Eczema News – Childhood Eczema linked to Headaches

In a paper published August 2015 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dr Jonathan Silverberg studied an association between eczema and headaches. The cause of headaches could have come from (i) sleep disturbances or (ii) fatigue that eczema children suffer from.

Method of study: Analysis of data from 401,002 children and adolescents in 19 US population-based cross-sectional studies from the National Survey of Children’s Health 2003/2004 and 2007/2008 and the National Health Interview Survey 1997-2013.

Childhood Eczema and Headaches

Childhood Eczema and Headaches

Results: From the analysis, eczema was associated with headaches in 14 of 19 studies. It was found that eczema children had a higher prevalence and likelihood of headaches. In particular, children with eczema that was associated with atopy, fatigue, excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, and only 0 to 3 nights of sufficient sleep had even higher odds of headache than eczema alone.

MarcieMom’s take – I couldn’t find other studies on Pubmed that examine this association but it wouldn’t come as a surprise that there is one; after all, how many of us adults don’t have a headache if we’re chronically deprived of sleep? A few other thoughts on sleep and headaches:

#1 Don’t mistake the headache for other illness

In adults, we may reach for the painkiller but this probably isn’t suitable for a child and can’t be taken long-term. Possibly explore antihistamines to see if it help with a better night sleep and of course, treating the eczema to reduce the itch.

#2 Sleep better

Easier said than done – it is still something that our family struggles with, though to a much lesser extent than when the eczema was severe. A few posts that may give you ideas on how to improve sleep at night:

I’ve recently found that dry wrap (as opposed to wet wrap which I have not tried) seemed to reduce the scratching at night. Singapore is pretty humid so instead of wet wrap, sometimes I put a layer of moisturizer (again) before sleep time, and put over a wrap bandage. Marcie’s skin usually appear better the next day and there’s less scratching on the wrapped spot at night. More on wet wrap in link.

Life of Eczema Girl – I just STARTED Sleeping!

Lack of sleep for Eczema Child

I go through this daily!

This is the 24th of my 2nd cartoon series, ‘LIFE OF AN ECZEMA GIRL’. For more cartoon in this series, check out here.

More on sleep and its importance, Heidi Murkoff’s sleep tips (those for babies with eczema) and on music and sleep!

Rise and Shine Feature – Parenting workshop with Heidi Murkoff on Baby Sleep

Parenting Tips from Heidi Murkoff, from Rise and Shine Expo

Parenting Tips from Heidi Murkoff, from Rise and Shine Expo

From 27 to 29 September 2013, Rise and Shine Expo, an informative expo to raise happy and healthy children was held in Singapore. There were more than 100 seminars, workshops and trial classes held and I’m privileged to have the front seat to the workshop by Heidi Murkoff, titled ‘What to Expect in the First Year’.

Heidi Murkoff is the author of ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, a book conceived during Heidi’s first pregnancy and her What to Expect series has since sold more than 34 million copies in US alone and published in over 30 languages. It has even been turned into a film, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, and Elizabeth Banks.

Last week, we’ve covered questions relating to baby feeding and today, we are covering the baby sleep questions asked during the Rise and Shine Expo.

Q1: What is a suggested Bedtime routine?

Heidi:  Bedtime routines are a relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day for both parent and baby – and allows an older, active baby an opportunity to brake gradually for bed, instead of trying to go suddenly from 100 to 0 gradually. A bedtime routine should last about 30-45 minutes and should include a bath, massage, jammies, snack or milk, brushing teeth (if there are any), story time, cuddles and with good night ritual of saying ‘good night’ to family members, toys, animal friends. Keep lights low and music soft (no TV in the background) during the bedtime routine.  A snack of complex carbohydrates and protein can help keep a little one’s blood sugar even through the night, which can result in sounder sleep. Most important advice on bedtime routines: keep them consistent…same time, same amount of time, same order.

Q2: How to encourage afternoon naps?

Heidi:  First watch for your little one’s sleepy cues (yawning, rubbing eyes) and catch them before baby goes from sleepy to overtired (an overtired tot has a tougher time settling down for sleep).  Use a modified, shortened routine for naps – without the bath. Naps are as important for a baby or toddler as nighttime sleep – and in fact babies who don’t nap are less likely to sleep well at night.  Plus, babies do some of their most important developing during sleep, including naps – and it gives little ones a chance to recharge their batteries.  Just make sure the nap doesn’t come so late in the day that it interferes with nighttime sleep.

