How Naturopathic Medicine Can Help Your Child’s Eczema
Fun fact about me - I love treating children in my practice, because I feel I am still a giant kid at heart. During my clinical internship I was fortunate enough to receive additional training in pediatrics from some of the provinces tops NDs in the field. In my practice, I commonly see the atopic triad in my child patients– eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis. Even though a child hasn’t necessarily been around for a long time, there can be numerous factors contributing to this triad. When a child develops eczema, often parents do not want to apply topical steroids and are looking for alternative options.
How common is eczema?
Anywhere from 10-30% of children in developed countries will develop eczema, with 45% of them presenting with a skin rash before the age of 6 months. It often is heredity, so if one of your parents had eczema, there is a 30% chance you will too
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, often arises in early childhood and occurs due to a dysregulation of the immune system, impaired skin barrier and allergic inflammation. It presents as an itchy skin rash and in children tends to be on the face, scalp and extensor surfaces. Often in childhood the leading contributors to eczema are foods, sweat, physical irritation, environment and exposure to microbes.
The importance of the gut:
It is well known that the gastrointestinal tract has the largest quantity and variety of microbes in the human body, containing up to 10^4 different types of bacteria. The composition of the gut microbiota has been found to vary in children based on circumstances prior, during and after birth. In terms of the development and maturation of the immune system, the gut microbiota plays an essential role even prior to birth. Less diversity in gut microbiota has been found to be associated with atopic eczema.
Natural treatments to try:
1. Looking at the diet:
Often skin rashes are due to a food trigger. A modified elimination diet is great place to start. The largest aggravator tends to be dairy (think beyond cows milk – yogurt, cheese, baked goods), so this is usually the first food that should be evaluated. Other common foods include gluten, egg and soy. If your child is being formula fed, consider switching formulas. If your child is being exclusively breastfed, consider foods mom is consuming.
2. Increase the good bacteria with a probiotic:
As mentioned earlier, the gut plays a pivotal role in our immune system and often we need a little boost of the good guys. This is especially true if your child was delivered via c-section or has had to take antibiotics. There are probiotics available for various ages, including infants and children.
3. Soothe the skin with Oatmeal baths
Oatmeal can provide relief for irritated skin. Either finely grind 1/3 cup of oatmeal and place in the bath or place oatmeal in a sock or pantyhose to create a sponge that can be used on the skin. Soak for 15-20 minutes and gently rub on the skin. Be cautious if your child is sensitive to gluten or oats.
4. Lock in moisture with coconut oil
Studies have found coconut oil to be more effective at soothing the skin than mineral oil. It also has antimicrobial properties that will help prevent any infections from scratches. It is best to moisturize your child within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath. This helps lock in moisture and not further dry the skin out.
Each case is different – be sure to speak to your health care provider or naturopathic doctor about modifying lifestyle factors including bathing times, topical options and household changes or about other interventions that may be appropriate. Feel free to email me any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org :)
Oszukowska M et al.: Role of primary and secondary prevention in atopic dermatitis. Postep Derm Alergol 2015, 6:409-420.
Lyons JJ, Milner JD, Stone KD: Atopic dermatitis in children: Clinical features, pathophysiology and treatment. Immunool Allergy Clin N AM 2015, 35: 161-183.
Katayama I et al.: Japanese guidelines for atopic dermatitis 2017. Allergology International 2016, 1-18.
Munyaka PM, Khafipour E, Ghia JE: External influence of early childhood establishment of microbiota and subsequent health implications. Frontiers in Pediatrics 2014, 2: 109.
Disclaimer: As always, this is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace advice from an HCP. Talk to your ND or MD about your health goals to help optimize health safely and effectively.