Notice anything peculiar about Sam's rash in the above photos? I do. I am noticing that the areas of exposed skin are significantly more irritated than those areas covered by clothing, diaper, and hair. In fact, his diaper area and scalp after growing thick hair have been the least problematic areas of all. From my research, eczema is either ingestion or contact related... sometimes a bit of both, which I think is our case. But to me these photos suggest there is a lot of contact eczema going on.
I found this website: solveeczema.org that outlines how one mother completely cured her son of eczema in 4 months by removing all detergents from their home and switching to PURE soap products. Not Dreft or All Free & Clear mind you, which is what pediatricians and dermatologists will tell you to use on your babies. Those are still detergents, just mild. But some kids can't handle ANY trace of detergent at all. Not even the mild or supposedly hypoallergenic stuff. Did you know that people used real soap for thousands of years before detergents were invented during WWII, and then they were only used for laundry. Detergent use has increased every decade since, especially since the 60's. Guess what else has steadily increased since the 60's? Eczema, asthma, and food allergies. Today there are very few homes that have any true soap cleaning products. Even those labeled "soap" now are often really detergents. There is detergent in household cleaners, make-up, toothpaste, shampoo, body products, moisturizers. It is even in products labeled "all natural" and "organic". It is in your hair and on your skin on on your dishes and in every particle of dust in your home. All those harsh chemicals and toxins flooding our bodies from infancy and being absorbed by that delicate, sensitive baby skin!
What about the increase in food allergies? Well this mother also points out that it makes perfect sense that a good percentage of food allergies (not all mind you) are really detergent allergies in disguise. Just think of the processing and detergent-washed machinery that goes into making so many of our foods. Yes, there is a lot of detergent in all of the processed food at the grocery store, dairy is a big one because of all the machinery it goes through, and even some fresh fruits and vegetables have more detergent in them than others because of how they are cleaned and processed before hitting the stores. What about oatmeal and pasta and rice that might have fewer detergents in the package, but then we get them home and cook them in pans that have detergent residue still on them from the dishwasher, and then we eat them in bowels and with utensils also washed with detergent? She said this more than accounts for some situations where parents are at their wits end thinking their child is allergic to everything they eat because they are constantly breaking out at and around meal times, and not consistently to the same kinds of foods. I know this feeling well! I have often felt like Sam's eczema flare-ups are so random and I could not possibly trace it to one certain kind of food. It could be that its not about the food at all but how it is prepared and served. Detergents!?
I find this all so very fascinating. It gives me a tremendous amount of hope. I could be way off, I mean I'm definitely at that desperate stage where I'm willing to try anything, and almost everything is starting to sound feasible. But this also just makes SENSE. When I look at Sam's eczema 'lines' on his body, I start to see that where he has been wearing shorts and t-shirts lately, his lower arms and legs have been left exposed to rub up against things like carpet and furniture all day long which have much greater accumulations of harsh detergents from years of use (our carpet in our town home is over 7 years old- yuck! And our couches are probably much older, we are the third generation owners on those!) He still has eczema all over his body, but it is worse in the areas of exposed skin. On his clothing would be the All Free & Clear residues which are milder, thus a milder eczema on those areas.
As for switching from detergent to soap products, it is more complicated than simply switching one for the other. The mom who wrote solveeczema.org points out that water alone will not remove stubborn detergents. In the beginning, she had to wash every load of laundry about 6 times - alternating soap and hot water rinses, to get out enough detergent so that it did not irritate her baby. She had to rinse the detergent residue out of the dryer before drying those same loads or all that work would be undone when they went in the dryer. She had to scrub the laundry basket. She had to scour the tub with soap and hot water. All towels and rags used for this product had to already be "superwashed" (that's the 6 cycles) with soap or the cleaning would be useless, detergent-laden rags or towels would just transfer the residue right back to the clean tub. Every person in the house had to use all soap, it could not be a switch just for baby. She had to wash every household surface of residue because ever little trace would irritate. The entire process took 4 months until her son stopped having breakouts and she could declare herself a detergent-free home.
(Not to mention that soap products are not found in regular stores any more. Dove is not even true soap, they changed their formulation in 2007 so it is no longer pure. There are a few true castille soap products at Trader Joes, other than that, most of them have to be special ordered online.)
Once her home was set up as a safe zone, her son's skin health, permeability and ability to naturally moisturize itself improved dramatically. After that, he would still break out when away from home because detergent residue is everywhere, but it would take greater and greater amounts to effect him as his skin health improved, AND, breakouts were much easier to get rid of. It wasn't long before the contact eczema would literally "wash away" in the bathtub, all it took was a bar of true soap to get that detergent residue out of the skin and it would be gone within an hour of bath time. That detergent-free home environment is what really made the difference and gave his skin enough time to heal and normalize between flare-ups caused from outside.
Some parents using her website who have tried this method have also reported huge improvements in asthma symptoms.
So this is the journey we are about to embark upon. I am excited and hope this will be a big part of our solution, if not THE solution. Wouldn't that be awesome? Sounds like a lot of work but not more work than it is to be up for hours at a time night after night trying to soothe a suffering child and live with a pain in my heart day to day. I still have Sam on a special diet that comes from the book "Healing Psoriasis" that promotes natural healing through ridding the body of toxins, and I think that may be helping as well. It's hard to tell but his chest and back seem to be clearer than before, if we can get rid of detergents also maybe that will be the key to clearing up the rest of his body.