Q3: What about a baby who keeps waking up in the night?

Heidi: The problem isn’t waking during the night – we all wake during the night, but we’ve learned (hopefully by now!) how to fall back to sleep on our own.  That’s an important life skill that all babies eventually have to learn.  While feeding a baby during the night is fine for younger infants, by 4-6 months, they no longer need those nighttime feeds…they’ve just become a habit.  To help your baby learn how to fall back to sleep on his or her own, look at how he or she is falling asleep at bedtime.  That’s a child’s “sleep association”.  Feed or rock or cuddle your baby to sleep, and he or she will come to expect that same crib-side service at 2 am.  Best to put a baby down for the night drowsy but still not asleep, so he or she can fall asleep on his or her own – and know how to fall back to sleep on his or her own.  Bedtime routines are also a consistent, predictable transition to sleep – a positive sleep association: bedtime routine means I’m getting ready to sleep.

Q4: What about Co-Sleeping?

Heidi: Sleeping with a baby in the same bed generally isn’t recommended by doctors, simply because it can be less safe and has been linked in research to a higher risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  If you do want to sleep in the same bed with your baby, there are safety precautions you must take, such as sleeping without pillows of fluffy blankets, not putting baby against a wall or near any headboard that baby might become entrapped in (or entrapped between mattress and headboard).  Better and safer is to keep baby in the same room with you (being close to you but not in the same bed actually reduces the risk of SIDS), but in a safe sleeping space (crib or bassinet).  SIDS can also be prevented by not over-bundling the baby in heavy clothing (baby should be dressed lightly and the room should be comfortably cool), not putting anything in the crib but the baby (no pillows, blankets, plush toys, or bumpers), and keeping a fan on, circulating air. Also, use a pacifier (if your baby will take one) during sleep.

Do keep this in mind if you share a room (and doctors recommend that you do): babies are noisy sleepers (‘sleeping like a baby’ isn’t really as restful as people think).  They make a lot of noises, they move around a lot in their sleep.  So parents who co-sleep may actually find themselves sleeping less restfully, too, and may pick their babies up more often than necessary.  To avoid this, wait until your baby’s actually awake and crying to offer comfort or a feed.

Thank you Heidi for reviewing these Baby Sleep Q&A; watch out for next week’s post to see Heidi’s reply to other baby’s first-year questions, covering topics from sucking fingers to the dreaded household chores.

Sleep tips for Eczema Baby at OzSuperNanny Hangout

zSuperNanny Sleep Hangout

My questions answered on OzSuperNanny Baby Sleep Hangout and Marcie made a special appearance!

This is again another fun and informative hangout with parenting expert, Angela Jacobsen. The hangout was on Baby Sleep, and below are some Q&A relevant for babies with eczema.

Q: What do you suggest the best routine for bedtime?

A: Routine can including feeding the baby, followed by bath, pajamas, quiet time (transition to less movement and noise), stacked bedtime for those with more than one child, so that every child has one on one time.

Q: Eczema children often can’t sleep through the entire night and wake up frequently due to the itch and scratching. Is there a shortened bedtime routine during the middle of night?

A: Reduce time for each of the bedtime routine, but as with traveling, keeping a routine helps.

Q: Babies with eczema, due to Interrupted sleep, often don’t get enough hours of sleep. How can we help the baby to have sufficient sleep/rest so that growth is not compromised?

A: 12 hours of sleep for a baby and if sleeping at night is an issue, should get the baby to have more day naps or rest time during the day.

Other tips I’ve picked up are:

Dinner should be sufficient, instead of relying on snacks. Avoid snacks before dinner time, and if the children are always hungry before the scheduled dinner time, consider bringing the dinner time forward. Avoid unhealthy snacks. Also have water by the bed.

Keep bedtime, ie the staying in bed part, non-negotiable.

Watch the hangout for more tips, Including covering nightmares, jetlag and whether it’s ok for the children to sleep in the parents’ room and potty training at night.

SOMEONE manages TWO kids!

