully not so severe or large, and we tackled it with vigor using the same products. That went away completely in a few weeks, which was such a relief.
After a while the boy started calling the ladies behind Inflamed by name, and when he would see another Crunchy Mamas product in our house he would say, “Oh, that’s made by Katie and Ashley, right?” Clearly the oil was making some sort of impact!
The eczema seemed to really be improving when we left for and during our 2-week vacation to visit family around Michigan, and we remained really consistent in applying our twice-a-day lotion stick and Inflamed, even though we were out of all our other eating, sleeping and chore routines. During this time, the boy would have had plenty more gluten than usual and more sweets, but for the most part we still ate pretty well (my mom is a real foodie too, lucky us!!).
Once we got home, I took the “after” pictures almost exactly 6 weeks after we had started using both of Crunchy Mamas’ products. I thought the rash area had been getting better, and I was finally able to compare and confirm that, yes, definitely, it was much improved!
I had been pretty sure we weren’t getting anymore blood on the sheets or PJs, which meant he wasn’t digging at it during sleep, and he said that while the Inflamed didn’t really help calm the itching, the lotion stick definitely did. (Similarly, the hard lotion and salves seemed to help in that arena, while the body’s initial reaction to clay is increased anti-histamine response = more intense itching. Typically that also means the itching decreases a few minutes after the clay is removed, but kids have a hard time embracing something that makes you feel worse first.)
I was so excited to have proof that something we were doing was working! However – a week after returning home from our northern Michigan vacation, we had a set back.
By Wednesday or Thursday of that week, the eczema was getting markedly worse in the original area AND had hopped back to having three spots on the other leg, AND the few small spots around his mouth (that had previously disappeared and were no longer being treated) appeared again. No fun!
I can’t tell you how many doctors have told me that a skin issue likely isn’t related to food, even eczema. Dr Shiela Kilbane is convinced otherwise. In this interview I talked to her about how she became convinced, and how eliminating one food can make a HUGE difference for eczema.
I know eczema often has environmental or food causal or exacerbating factors, like this great guest post explains, so I set to brainstorming what might be going on:
- Had he had more gluten, dairy, preservatives or “food” chemicals? That week we had eaten acceptable but sort of compromise dinners because of Vacation Bible School and its timing, and each night he had a typically atrocious, food-coloring-laden snack at VBS as well. But…it just didn’t seem like it could be that markedly different from the compromises and “fun food” we ate while away from home. Verdict: Possible but unlikely. NOTE: We have a fabulous guest post here from a mom who totally cured her baby’s eczema with dietary changes, and it’s WELL worth checking out.
- Were the sheets or clothing washed in different laundry soap? My mom and I actually both use Naturoli Extreme 18x (although I’m constantly trying new laundry options as review samples here and there, but I would have still expected there to have been more obvious ups and downs at home if that was the case). Verdict: Unlikely at best.
- How consistent had we been in applying the lotion and oil? We did miss an application of the oil that week and at least one of the lotion, but I thought we remained pretty consistent overall. Verdict: Possible but unlikely.
- Was there something about our house or our environment in West Michigan that was aggravating the eczema? Many in the family also got some allergy-type sneezes our first week back, and I realized that I hadn’t blown my nose once while I was at my parents’ and then suddenly had little sneezes and a mildly itchy and runny nose off and on. What was going on??? Did we need to move back to Northern Michigan? Verdict: Intriguing…and frightening.
Was it possible we simply compromised more than we thought that week of Vacation Bible School and less on our actual vacation, and that all of these reasons, combined with a few missed treatments, caused the flare-up? We rededicated ourselves to consistency and tried to add at least one additional application per day of something on the spots and sat back to see what would happen.
The spots on his face cleared up quickly, and we again knocked out the few spots on his other leg. I feel like it wasn’t long before the original location was back to the status of the “after” photos above. But it was certainly a strange setback and not-so-fun surprise!
We went on vacation to Florida late that summer too, and between the climate change, the sheets definitely not washed in anything verging on natural and all the chlorine in the pools, it’s certainly possible that something could have aggravated his eczema and made it worse. It looked pretty good that week though, definitely more along the lines of the “after” photos.
Grandma Gets Eczema Too
My mom had been battling a really annoying, dry, itchy skin problem since late winter, and when she had her yearly physical, the doc also diagnosed “eczema,” much to her surprise. She had never experienced anything in the eczema family before.
He ran through a massive list of possible causes, and none of them made any sense to her since her diet, lifestyle, etc. hadn’t truly changed (except for the better, moving toward more natural and fewer chemicals) over the years.
