Many of you would have already read my last post recounting our nightmarish experience as parents where our daughter went through “severe neutropenia” as a result of “myelosuppression” (where her bone marrow had effectively shut down due to an immunosuppressant given to control her severe eczema). Yet, we have managed to pull through after a harrowing time earlier this year and since then things have come back to normal (well almost).I have mentioned briefly in my previous post about some of the measures I have taken at home and the changes in our lifestyle to ensure that no stone is unturned. I have been inspired by many parents who shared their experiences through their blogs, websites, forums, support groups and other social networks.
The first thing is that there might be no “one” particular thing or action that will help you to control your child’s eczema. It is usually a combination of things like regular moisturizing, topical application of steroidal creams, oral medications in severe cases and other such factors. But many parents have also been able to control their child’s eczema (or at least improve) through some lifestyle changes. I have done the same for my child and though in my daughter’s case her eczema is quite severe and is managed through medications, I never give up hope that these measures might be helping her in some way or the other. In any case, I am quite willing to make whatever changes that are required to be one step closer to help Aiyana lead a comfortable life and I am sure you will do the same for your child if required.
Some steps I have taken
1. I changed the laundry and dishwashing detergent for the entire household since that was the first thing most parents mentioned as a key trigger for flare up for eczema in many cases. Infact, last year, when Aiyana developed Erythroderma was the time when I changed the way we do our laundry. It was definitely difficult in the beginning to completely redo the way we do our laundry. I had to find out about product availability in India, their suitability to our climatic and water conditions and train my help to use these products. But through trial and error I have managed this effectively and for the past one year now I have completely eliminated synthetic detergents from my household and use only natural products to do the same.
I wanted to find a natural cleanser free of most chemicals (especially SLS and SLES) and came across our very own traditional “reetha” used by our previous generations for laundry as well as bathing purposes. Luckily for me, soap nut (or reetha as it is called in hindi) is produced primarily in India and Nepal. The fruit contains saponins which is a natural surfactants (foaming agent) and have been used for thousands of years in Asia for washing.
I thus started using soapnuts instead of regular and baby laundry detergent for all our clothes since no matter how “gentle” the detergent, they all contain “sulphates” as surfactants or foaming agents. Unlike other cleaning products which contain the harsher surfactant or foaming agent- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), the laundry detergents usually contain the gentler version Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLES) and a host of other chemicals and preservatives. I have written about this in details in my earlier post -“Bath time! (And skin care routine for eczema)“.
I buy a soapnut brand called 108 Soapnuts from a Bangalore based company called Daily Dump through their website. There are also several other websites like naturalmantra.com and greenngood.com amongst others which promote an eco-friendly and green way of life and stock this brand. As far as other household linen and delicate clothes are concerned I use various forms of a natural, SLS and SLES free laundry detergent made by a brand called “Rustic Art” . They have laundry powder products made of soda ash, lemon and neem extracts, bio degradable liquid laundry cleanser made of natural glycerin and bio degradable laundry bars made of non edible oils, lemon and neem.
2. I also changed my dishwashing detergent from the usual detergent based ones which contain sulphates and preservatives and other chemicals. I started using a powder made of shikakai, soapnut and dried lemon peels by the same brand Daily Dump and have been successfully using it to clean utensils by hand for more than a year. However, there are several other options to make one’s own dishwashing detergents by using natural ingredients like castile soap, vinegar, glycerin, borax (NOT boric acid), citric acid, baking soda, essential oils (for fragrance) amongst others.
(There are quite a few blogs and websites dedicated to green living which have recipes to make on your own and a couple of examples are – http://www.rodalenews.com/homemade-dish-detergent and http://mymerrymessylife.com/2012/02/homemade-dishwashing-detergent-100-green-2.html).
While I have not made dishwashing detergent at home yet, I have used an automatic dishwasher product free of phosphates, chlorine and other chemicals. It is a plant-based product which is fully biodegradable and is made by a company called Earth Friendly Products and is called Wave Auto Dishwasher Gel. I use it intermittently in my dishwasher as and when required (it is available on amazon websites in UK and US).
3. One of the other major trigger for eczema in children is dust mites which is a tiny insect found in every home. While it is not possible and practical to get rid of it completely one can reduce the incidence somewhat by following a few steps that I have followed
- I have gotten rid of soft toys and soft furnishing from the children’s bedroom (one should remove carpets if any especially from the bedroom)
- using “dust mite proof” hypoallergenic covers for the mattresses and the pillows; Portico has a range of such products available in India
- I changed the heavy drapes that we used to have and started using light, cotton curtains which do not hold as much dust; also I change them every month
- I also make sure to change and wash all our bed linen every week (ideally one should wash the bed linen in hot water at 50 degrees Celsius or more)
- I have also purchased a steam cleaner ( Morphy Richards is available in India) and use it once a month on the mattresses and upholstery; it is more effective than a vacuum cleaner since the heat kills the dust mites without the use of chemicals
- I am planning to test the bedrooms for dust mites using a test kit to figure out whether these measures are working or not using Ventia™ Rapid Test for Dust Mite Allergen; I will update you once I have done so
These are some of the steps that I follow diligently at home and now these changes in our lifestyle have become second nature to me and my family. I believe that even if these measures do not directly and measurably improve my daughter’s eczema (at least in the short run) they do not harm her either. They are changes that I am willing to make and so have a lot of other concerned parents whose children suffer from allergies, eczema, asthma and other related conditions.
It really helps to know what has worked for others and I keep myself updated about the way other parents try and make their homes and environment more green and healthy for their children and incorporate some of the measures from time to time. I hope that you might also find some of these useful and beneficial for your child in the long run as well.
If nothing else it will open up a whole new world of eco-friendly and green living for you and your family like it has for me!
Incase you have any suggestions or questions please do feel free to get in touch with me.