This summer, the Harris family had our usual fun-filled activities that included a three-day camping trip to the Coast, daily swimming in our nearby lake and neighborhood community pool, sleeping outside on the deck under star-spotted heavens, and backyard barbecues.
But I also dealt with this:
Meet Ezra, my four year old son with a horrible, nasty, no-good rash.
The rash began slowly, with small red spots starting to pop up on the back of his knee.
"No problem," I thought, "a dab of Simply Soothing Rash Cream will take care of that."
But it didn't. And the rash grew, and spread, to the point that my son would begin to moan and cry that the back of his leg hurt.... constantly.
Back to my apothecary, I pulled out the Beesilk Jr., warmed it to the point of almost melting, and lathered it on. We cut the "foot" off a sock and used the sock "tube" to cover the area and keep the lotion packed on. We checked it often but were only discouraged to find that it would not let up. A couple of weeks of this wore us out, and especially brought our son to tears that his leg wasn't healing.
I finally gave in and decided it was time to take Ezra in and let the doctor look at it. The diagnosis: eczema. The treatment? Steroids.
My heart sunk.
I have become very familiar with eczema over the years because many customers talk to me about it. I've read up on it, made suggestions to people, and I have asked a lot of questions. I have found that for many people, a change in food or environment will often make a difference clearing up eczema. Steroids are an extreme way to deal with eczema and will often make the problem much, much worse in the long run. Read this for more information. Our paper prescription stayed on paper and never made it to the pharmacy.
Now to the most important part of this blog post: when dealing with a rash or other skin problem that may be diagnosed as eczema or another skin condition, try the following steps. These are based on my own research and are simply suggestions I urge you to consider before opting for a doctor's prescription:
1. Try a natural, scent and fragrant-free topical product first. I mentioned that even our MadeOn products wouldn't cure his nasty rash, but they have worked for other mild skin conditions our family has had, so try something gentle first. If a soak in a bath containing tea tree oil does the trick, you may have found your solution.
2. Ask yourself if anything in the diet or environment has changed from the norm in the past few months since the flare-up. It could be stress, exposure to something in the environment, a change in skin care products or detergents, or a change in diet. Because our family ate a lot of fruit this summer, I eliminated fruit and tomatoes from Ezra's diet to see if it was related to his rash. In this case, eliminating these foods that he was consuming in bulk didn't clear his rash.
3. Milk and eggs often trigger flare-ups. Eliminate those to see if there's a change. I went ahead and tried this, but was confident it wasn't due to allergies to these foods because he's never had this type of food allergy. Turns out I was correct about this. Eliminating them didn't change anything.
4. Do a Google Images search for keywords that describe the rash. Describe it exactly as you see it, using words like "bumpy", "red", "itchy" and so on. (Do this at your own risk - you may see images you don't care to see!) This action brought me to the solution.
After clicking on several images that matched my son's rash, I finally discovered that it was likely that what he had was something similar to swimmer's itch. We were spending every evening down at the lake, and Ezra spent his time lugging buckets of water to his homemade sand castle moat. I learned that swimmers who swim near the water's edge contract this rash far more often than those who swim out in deeper waters. This would explain why it was only my son and not our other children who developed the rash.
So it wasn't eczema after all.
The Solution: we avoided the lake for a couple weeks, occasionally opting for the pool instead. Ezra's rash cleared up! I asked a grandmother who frequented the lake if she had ever had a similar problem from swimming at the lake. It turns out she had a grandson with the same reaction in the past.
The Lesson: it IS possible to find solutions for your family by doing some research.