This is a fortnightly series focused on raising healthy children, following the advice on DrSearsLean.com. Marcie Mom came across Dr Sears’ Lifestyle-Exercise-Attitude-Nutrition approach for healthy families and found it to be practical and fun to follow. However, parents of eczema children may have reservation on certain healthy tips such as bringing their child for swimming (‘Lifestyle’) or eating fruits and vegetables (‘Nutrition’). This series examine if there’s truly a need to restrict eczema children from following the LEAN tips and take note of DrSearsLEAN’s recommendation at the end of each post!
Indoors Fun versus Sweating it Outdoors
There are many fun activities to do indoors and some of the Exercise tips on DrSearsLean.com are ‘put together a PLAY basket’ and ‘get a pedometer’. One of the tips is ‘plan your family vacation around an outdoor activity’, such as camping which is an opportunity to get away from technology and instead, do some biking and hiking. However, outdoor exercise inadvertently comes with sun and sweat. Heat and perspiration is the number one trigger for eczema and is also the only trigger I’ve identified for my baby. The combination of heat and perspiration may set off a ‘heat rash’ as an eczema child’s skin is more vulnerable to chemicals in sweat which may irritate the skin.
Sunlight – To Block or Not?
According to a factsheet from the National Eczema Society, sun exposure is drying to the skin and may aggravate eczema for some people. Ron Sweren, M.D., a dermatologist and director of the photo-medicine unit at Johns Hopkins also said that sunlight can serve as a trigger that worsens eczema. To prevent sunburn, sunscreen lotion is a must but again, you can read here that some of the ingredients may also irritate your child’s skin. Moreover, according to Sewon Kang, M.D., director of department of dermatology at John Hopkins, increased sweating will lead to more showers taken, which again could worsen the eczema. In less common cases, there may be sunlight allergy or photosensitive eczema which further restricts exposure to sun.
However, there are also cases of eczema that improve with sunlight exposure and there’s a treatment known as phototherapy that exposes the skin to UVA1 rays that can soothe the skin without causing sunburn. Moreover, vitamin D that comes from sunlight has been shown to increase the production of skin proteins (cathelicidin) which protects against skin infection. Personally, I think it’s a fine balance; we bring our baby to the zoo, picnic and park but only on shady days and always with a hat and sunscreen lotion. You can also refer to these posts to see how much we moisturize and how we shower her. Have fun as a family, our children will grow up before we know it (and hopefully grow out of eczema before that)!
Dr Sears L.E.A.N.’s recommendation
Eczema results from the combination of a genetic tendency toward dry, sensitive skin and a susceptibility to allergies. Although most children aren’t bothered by the day-to-day wear and tear of soaps, dirt, sweat, heat, clothing, and everything else we come into contact with, the skin of a child with eczema is hypersensitive to everyday life. It is important for you to monitor your child and identify the main trigger for developing eczema flare-ups. For some it could be heat and sweat, others are triggered by what they eat (or what mom eats if they are breastfeeding), grass, dirt, or chemicals in the environment around them. Although there is nothing you can do to change your child’s genetic susceptibility to dry, sensitive skin, there are many steps you can take to improve skin health, reduce exposure to irritants, track own allergic triggers, and minimize the impact the eczema has on your child’s day-to-day life. For more helpful tips, visit www.drsearslean.com
MarcieMom: Thank you Dr. Sears for your advice. For next two interviews, we’ll learn more about nutrition!