News & Research

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 this interview with Tubifast.

Eczema Life Cartoon

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!

Living with Eczema

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 too 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!

Support Group

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.

Support Group

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…)

Eczema Tips

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!

Support Group

Is Co-Sleeping good or bad for eczema baby?

Sound asleep baby

There is a whole debate out there on whether co-sleeping is good or not. Generally speaking, the ‘against-side’ has more support citing early independence for the baby. Personally, I am for co-sleeping with my baby, mainly because A LOT of scratches have been prevented as I can hold her hands anytime she scratches at night. Of course, the sacrifice is huge – lack of good sleep for me and almost no couple time with my hubby. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons in the context of taking care of eczema children:

For Co-Sleeping

1. Help baby sleep better. I believe this is true and especially important for an eczema baby whose itch may be preventing her from sleeping well.

2. Help build a stronger bond with parents. I think this is true too. When I was a stay at home mom and my hubby worked, after a few months, Marcie didn’t seem to get too excited when daddy came home. But if daddy co-sleep with her for two nights in a row, Marcie would display much more warmth towards daddy. For me, I just love to look at my baby’s face when she’s asleep and smelling her milk-breath!

Against Co-Sleeping

1. Risk suffocating baby. The verdict is still not out on this one. Some say the risk is higher while some say lower. My personal suggestion is to let your baby sleep alone in a very cool air-conditioned room but wrap her up to prevent scratching. When Marcie got too big to be swaddled, we tied her hands to her legs for a few nights but she couldn’t sleep well. That’s when we decided she’s big enough to not get suffocated/ crushed by us on our bed and it’s also the only way we know whether she’s scratching. Marcie started scratching ‘covertly’ at about 7 months old, when it became more difficult to know that she’s scratching as practically no sound was made. So the only way I knew was sleeping with her and detecting her scratching fingers move.

2. No good sleep for parents. That is so true especially when Marcie has eczema flare or teething which causes her body temperature to rise and somehow causes her skin to be more sensitive and itchy. For me, it’s a sacrifice I make and I compensate by sleeping earlier with Marcie.

3. Increase heat to baby. That is also true. I give off less heat compared to my hubby and I’m more aware when Marcie scratches. So I co-sleep with Marcie more often. Regarding the additional heat, you can compensate by turning the air-con cooler and dressing your baby light.

4. Make it difficult for baby to sleep if parent isn’t co-sleeping. Good news is babies adapt quickly and Marcie has no problem sleeping at infant care now. This was a great relief for me as I was worried whether Marcie could nap in school.

5. Prevent baby to be independent. No research results cast in stone for this one. Some studies now believe that making babies feel more secure will enable them to be more independent at an older age.

6. Prevent parents from their own couple time. This is true. Again we compromise by letting Marcie sleep alone first, and when she wakes up, I will then stop whatever I’m doing (usually watching dvd with my hubby) and quickly hop into the bed with her. We used to put Marcie in her cot but realise that she sleeps better on our bed.

I do take precaution though. Marcie likes to lie flat on her stomach but she has good neck muscles at an early 3 month age. She’s always in the centre of our bed, without the possibility of wedging between the wall and the bed and our bed has no bed frame that may trap her.

There’re also going to be a lot of objections from people around you if you choose to co-sleep. I think for parents with eczema children, it goes back to being confident about how you are helping your child with her eczema.

& always believe that You are the Best Parent for your eczema child