Jennifer shares on managing a second child when the first has eczema

Jennifer shares on managing a second child when the first has eczema

This is a new series focused on personal journey with eczema while managing a certain aspect of life. Today, we have Jennifer Roberge, whose eldest son Tristan has had eczema from three-month old and shares how she manages taking care of him while having another child. Jennifer is a blogger at It’s an Itchy Little World and a mompreneur who started her own company and online store The Eczema Company – she’s a return guest on my blog and you can read her first interview on her mompreneur journey here. Marcie Mom: Hi Jennifer, thanks for taking part in my 2013 blog series ‘Someone has Eczema’! Share with us a little on the severity of Tristan’s eczema when you were pregnant with your second child; was it tiring even before the second one was born?

Jennifer: During my pregnancy, Tristan (just shy of two years) had severe eczema behind his knees, around his midsection, around his ankles, wrists, and hands. It was dry, flaky, inflamed, and extremely itchy. My husband and I would lie awake with him at night trying to help him settle back down to sleep and try to forget the incredible, over powering urge to itch. So, we weren’t sleeping well to begin with – add to that the end of my pregnancy where sleep tends to evade mothers to be. They weren’t the easiest of times, that’s for sure. The eczema worsened after the baby was born, and continued to cover his body. Around three he was 90% covered, head-to-toe in eczema and resembled a burn victim. It was a difficult balancing act, trying to prevent my son from tearing up his fragile skin and managing an infant.

Marcie Mom: I know that Tristan has allergies too. Did you manage to figure out what’s triggering the majority of his eczema flares and his allergies before the birth of your second child? And did being able to manage somewhat his eczema helped in your decision to have a second child?

Jennifer: To be completely honest, when we decided to have a second child, Tristan’s skin was much less severe, so his condition didn’t really play much of a part in our decision. When things started to worsen during the pregnancy, my goal was to determine all of Tristan’s triggers and to get control over his eczema before the baby was born, but it didn’t happen that way. We hit rock bottom after the baby was born and when Tristan head-to-toe, severe eczema. No one in the house was sleeping, so we went for extreme methods and did a full elimination diet and saw results within days. It was nothing short of a miracle for our family.

Marcie Mom: Do share with us how you manage the breast-feeding, taking care of a new born, when Tristan I suppose do still need attention to his eczema and allergies? What was the toughest part?

Jennifer: Tristan needed constant supervision back then, not because he was only two, but because he’d scratch his skin raw if we left him alone for a minute. So, breast-feeding was extremely difficult. Tristan was very jealous and wasn’t a fan of my alone time with the baby during nursing, so when I was alone with the children, I’d cover Tristan’s hands with ScratchMeNot mittens and distract him with a book during nursing. Yes, I managed to learn how to read to him breast feeding! I also remember I relied on an infant wrap a lot during the first few months. I’d have my baby safely attached to me and I’d have free hands to help Tristan when he needed me. The wrap was essential back then. What was the hardest part of it all? When no one was sleeping – not the baby, not Tristan, not my husband or I. It’s one thing getting up to nurse throughout the night, but add to that frequent wakings and hours spent with an uncomfortable toddler that will do anything in his power to scratch until he draws blood.

Marcie Mom: One final question – what word of encouragement would you give to someone who just found out she is pregnant with a second child while the eldest has eczema?

Jennifer: Buy a good infant wrap or sling. Try to work on determining your child’s eczema triggers before the baby arrives – we waited to late. If your child wakes a lot during the night, try rotating nights with your partner. One night you take all the shifts with your restless child, the next time it’s your partner. And nap as often as you can to catch up on lack of sleep.

Marcie Mom: Thanks Jennifer for sharing your personal journey, it definitely strikes a chord with many moms out there!

Friday Feature – Bedtime routine Q&A with Dr. B

Q&A with Dr Christopher Bridgett

MarcieMom (@MarcieMom) met Dr Christopher Bridgett (@ckbridgett) through Twitter – and learnt that he had a special interest of using behavioural interventions to help people with atopic eczema. DrB trained in medicine at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, then as a psychiatrist in Oxford. He now works in private practice in London. He has co-authored several publications on The Combined Approach, that proposes using habit reversal to stop habitual scratching in atopic eczema. To find out more about behavioural dermatology, click to read DrB’s interview with Peter Norén MD, the Swedish dermatologist who created The Combined Approach.

