Jade’s cheerful toddler smile shines out from between two bright red cheeks. Last weekend, a fellow we met glanced down at her and asked, “Oh, is she teething? Our kids always looked like that when they were teething.” I wanted to say she’s almost 3 so she’s not teething, but I just smiled and answered, “No, she has eczema.”
It’s taken us almost two years to reach that conclusion. The rash on her cheeks first appeared when we went back to Alberta for her first Christmas. She was 9 months old at the time, and I thought maybe the switch from wet coastal weather to dry prairie weather caused the sudden reaction in her skin. However, when we returned to BC, the rash didn’t clear up, so I blamed dairy.
Jade was just beginning to eat solids then, picking food from our plates as it interested her. For Christmas, everyone made mashed potatoes and that was one of the easiest things to feed a 9-month-old baby. Of course, the mashed potatoes were also full of butter and milk. I didn’t introduce dairy to the other girls until they were past 1 year, so I thought maybe Jade’s system just couldn’t handle it yet.
I tried to eliminate dairy from our diet, but it seemed once she’d started it, I couldn’t stop it. Her older sisters had cheese or yogurt and she got some. And because I was nursing, I also needed to stop eating it myself. I’d go to Starbucks, order a latte, and drink half of it before remembering that I should’ve gotten soy. So Jade kept eating dairy, and her rash, while it sometimes seemed to get a bit better, never totally went away.
Finally, in the spring, I took her to see our doctor. She diagnosed a secondary infection and prescribed antibiotics and hydrocortisone cream to clear up the rash. Eczema was mentioned at the time, but our doctor didn’t seem to think it was that. She referred us to an allergist. However, it took several months to get in to see the allergist. By the time we got there, Jade’s cheeks were clean and smooth as they were supposed to be. She didn’t react at all to the allergy tests (not even a cry for the pricks!) and the allergy doctor told us, “Well, I’m sorry she’s healthy, because I can’t help you.”
All that summer, Jade’s skin was fine. That winter, she had dry skin again, but I was able to treat it by doing a daily lotion routine. Every night before putting Jade to bed, I slathered her arms, legs and torso with lotion. When summer came, I started to get lazy with Jade’s skincare routine, but it didn’t seem to matter. We stopped doing the lotion and her skin was fine.
Then winter hit again. Jade began scratching her arms, sometimes making them bleed, which looked terrible (even if it was a small scratch). Then she began scratching her bum and developed what I thought was a bad diaper rash. I switched from cloth diapers to disposable diapers and back again, tried different creams, but the diaper rash continued. Finally, I went cold turkey with the diapers and decided we’d toilet train. That resulted in great frustration for both of us for about a week, before Lily got involved with the potty training.
Now I had a potty trained toddler, but her skin was still terrible—and the rash was back on her cheeks. So we made the trek across the city to see our doctor. She again diagnosed a secondary infection (because of Jade scratching the rash) and referred us to a pediatrician. The oral and topical antibiotics cleared up Jade’s skin except for her cheeks.
We were able to see the pediatrician within two weeks. She carefully checked over Jade’s skin and listened to my recital of Jade’s problems. I remember, just a few days after Jade’s birth, asking my midwife about the dry skin on Jade’s hands. I hadn’t noticed that with my older two girls when they were born. My midwife suggested using whatever lotion I used for myself. So Jade has had dry skin from birth. The pediatrician said it was eczema.
With that diagnosis, I felt a great deal of relief. While I’m not happy she has eczema, at least I now know what I’m dealing with. Trying to treat her rashes and scratching and other skin problems had been frustrating when I didn’t know what it was or what was causing it. Knowing that it is all related to eczema gives me something to research, something to fight.
Having the diagnosis also makes me wonder why we didn’t figure it out sooner. However, Jade’s eczema doesn’t look like the eczema that my friend’s daughters have. Since it cleared up in the summer, I’d forget about it. Eczema is also usually considered genetic, and I didn’t think anyone in our family had it. I’ve since realized that we do have family members who have skin problems.
My past few months have been spent researching eczema and trying to find out what causes Jade’s skin to flare up. This is just the start of her diagnosis and our attempts to treat it, so I’ll be sharing more about it as we learn more.
Do you or your child suffer from eczema or dry skin? What has helped you to diagnose the problem and treat it?