Until he hit “stress.”
They looked at each other, thought of my dad’s battle with cancer and all the stress that obviously had added to my mom’s life, and nodded. “I guess that must be it…”
While we were at their house visiting – which I can’t imagine reduced her stress as we don’t exactly bring a whirlwind of calm when we come for 10 days! – she tried the Inflamed oil on one arm/hand and a sort-of-natural hydrocortisone based cream on the other.
After slightly more than a week, she was very pleasantly surprised to say that the itching overall had died down almost completely on both arms, and for the first time all summer, the dryness and redness had receded quite nicely as well. (She had previously just been keeping those symptoms slightly at bay with hard lotion.) All the photos are “before” shots by the way.
Once we left, my mom stopped using either healing option.
And it all came back.
So the hypotheses include:
- Inflamed is as effective as hydrocortisone cream.
- My kids reduce her stress or are somehow eczema relief activators.
I wish my mom had continued with the cream on one arm as she had to stop the Inflamed on the other to see what the difference was, but we don’t have that data at this time. Maybe I should have sent her a bottle for a side-by-side test with nothing on the other arm.
We Finally Healed Our Eczema with one Simple New Habit
The eczema definitely was better on the trip to Florida in September and then surged worse again when we got home, lending some credence to the idea that there might be something in our home environment that was bothering him (or that chlorine played a role in healing).
Then my 6yo daughter got a patch in the exact same spot on the same leg as my son, and it quickly spread up her leg and across the waist area to the other leg. What? How is it happening in the same spot?
We began using the same regimen on her as our older son, and it was beating the eczema back but not winning 100%. She worked hard not to scratch her itchies, so her skin looked ultimately much better than his.
Our 3yo boy was just getting out of diapers and potty training when our fourth was born at the end of October, and he finished the job of getting into underwear full time that week. And eczema showed up in the SAME spot on him, too!
Now I really had to be a detective. This was so crazy!
I thought and thought about our environment at home and finally decided that if it was something bothersome like the water, a detergent, air quality, a mattress, or anything else, their patches still shouldn’t be in the same spot.
What do all 3 children touch with their bare upper left legs???
That’s the only connection I could think of and the fact that our 3yo had it flare up just as he was sitting on the toilet more often added fuel to that fire. We did 3 things all at once, and one or more of them was the magic button!
- I stopped cleaning toilets with straight vinegar. I figured that could be too harsh, and it had definitely taken the coating off one part of our toilet seat in the main floor bathroom – there were scratches or something that seemed to be allowing the insides of the seat, whatever that’s made of, to become exposed.
- We threw out that toilet seat and got a new one.
- After a few weeks, we went to the doctor’s to ask if he had any ideas. Their first recommendation was simply to moisturize more and deeper.
I brought the oils and she (doc’s PA) said that the oil might not be lasting long enough to keep the patches really, really moisturized. She recommended something with petroleum in it, but I decided the beeswax in MadeOn Hard Lotion would be strong enough for our first line of defense.
I’d been talking with my mom and musing about whether one reason that medicines from the doctor’s office work so well could be simply because we are more diligent about doing them because it’s “doctor’s orders.” Maybe if we would be more consistent with our home remedies, they’d work better.
We spent how much money on a check-up for Paul to be told to use a good lotion three times a day instead of once or twice, started doing it religiously for all three kids, and BOOM. Within a few weeks, all three of them were 95% cleared up and then it all pretty much disappeared.
When their skin gets very dry, it might flare up a little, but it’s so minor and back to the hard lotion bar we go!
So for us, the culprit and solution were either a toilet seat environmental reaction or that we just needed to heavily moisturize more often than we had been doing.
Isn’t it crazy that sometimes, all it takes is an expensive opinion to do something more often and be more consistent about it?
Willpower and self-discipline are more valuable than ever!
What you Need to Kick Eczema to the Curb
Remember, eczema is an autoimmune disorder that manifests itself through the skin, not a skin disorder. Topical treatments can certainly improve it or in some cases make it go away altogether, but sometimes the gut needs major healing before things truly clear up all the way.
- Buy some MadeOn Hard Lotion – bars, sticks or tubs, they all work – but apparently you need to use it 3 times a day instead of just at night! Doctor’s orders! (It should be said that obviously I am not a doctor, nurse, or anyone – just a mom. So don’t take my word for it…)
- Or you can make your own hard lotion too!
- Also be sure to read this post about our KS site editor’s daughter’s ongoing battle with eczema along with one more solution not mentioned here.