Marcie Mom: Good morning Dr B; it’s morning but I’ve a question related to bed-time. I set up a bedtime routine of reading books, singing songs, turning off all the lights and playing baby christian songs. We also pray for good night’s sleep! How does routine help a child’s behaviour and how can it help the child’s eczema?

Dr B: Your routine enables learning the desired consequence – a good nights sleep – if all the pieces of the sequence follow each other frequently enough, including the consequence of falling asleep. It’s best to move on from reading, and singing songs, to turning off the lights and saying prayers only when the signs of sleep arriving soon are quite clear!

When you think the child will sleep OK without the routine, it may be tempting to make some short cuts. I suggest that this would be a mistake! If on the other hand, a child is especially fraught, and therefore wakeful, it is best to go slowly along the routine, reading more stories, singing more songs, before the lights are turned off, and good night kisses are given.

Routine usually enables most of us to cope with everyday life. Generally following an established and happy routine means less stress, and changes in routine are usually stressful. And less stress means calmer skin, and less scratching… sounds good for eczema, I think!

DrB ©Christopher Bridgett, London. All rights reserved.

Skin Advice I’ve Learnt from Cosmopolitan (Singapore)

Cosmopolitan Singapore January 2012 Issue

Yes, I’ve actually learnt some new skin-related information from reading Cosmo. In case you’re wondering whether their advice for couples is useful, yes, I think it’s well-written too. I’m just going to list down the skin advice I’ve learnt from this issue, do get a copy and read if you’re interested to know more.

#1 Skin around the eye is very thin, thus more prone to fine lines which becomes more obvious with age. Blinking also increases the fine lines. No wonder, my baby’s eyelid already has lines from scratching eczema!

#2 Skin around the eye does not produce enough sebum, thus a moisturizing yet non-irritating product is needed.

#3 Astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in carrots, helps fight skin aging.

#4 Bluish dark circles are more common in younger women and due to stress and late nights. I’ve hardly slept since my baby is born, no wonder I’m turning into blue panda!

#5 Skin is 90% water and up to a litre of water can be lost through it. Another reminder to moisturize your child, see this link to learn how much to moisturize and this link on selecting moisturizer. Plus keep posted on the new 13-part Sensitive Skin Product Series.

#6 Skin repairs itself most actively from 10pm to 2am. That’s bad news for my baby who sleep around midnight sometimes or wakes up from 12.30-2am to scratch!

#7 Skin temperature increases at night, thus more prone to moisture loss. No wonder my baby keeps scratching at night (her eczema is triggered by heat) versus little scratching in the day.

So, above are 7 advice I’ve learnt which I’m sharing as somewhat applicable for eczema children.

Does Music Help your Baby Sleep Better?

Baby Sleeping - Was she scratching her head?

For us parents with eczema children, we know how difficult it is for our children to have a good night’s sleep. A lack of sleep negatively affects our children’s development and if music can help our children sleep better, why not? For me, I have been singing “ABC Song” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars” to my baby Marcie followed by playing the same compilation of Christian baby songs since birth. Marcie seems to sleep better with the music and her infant care teachers also commented that she looked visibly calmer when the music was played during her nap time. While there is no definitive research done on how music affects baby’s sleep, I found some good reasons for playing music to your child during bedtime:

1.  We all know that music affects our mood and reduces stress (provided you are not listening to noisy music that stresses you out). As stress is a fairly common trigger for eczema, it is good to listen to music that relaxes your child.

2.  There are several testimonies given by parents and sleep therapists that children sleep better with music and also can fall back asleep at night when music is on.

3.  Bringing the familiar music on a holiday trip may help your child sleep better in a new place.

4.  Research suggests that plant flourish better with classical music than noisy rock/punk music.

While music seems to be all good, do take care in your choice of songs; too simulating music is not recommended. Repetitive and simple music is best, and must be something that you can listen to every night. Some even recommended listening to nature sounds ‘white noise’ such as waterfall and raindrops that mimic the rhythms in the mother’s womb.

