Childhood Eczema: 4 Common Causes

A Naturopathic Approach to Pediatric Eczema

How many hours have you spent looking up eczema remedies and naturopathic approaches to healing your child’s eczema this week? If you have a rashy kid I know those hours are countless! Well let me tell you,

And if you are like me you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on creams, salves, and miracle remedies, as well as countless hours researching solutions! Through all of my personal and clinical research I have learned that the internet is a great place for reading reviews on different products, but you won’t find your miracle cream. You should be asking: “What is causing MY CHILD’s itchy skin?” and get to the root cause!

You child is unique.
Your child’s skin is unique.
They require a unique and personalized treatment approach.

What is causing my child’s itchy skin?

You begin by identifying the symptoms (eczema has a varied presentation) and then work systematically to identify the triggers.

For example, my son had a quadruple whammy when it came to his health in the first year of life. He had food allergies (what you put in), contact dermatitis (what you put on), a moldy apartment (environment), and a mother with eczema (genetic predisposition). His poor overall health was reflected on his skin as eczema. You or your children may have the same exposures, but experience other symptoms such as gut issues or asthma.

There are four major factors contributing to itchy skin and eczema in children and adults.

4 Major Factors of Itchy Skin

1. Food Allergies

According to the National Eczema Association up to 30% of children under the age of 5, who have eczema, may also have a food allergy.

Common Symptoms to Food Allergies

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Flushing
  • Eczema flares
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

I have had children in my office with a true food allergy to peanuts and dairy only presenting with what appeared to be severe eczema. One of these children had been to an allergist who told the family “it’s just eczema”, but they did not accept this answer. After removing the foods he was allergic to, his eczema cleared up, head-to-toe.

Common Food Allergies

  • Cow dairy
  • Chicken eggs
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Gluten
  • Shellfish

Less Common Food Allergies

  • Coconut
  • Tree nuts (almond)
  • Duck eggs
  • Citrus fruits
  • Green beans

All children with moderate to severe eczema should be screened for food allergies. Screening can be done by an allergist or by your PCP through a quick blood draw.

2. Food Sensitivities

Individuals who have food sensitivities often do not have symptoms right away. Symptoms may show up days after consumption and build on one another. This makes it very difficult to pinpoint what is causing the reaction.

Common Symptoms to Food Sensitivities

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Brain fog
  • Mood swings
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Inflammation of joints

Many adults have success with pinpointing food sensitivities through an elimination diet. I don’t often recommend this method for children, but it can be beneficial for nursing moms.

If you or your child have any of the symptoms listed above, you should be tested for food sensitivities. Much like food allergy testing, it can be done in-office and does not always require a full blood draw.

After food sensitivities are identified, it is crucial to remove the foods!  So often I hear,“Nooo not dairy, that’s the ONE thing I can’t live without”. (Learn more about a dairy free diet here.)This is a huge indicator that that food is in fact causing inflammation in your body. You must remove it if you want to see results.

Once the foods are removed, it is often indicated to address the integrity of the gut; which is a whole other story!

3. Skin Care Products and Detergents

Lotions, soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, sunscreens, and detergents can all be contributing factors to itchy skin. Culturally, we are becoming much more aware of the harm that can be caused by the substances we put on our body. One very very very important thing to remember is: just because it is natural does not mean it is safe for you or your child. For example, I slathered my son in coconut oil for 6 months. In my new mommy brain fog, I was so frustrated that his eczema was worse after each use and only cleared up when I switched to CeraVe (a dermatologist recommended hypoallergenic cream). Well, guess who had a coconut allergy… Yeah… Please learn from my mistakes!

If you keep applying a cream, lotion, or oil and your skin condition (or your child’s) does not clear up, seek advice from your ND, PCP, or dermatologist. It may not be the right product for you. You can schedule an appointment with me here.

Major Ingredients to Avoid

  • Glycolic acid (dry out and irritate the skin)
  • Salicylic acid (dry out and irritate the skin)
  • Retinol (dry out and irritate the skin)
  • Coconut oil (dry out skin)
  • MCT oil (dry out skin)
  • Ingredients derived from palm oil (dry out skin)
  • Methylparaben or Butylparaben (cause inflammation)
  • Fragrances (trigger eczema)

All products, whether they claim to be natural or not, can contain fillers, fragrances, and chemicals that can trigger eczema or other symptoms. The Environmental Working Group is my go to resource when I want to know if a product has the potential to cause itchy skin. I encourage you to look up all the products in your home!

4. Environmental Allergens

How many of you had really bad allergies this year?? I can raise my hand to that!  Every March I see a big spike in what we would call typical seasonal allergies as well as eczema. It makes total sense. If food allergies can trigger eczema wouldn’t you expect environmental allergies to trigger it as well? Managing seasonal and environmental allergies can be more difficult than food allergies if you don’t know where to start.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I have a lot more up my sleeve for managing allergies than Claratin or Benadryl. There are specific herbs and nutrients that can help better manage your body’s response to allergens and further reduce your eczema flares. I encourage you to find a naturopathic doctor near you to develop an allergy support plan. If you are not currently working with a naturopathic doctor, you can schedule with me today. I am providing in person services in Bellingham, Wa and Telehealth across Washington State.

Common Environmental Allergens

  • Seasonal pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander from cats and dogs
  • Mold

Environmental allergy management may include strong encouragement to move out of moldy environments, recommendations for hypoallergenic bedding/covers, and as always, identification of allergens so you know exactly what you’re reacting to.

With the Help of a Naturopathic Physician

My personal journey through healing my own eczema brought me to Naturopathic Medicine and it was my son’s journey with eczema that inspired me to become a Naturopathic Pediatrician. As adults we are complex, we have lots of contributing factors to our health that have built-up over decades. In naturopathic medicine we are goooood at peeling back those layers, and treating the root cause. If you or your child has eczema do not ignore it! Schedule your visit today!