Why Some Kids Get Eczema and Others Don't
Sep 24, 2018
Red, dry, flaky, oozing, itching, irritating, interrupted sleep, long sleeves, long stares, puffy eyes….these are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of eczema.
Dermatitis, hives, allergic reactions….whatever you want to call it, the skin is angry and trying to tell us something on the outside.
I dealt with eczema for at least 15 years before it exploded into a disfiguring mess that took over a year of trial and error, relentless digging, testing and experimentation from which to dig out. So I know what you’re going through when people ask:
“What’s on your baby’s skin?” OR
“Have you tried ______?”
OR you’re just exhausted. Who would have thought that itchy skin could rule your life so much?
First, you need to know this isn’t your fault. You could not have guessed eczema would happen to you or your child, and eczema is usually a PERFECT STORM of events and causes.
But after spending the last few years focusing more and more on reversing eczema in my private practice
, several things emerge as common denominators in eczema.
- Antibiotics at birth: If you had antibiotics during labor and delivery, you probably didn’t have a choice. Group B strep (we have options for that, btw!) can destine you for antibiotics throughout your child’s birth. And while this may not seem like a big deal, your baby gets his little microbiome largely from mom’s birth canal and from the environment (which is basically sterile in the OB ward these days). Being on antibiotics for several hours prior to delivery could mean your child may not get inoculated with crucial Lactobacillus bacteria.
C-section mamas: You can ask for your baby to have a vaginal swab after delivery to try to circumvent this. Make sure the OR staff knows your wishes in advance!
***You can learn more about infant microbiome on this episode of my podcast with microbiologist Kiran Krishnan.
See also: reduced microbial diversity and atopic dermatitis association
- Genetics: Genetics are the deck of cards you get in life. You can’t change them, but you can change how you play them to have different outcomes. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, or parents have a history of skin issues? Digestive issues? Allergies? Dry skin? There are many genes that can affect eczema, including MTHFR (the genetic buzzword, but it’s actually estimated 30-70% of the population has issues with this gene function), PON1 (detoxification), FADS (how your body uses fatty acids), DAO (how your body processes histamines/allergens) and more. It’s empowering to understand your genetics so you can “hack” your insufficiencies and overcome predispositions to certain issues and conditions. Just because you have a genetic tendency doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it.
- Family history of eczema, asthma or allergies: Genetics certainly have a role in family history, but just because you have a genetic tendency doesn’t mean it’s a destiny. Family history is is different in that it's the ACTIVE problems happening for parents, DESPITE genetics. So perhaps it’s
A) gut permeability for mom (even if she doesn’t realize she has this problem), or
B) mom or dad's “new” onset allergies they didn’t have when they were younger (which can also be fixed with a similar process I use for healing eczema) or even
C) fungal or bacterial overgrowth (sugar cravings and brain fog, anyone??)
- Jaundice: I’ve noticed an interesting trend. If I had to “classify” eczema in severity, I would say at least half of my eczema kiddos are rather severe. Of these more severe eczema cases, most of them had jaundice as a baby. Yes, the odds are pretty good as it’s estimated that 50% of children may have jaundice (according to some studies) and 20% of kids have eczema.
However, this is just one more clue in the perfect storm puzzle. Liver is a little immature at birth (again, no blame!), signifying that we should probably take it easy on overloading it with “toxins” (another non-sensational topic for another day) early in life due to its unlikely ability to conjugate and excrete toxins via the liver. I need more than a paragraph for this topic, but the research and physiology is fascinating.
There isn’t much in the way of peer reviewed research associating eczema and jaundice, but some small studies have associated jaundice and allergic disease.
And eczema is part of the allergic disease family.
*If you conduct research for a living and I can help participate in bringing this theory into a research study, please contact me. I’d love to help with solutions for childhood eczema.
Sometimes understanding how something happened gives us direction on all the places we need to focus. Mold? Mastitis? Other triggers not on this list?
We can work on decoding your specific eczema case and how to reverse the itch in a mini strategy session. You can book that here
There are different personality types. Some like to take shortcuts by getting help and some are DIY-ers. I used to pride myself as a DIY-er, but I’ve switched over to the “get there faster by asking for help” camp.
The one thing that kills me in eczema support groups is seeing people talk about their eczema as a life sentence. Food restrictions as if it's something they’ll do forever. Commenting about genetic markers as “well, that’s just the way it is” and assuming there is nothing that can be done.
Whichever camp you fall into, please know there is always more that can be done if you’re still suffering with eczema. If you don’t have the conversation with me, please find help that doesn’t keep you limited forever and helps you grow into confidence to control your eczema. ❤️
P.S. I can help direct you to the best testing options and interventions for you. I’ve helped many parents that already had incomplete testing figure out what to do next/why that test didn’t solve the problem. You don’t HAVE to figure it out on your own.
Meanwhile, here’s a little guide
I put together on TWO THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO if your child has eczema AND some quick tips on what you can do instead.