A side note

If you just google “music baby sleep”, you will find MANY websites offering music that will put your baby to sleep (this website says that hospitals are testing out their CDs). I haven’t purchased any of such CDs as I prefer to have my baby listen to Christian music and so far it has worked great for my sleep too. I suggest that we as parents relax a little, listen to some music and whatever makes us happy and sleepy may do the same for our children.

Is Eczema affecting your Child’s Sleep?

Taking a nap

About 60 to 80 percent of children with eczema suffers from sleep disturbance, resulting in about 2.5 hours less of sleep per night. As you know, as a parent of eczema child, our sleep is affected too! (and usually we get cranky, tired, irritable when sleep is disturbed for consecutive days, usually days when there is an eczema flare, resulting in more itch and more scratching)

I have often wondered if my baby has enough sleep and how does a lack of sleep affect her?

Number of Hours of Sleep for Your Child

There is no standard must-sleep-how-many-hours and if your child is putting on healthy weight gain and alert and happy during the day, you should not be unduly worried. My baby girl Marcie has always slept 10 hours per day, no matter what different routine we adopt to increase her sleep. The rough guide for a new born is 16 hours per day, 3-6 month old is 13 to 15 hours/day, 6-12 month old is 12 to 14 hours/day and 1-year old onwards is 10 hours/day.

How a Lack of Sleep affect Your Child

Sleep is important and a lack of sleep results in:

–          Low weight gain, due to less growth hormones (lack of sleep may also lead to obesity and diabetes due to imbalance of hormone that regulate hunger and metabolism of sugar)

–          Slower healing of the skin  and aggravate eczema, lower the immune system (haven’t we fall sick before when burning the midnight oil?)

–          Behavioral disturbances such as irritable, impatient, fussy, moody, hyperactive and impulsive

–          Difficulty in concentrating, poorer memory (as long-term memory improves with adequate sleep)

–          Accident-prone (think overnight drivers who suffer from lack of sleep)

–          Tired (If possible, send your child to school later when sleep is badly disturbed by eczema flare)

All is not lost though, since (keeping my fingers crossed) eczema child is brighter (see this post) and the better the eczema is managed, the better the sleep will be. Read my 5 tips to help your child sleep better (I co-sleep with my baby and I think I will as long as she wants to and still scratches at night…)

Top 5 Tips to help your eczema child sleep better

Baby Sleeping and Snoring?!

Is your child sleeping well at night?

More likely than not, children with eczema tend to have poorer sleep due to eczema flares or scratching. My baby Marcie at 18 months is still co-sleeping with us, and it has helped her to sleep better (though it hasn’t helped me to sleep better, but as you can appreciate, it is joy to see our children without bloody scratches in the morning).

Apart from co-sleeping, below are my top 5 tips to help our children with eczema sleep better.

1. Keep the room cool

Heat is often a trigger but do get your child tested to know what the triggers are for him or her. Marcie’s trigger is heat and we have the room cool (air conditioner at 22 deg C, fan at low speed 1 and humidifier).

2. Apply plenty of moisturizer

There is really no running away from applying moisturizer. Moisturizing keeps the skin from drying, which in turn reduces the chance your child will scratch. If you need help with the choice of moisturizer, you can read this post.

3. Keep baby fresh

As sweat can be an irritant to broken skin, I shower my baby later in the evening, after her dinner; or if she has already showered twice for the day, I will wipe her with cool boiled water using soft cotton pad. Of course, plenty of moisturizer after bathing or wiping. You can read about showering your child here.

4. Have her wear light cotton clothing

A few times, I put her in one piece long suit that really helps to keep her from getting to her itchy skin BUT it also makes her warm. You can trial and error to see if it is better to have her wear short sleeve or long sleeve. I’m sure you know by now that your child has a knack for finding ways to scratch, even when you thought he or she is ‘well protected’ with the pyjamas.

5. Treat the eczema rash

Do treat the rash.. I use steroid cream on alternate day or when the rash is persistent and looks inflamed. I read that wet dressings are effective but I don’t know how to do it. I just like to encourage you that steroid is not that bad if used appropriately, you can read about steroid safety here.

I also set up a bedtime routine of reading books, singing songs, turning off all the lights and playing baby christian songs. We also pray for good night’s sleep!

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