- I also think a good read is The Eczema Cure – if you don’t know where to start with dietary changes, definitely grab this one!
You’ll notice some of the eczema solutions here and elsewhere online may utilize essential oils…and as you work to perhaps avoid co-pays, steroid creams, and medical advice that treats the symptom, not the problem, you’ll run into “EOs” often.
I want to strongly encourage you to make sure you’re doing some education about essential oils beyond just reading a recipe for a DIY beauty product or a recommendation to treat something with an EO.
I’ve made all sorts of essential oil mistakes – from not diluting oils when they should have been to using oils on my kids that really aren’t recommended for that age group, from using too many drops in a beauty product and stinging faces of my friends to ingesting oils without nearly enough knowledge to be messing around with that.
There’s still so much I still don’t know about essential oils…
…and so many readers are hungry for more information!
Dr. Eric Z and his wife have a great reputation for reliable, high-quality information, and they’ve filmed a 10-Part Video Masterclass that will give you the confidence that you need to make healing remedies for your body & non-toxic natural recipes for your home with essential oils.
Their Essential Oils for Abundant Living Masterclass distills down what takes aromatherapists months and even years to learn and delivers an easy-to-follow roadmap so you can start to use essential oils in your home with confidence.
Rather read than watch? Nourishing Joy’s Essential Oil Safety Cards and 375-page EO binder are for you!
If you’d like to increase your stock of essential oils, Rocky Mountain Oils is a great brand.
Luckily, no one in my family has any burns, inside or out, to show for it, but not everyone is so lucky. I wrote a post about careful use of EOs that I’d encourage you to read, and there’s also a wonderful masterclass available, Essential Oils for Abundant Living, that you may want to look into. The course is completely NON-BRANDED, which is really important to me.
Other Eczema Relief Options
The KS community always comes through with amazing ideas whenever I ask for help on Facebook, and this question was no exception:
Let’s talk eczema. My son had it mildly as a youngster, and suddenly it’s back with a vengeance, worse than I’ve *ever* seen, at age 9. I know two middle aged ladies who never had eczema in their lives and suddenly have it spreading and itching and driving them up the wall. What gives?
If you know your trigger or what might cause a flare up, let’s share so others can troubleshoot. This is driving me nuts lately!
Here are some of the ideas shared:
vitamins or supplements:
Test to find out if you’re deficient in:
- Vitamin D (try fish oil)
- try probiotics
- try inositol vitamin
- simply hydrate more (from within)
other possible causes:
- seasonal allergies
- unbalanced hormones
- chemical cleaners, air fresheners – switch to green cleaners (maybe avoid vinegar on your toilet seats?)
- stress, fear
- change in weather, location in the world/climate
- nickel from canned food linings, fillings, or jewelry
- adrenal fatigue
- mold or environmental allergens/older homes
- parasites (do a parasite cleanse)
- dental work
- antibiotic use or even overuse of decongestants/chronic colds
- misdiagnosis – for example, some have ringworm or dermatitis or a staph infection and docs say “eczema”
Remove from Diet:
- chocolate (related to blood sugar)
- acidic fruits (pineapple, oranges)
- dairy or processed dairy (some have great success switching to raw milk or only fermented dairy)
- artificial food dyes
- any elimination diet meal plan – but sometimes the gut needs major healing before things truly clear up
- testing for food sensitivities (not allergies) can help: ALCAT and Alletess tests
- a helpful reminder: eczema is an autoimmune disorder that manifests itself through the skin, not a skin disorder…
creams and such
- Aveno Eczema Therapy
- steroid cream (but…)
- hard lotion bars
- weekly soak in dead sea salts
- switching to Arbonne products (although my caveat is that when I read their ingredients, they don’t pass muster with me)
- Cetaphil’s soap and lotion for eczema
- fragrance-free lotions only
- BabyGanics Eczema cream
- UNDA 270 ointment
- here’s a homemade eczema cream
- rubbing half water-half apple cider vinegar over the area and letting it sit, then rinsing. Then coconut oil mixed with lavender essential oil.
- avoiding harsh soaps or even touching acidic foods: raw meat, avocado, tomatoes, etc. (use gloves)
Be sure to read this guest post about the author’s daughter’s ongoing battle with eczema along with one more solution not mentioned here.
Eczema could get an award, I think, for being the most popular ailment of our time. Boooooooo!
Too bad it’s not a fad like skinny jeans, right?
We’ve just got to keep working on finding the cause (or causes!) and using good stuff on the outside in the meantime to find relief.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from which I will earn a commission. See my full disclosure statement here.