I am Melissa, a mummy on a quest against eczema flare ups on my little boy who scratches until he bleeds. Unsatisfied with the temporary relief his prescribed steroid creams offered plus the potential side effects of prolonged use, I explored alternative solutions.
One particular issue we have is night scratching. Being a parent, sleep is as precious as gold! I wasn’t blessed with a good-sleeping toddler who could self soothe to sleep. I’ve read about and tried many different sleep training techniques but they were impossible to implement. A few minutes after leaving his room we could see on the baby monitor that the ScratchSleeves (clothing with silk mitts sewn on) were off and he had begun to scratch until there was blood. There were no winners, only losers – broken skin with the risk of infection and two distraught parents. It was a tiring cycle of patting our toddler to sleep every evening, then again during his night waking, completed in the morning by the grim task of cleaning blood from his bedding, ScratchSleeves and cot panels. Of course, we questioned whether or not it was a learnt behaviour to get us to back into his room, but it was not as there were nights when he did self soothe with no scratching. These were his non flare up days.
We initially tried various lotions and potions that were coined “miracle” creams for eczema sufferers. There were mixed results, often short lived before a flare up occurred. After a visit to the Jan de Vries clinic and a Chinese Medical Practitioner, things really started to improve when we changed his diet. This involved removing or reducing citrus fruit and veg, dairy, eggs, shellfish, red meat, bread and fried or baked food. He now consistently self-soothes every night with no scratching and there’s no more bloodied bedding or clothing to clean up in the morning. The relief was enormous! He still has night wakings where his ScratchSleeves come off and we are still trying to figure out a solution for those.
5 Tips to Help Break the Sleep Loss Cycle
Get underlying eczema under better control - applying topical steroids along with regular moisturisers is really important but at bedtime don’t apply the moisturisers thickly as this may overheat your child
Create an environment which will reduce itching - wrapping your child up in a thick duvet in a centrally heated bedroom will probably make the itching much worse. Keeping the bedroom cool by opening a window in the daytime and keeping the central heating on low helps, however, if your child is allergic to tree and grass pollen, keep the window shut at night as the pollen levels rise at night
Use cotton sheets - using plain cotton sheets is better than a thick continental quilt which can often lead to overheating in the early hours of the morning. Loose fitting cotton pyjamas are also a good idea
Develop a good bedtime regime - try to avoid the common problem of letting your child climb into your bed. This may encourage an abnormal behaviour in your child whereby they learn to gain from their eczema and have little reason to stop. It is also likely your bed will be warmer than your child’s which could lead to more itching. It’s best to go to their room, give them the love and care they ask for and then have the courage to leave them to fall asleep in their own room
Your child might just be a poor sleeper - it’s worth bearing in mind that many children without eczema are poor sleepers and your child’s eczema may not necessarily be the reason why your child wakes frequently. If there is no difference in your child’s sleep pattern when his/her eczema is bad or good, then it’s likely that other factors may be contributing to your child’s poor sleep pattern
When reviewing our son’s diet we decided to add watercress. As soon as I heard about the nutritional benefits as well as the anti-inflammatory properties of watercress, I wanted to give it a go and the reasons why are in Episode 2 of our journey.
We are three weeks into our experiment and I am delighted with the positive effect it has been having on his broken skin. Here is a look at our third week’s menu featuring watercress.
Week 3, Day 1
For lunch, I made congee (savoury rice porridge) in our rice cooker which involves 1 part rice and 2 parts water. I also added some minced pork. Then a couple of minutes before serving I stirred in watercress leaves until wilted. It was well received by my little one.
Week 3, Day 2
For dinner, I decided to avoid the colour green in my toddler’s meal and made mild red Thai turkey curry with boiled brown rice. I pan fried red Thai curry paste with turkey thigh mince and added 1 can of coconut water and a sachet of coconut cream to help thicken the sauce. This was left to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes before adding 2 chopped courgettes and leaving to simmer for another 10 minutes to soften. I roughly chopped a large handful of watercress then served it with the red Thai turkey curry spooned on top. When presented to my toddler, it was met with despair and a dramatic refusal to eat it. When coaxing didn’t work, coercion came into play by way of placing a little bit of the sauce onto his lips. After licking his lips, my son grabbed his spoon and quickly ate his dinner with great gusto. The red Thai curry was fragrant with a bite thanks to the diced courgettes and the wilted watercress nicely adding peppery notes to the aroma of the sauce. An overall success with my toddler!
Week 3, Day 3
For tonight’s dinner I made stir fried udon noodles with watercress and mackerel fillets. I pan fried finely chopped garlic and added in the udon noodles along with roughly chopped watercress. I added a dash of water to keep the udon noodles soft, along with a dollop of oyster sauce. For added fun I cut up dried seaweed for my son to sprinkle on top. This was a winner with him! He loved the dish and the added saltiness.
Based on the resounding success of last week’s “ice cream” I decided to make it again tonight – blended frozen banana and strawberries along with a handful of watercress. I was over zealous and added more watercress than fruit resulting in a very green looking dessert. My little one was excited at the prospect of his “ice cream” but after a few conflicted spoonfuls he declared it “too spicy!” In his defence, he was right, the fiery peppery taste of the watercress was overpowering. Whoopsie!
Three weeks into our watercress culinary adventure has been challenging but rewarding; the improvement in my son’s skin has been noticeable. Drumming up more new dishes after 3 weeks could prove tricky but the challenge is most definitely accepted!