eczema and our environment
Posted on Thursday, March 08, 2012 in The Conscious Living Blog by Heather Hamilton
I cannot tell you how many discouraged mommas contact me with questions concerning eczema. This is no surprise, considering eczema is one of the top skin problems in children. Children's skin is so incredibly delicate. It is highly permeable, making it very vulnerable to sensitivities.
One of the great challenges with eczema, is determining its causes or triggers. Let me quickly add that there are many schools of thought regarding the causes and treatment of eczema - but for the purposes of this post, I want to discuss how our environment contributes to eczema. We will be posting a series of interviews, discussions and articles over the next weeks focused on the topic of eczema, so keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive article on the subject.
Allergens, whether internal or external have been clearly linked to eczema. When our bodies are responding to an allergen, it makes perfect sense that our largest organ, our skin, would be affected! How many times have you heard that what goes on inside is reflected on the outside? This is true for diet, hydration, stress, sleep habits, disease/wellness...chance are, what goes on inside will most likely be visible in some form on the outside.
Our environment is full of pollutants and irritants that contribute to allergies. Fresh, clean air is hard to come by these days. Whether it be the toxins that linger in the air inside or out, or the chemical laden fabrics, detergents and skincare products, it is no wonder our children are suffering from irritated, inflamed skin.
Unfortunately, eczema can be a vicious cycle. An allergen irritates already sensitive skin, which a child scratches, making it more irritated, sensitive and vulnerable to the allergen. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what is causing the irritation in the first place, and by that time the eczema has spread and become more severe.
Although it is impossible to eliminate every toxin from our child's environment, there are many things we can do. One of my favorite organizations advocating for healthy, non-toxic environments for our children is Healthy Child Healthy World. If you haven't seen this video A Wake Up Story take a few minutes to watch it now:
I've shared before that as a very young child, I was allergic to seemingly everything. I was diagnosed with asthma at age 2 and a huge part of controlling the allergy induced asthma attacks was eliminating things in my environment that were triggers. Dust mites, animal dander, cigarette smoke, perfume, certain grasses and trees, you name it! Additionally, I was put on a whole foods diet, free from dairy, sugar, food coloring, etc. because these things had a negative impact on my quality of life. By the time I reached high school I had outgrown the asthma and no longer struggle with the allergens I once did. But what I have realized in my adult life, is how closely our well-being and overall quality of life are linked to our environment and diet. Our bodies give us clues all the time as to what is going on internally and there is so much we can do, if we take the time, to live better.
Here are some common external eczema allergens/triggers, and tips for eliminating them:
*House dust (dust mites) - try to eliminate as much clutter from your home as possible. If you can't get past the knick knacks or furniture on your counters or floors to regularly dust them, its time to get rid of some things. Regularly wash stuffed animals or other plush toys that may be dusty and consider using hypoallergenic or organic mattresses, pads pillows and sheets and wash them regularly. Carpet, couch cushions and drapes are all perfect for dust mites. Eliminating or regular washing will help control it.
*Wool/harsh fabrics that don't breath well. Fabrics are constantly in contact with your child's skin. Make sure they are cotton, organic cotton and bamboo are wonderful and there are so many more options for organic children's clothing now. Yes, they are more expensive, but consider buying less clothes and getting quality.
*Laundry detergent - skip the scented, harsh detergent and go with a mild, unscented one instead. Even Costco now carries eco-friendly, unscented detergents, or you can try some like Seventh Generation, or if you are really ambitious, make your own!
*Cigarette smoke, perfume or synthetic air fresheners or candles - keep your air clean!
*Harsh soaps, lotions or other skincare products. You know my position on this - I'm going to dedicate an entire post to this topic!
*Traditional housecleaning soaps and degreasers - your child comes in contact with most surfaces in your home and most traditional soaps and cleaning agents are a toxic concoction that leave a residue and permeate the air in your home for hours. Do your family a favor and get rid of all of the toxic household cleaners in your cabinet. Make your own cleaners using a mixture of water and vinegar or gentle castille soap.
*Overheating - central heat is another factor that can overheat and dry out the air (and contribute to dry skin). Keep your thermostat at a moderate temperature and use a humidifier to prevent the air from getting too dry.
There is a wealth of knowledge online offering tips for greening your home environment. I am currently reading the book Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck and am learning that by taking steps to simplify and green my home, I can save money, time, preserve my families' health and live a better life!
Does any of this resonate with you? We want to hear your thoughts, experience and resources!
As I mentioned above, we are going to be posting a series of articles, interviews and discussions relating to the topic of eczema and I strongly believe that there is a wealth of knowledge within our community! So, we want to encourage you to share and then give back to you for doing so! See our previous post regarding the giveaways we will be doing in conjunction with this series on eczema.
Want to win a jar of organic Extreme Cream? Here is how to enter:
1. If you haven't already, LIKE us on FACEBOOK
2. Leave a comment here telling us what allergens you know of or suspect may be contributing yours or your child's eczema. If you or your child don't have eczema, then leave a tip for greening your home environment.
3. Help spread the word about or eczema series by tweeting (make sure to mention us @zoeorganics) or blogging about it. Leave a comment with your twitter handle or link to your blog post.
4. Get a friend to like us on Facebook and leave a comment telling us the name of your friend who joined us. Each friend who joins earns you 1 additional entry!
5. Sign up for our newsletter (this only counts if you haven't already signed up!)