Eczema, a topic that is so close to my heart it hurts. For four years I have held my youngest daughter’s hand whilst she writhed in pain; I have bandaged her wounds and woken up during the night to bathe her in tepid water to give her some relief.
What is Eczema? Eczema is a dry skin condition that can affect any area of the body, symptoms can range from mild to severe. The difference between healthy skin and eczematous skin is the breakdown in the skin’s barrier. Eczematous skin is deficient in producing the necessary fats and oils that protect the skin and retain water. In its mild forms it causes dry skin, itching and flaking. In its more severe forms it causes the skin to become red and inflamed, blister, and weep. A breakdown in the skin’s barrier leaves the skin open to infection and this highlights the importance of the role of the skins barrier in protecting the entire body against infection.
The word Eczema originates from the Greek word ‘eskein’ which translates to ‘to boil’. and I am sure any person suffering with this condition will have felt this at some point. It is the most common skin condition in the UK with one in five children and one in twelve adults suffering from Eczema.
Almost every person reading this will have had some experience with eczema or know somebody that has, but what you may not have experience with is the physical and psychological effects it has on the sufferer and those closest to them. Please note I am not a medical professional and do not aim to diagnose or treat anyone suffering with Eczema, I simply a mother that for four years has nursed this condition and spent four years researching this condition, I want to share my experience and offer some solace and guidance for anyone experiencing the same.
Eczema can be a lonely journey; constant scratching, feeling uncomfortable, staying away from triggers and unsightly sores can isolate the sufferer. For both children and adults it restricts your social life, always having to be prepared for a flare up and the questions and the advice that well-meaning strangers love to offer. “Have you tried petroleum jelly? What about paraffin? Have you tried bathing in oats?” The answer is usually yes yes yes!!! I’ve tried everything thank you. It can become tiresome and frustrating.
Before my experience with my daughter I thought of eczema as a dry skin condition and yes for some people it can mean a tendency to have dry skin, whilst others will suffer from cracked, red and weeping skin. What I didn’t know was that eczema can present itself in various forms. Atopic Dermatitis, Contact Dermatitis, Nummular Eczema, Discoid Eczema, Varicose Eczema …the list goes on. Most can be treated with both conventional and holistic treatments however some forms are so stubborn and infection prone it takes hospital admissions, IV antibiotics and strict regimen of bandaging to get it under control, as was my experience with my little one.
In this blog post I don’t want to talk about the pros and cons of steroid creams and conventional medicine because our experience was so dire it was a road we had to take. However, after four years we are now at a stage where we can take the holistic route to recovery and manage the now mild to moderate Eczema. Slowly we were able to get further and further away from medical treatment and able to treat the skin with natural products.
I can recommend Calendula extract for both bathing and topical applications; this is particularly useful if you suffer from red, inflamed Eczema. Calendula reduces swelling and minimises the risk of infection, perfect for treating eczema at the first sign of a flare up. Taking a closer look at some of Calendula’s chemical constituents helps to understand why it is so beneficial for eczematous skin. A combination of flavonoids, terpenoids, and flavonol glycosides all provide the skin with an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect. Thick butters and balms such as Shea and Tamanu help create a barrier on the skin and lock in moisture due to their high percentage of essential fatty acids such as oleic acid which is also anti-inflammatory and helps stimulate cell regeneration, a necessity for anyone suffering from dry or flaking Eczema.
It is important to look for natural products containing Calendula CO2 extract or Calendula infused oils; products containing Calendula but also contain synthetic fragrances and preservatives may have an adverse reaction on the skin and lead to an increase in symptoms. I would like to add that for anyone suffering with eczema or caring for a child with Eczema It will get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel even when you feel you will never reach it.
Author: Jazmin Starr