Over the past couple of months I’ve been dealing with the worst eczema flare-up of my life.
The condition that I have is nothing new to me. I was first diagnosed with atopic dermatitis at the age of 12. It comes and it goes, but never truly goes away. That’s the real curse of eczema, as anyone who suffers from the same disease would know.
Back when I was younger, I didn’t know a lot of people with eczema. These days, though, nearly everyone and their children suffer from it. While misery loves company, I really do feel sad about this. Why do more and more people have to suffer through this insufferable itch that I’ve been dealing with for more than half my life? What’s causing it? Is it the food? The quality of our air and water? All the chemical-laden products we use on ourselves and our homes?
I wonder if anyone actually has an answer. Then again, I wouldn’t bank on it. Just as sure as this annoying disease is incurable, it is also virtually impossible to identify what exactly triggers a flare-up. Everything about it is one big guessing game.
So what are we poor unfortunate souls who suffer from eczema to do then? Deal with it is all. And dealing with it is something I’ve been doing for so long.
I never thought about writing about my life with eczema before because mine has always been reasonably manageable. Until now.
The past summer was intensely hot, extremely humid, and very, very dusty – three things that I already know can irritate my skin. All that, plus that the stress that I’ve had to deal with over the last few months (which I don’t really want to talk about), my not-so-healthy food choices as of late, and the harsh bath and laundry soaps that I’ve been using (because I’m hard-headed like that), made a real recipe for disaster. By mid-June, I found myself faced with a case of uncontrollable eczema.
I’ll post a photo so you guys have an idea what I was going through when this monster of a flare-up started, but be warned. It’s not pretty. It’s actually kinda disturbing. Especially if you get grossed out easily.
Believe it or not, this was nothing compared to the rest of my body. I cropped the really bad parts out.
When this photo was taken I had just arrived home from El Nido. When I left, I already had a lot of red spots on my arms, the backs of my knees, and my torso. By my third day in Palawan, most of the spots had transformed into (the dreaded) weeping eczema.
Not only was I suffering though sweaty days and hard water showers while I was there, but my skin was sticking to my clothes and cracking already, too. It goes without saying that it was one beach trip that I, unfortunately, did not fully enjoy. Thank goodness it wasn’t my first time there or I would have been devastated.
It’s been nearly two months since then, and I’m happy to say that I’m a lot better now. I’m not completely rash-free yet, but my skin is back to being manageable. It hasn’t been easy getting back to this state, but it has been 100% worth it.
Here’s everything I did to get better.
First, I changed my diet. I’ve been doing my best to stay away from dairy, eggs, chicken, and wheat. No, I have not been able to completely abstain from these things because that would be really sad. But I’ve cut back significantly.
Hey, #blackcoffee, happy monthsary to us! ❤ I do miss my lattes, but my skin is doing infinitely better without all the extra dairy. And truth be told, I’d rather reserve my limited dairy allowance for cheese and ice cream over milk in my coffee. So there! ☕ #MrsCvsEczema #eczemadiet #healthyeating #healthiereats #eatlikeyouloveyourself #coffeeoftheday #butfirstcoffee #coffeeislife
I stopped putting milk in my coffee, and instead I drink it black now. I’ve shifted to soy or almond milk for my cereal. I still haven’t found a dairy-free yogurt alternative, though, so if you know of one please tell me. As for wheat, this is something we’ve kinda gotten used to living without, since Little MrC is gluten-sensitive, too. Though, I have to admit that every once in a while I do allow myself (and even my son) to enjoy real bread. Like yesterday, when I had avo toast for breakfast at E.A.C.H. So good. So worth it.
Eggs and chicken, on the other hand, I’m really trying to cut out completely. Eggs in baked goods, and mayonnaise are my only exceptions. Among everything I’ve eliminated from my diet, it’s chicken and eggs that have really caused a skin reaction whenever I was careless enough to eat them. My cousins and aunts who also have eczema react badly to them, too, so I’m not surprised that it’s the same for me.
Apart from the dietary changes, I’ve also changed my bath soap. What I’m using isn’t actually soap, but a soap replacement (or at least I think that’s what my dermatologist called it) called Eczekleen. Thank goodness it’s easy to find in Mercury Drugstore. I also tried using Cetaphil Restoraderm for Eczema, but that made me itchy. Sigh.
I’ve also started moisturizing regularly. I’m ashamed to say this is not a habit I formed over the years, but now I have no choice but to do it. I tried Cetaphil for eczema for this, too, but that made me itchy the same way the body wash did. I’ve been doing well so far with Planet Noah Oasis Soothing Baby VoCo Cream, which I get from Sesou Nature Source.
I changed my laundry soap, too, but just for my clothes. The boys are doing ok with the commercial detergent and fabric conditioner combo that we’ve been using for years. I, on the other hand, need to wash my clothes separately, using either Human Nature liquid laundry detergent or grated Perla. Between the two, I like Perla better. It’s more tedious to use, though, because I have to grate and melt it before I can start washing. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
The one final change I made that has really helped was to stay away from stress. When I saw my dermatologist the day after I came home from Palawan, she asked if I had been stressed out. When I said yes, she gave me a look that said, “You should know better by now”. She has been treating my atopic dermatitis since day one, see, and after years and years, she already knows how I should be dealing with it.
As she usually does, she had me start on topical steroids. This time, though, for the first time ever, because things were so bad I had to take oral steroids, antihistamines and antibiotics, too. That was not fun.
The combination of meds made me feel weak and sleepy, and for some reason my mouth and tongue ended up covered in sores. I don’t think I ever want to have to go through that again, and I remind myself of this every time I decide to eat bread or ice cream.
Ultimately, it’s gonna take an entire lifestyle shift for me to be able to manage my eczema from here on out, probably because I’m older and my body can no longer keep up the way it used to when I was a kid. So there. I have a reason to write about my life with eczema now.
I’ll definitely be sharing what works for me and what doesn’t in hopes that the information might help someone else. At the same time, if any of you have tried anything that worked for you, please share! I need all the help I can get.