The term ‘eczema’ is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil.’ It refers to an inflammation of the skin. It is essentially a constitutional disease, resulting from a toxic condition of the system due to wrong food habits.
Eczema is a very common skin disease of children. If the baby develops eczema at the very early age of two or three months, there is often a family history of eczema or asthma. However, if a young baby does have eczema, it does not necessarily mean that he will suffer from this irritating skin condition all his life. Many children outgrow infantile eczema by the time they are around three years old.
Symptoms The main symptom of eczema is itching. In its acute form, it is marked by redness and swelling of the skin, the formation of minute vesicles and severe heat. If the vesicles rupture, a raw, moist surface is formed. From this, a colourless discharge oozes, which forms skin cruts when it accumulates. The skin itches at all stages. In the wet stage, it may become infected with bacteria, and scratching in response to the irritation, spreads the infection. The most common sites of eczema in children are elbow and knee creases and behind the ears, but cheeks and chest can also be affected.
In chronic eczema, the skin becomes thick, and the skin surface marking is more prominent. Other changes in the skin which may accompany eczema include scratch marks and secondary bacterial infection. Prolonged scratching and rubbing the skin tends to polish finger-nails.
Allegies play an important role in causing eczema in children. It is seen that the disease is more frequent in bottle-fed babies than breast-fed babies. It has therefore been suggested that the cow’s milk could be a cause for infection in a particular baby. If this is the case, a change to either goat’s milk will bring about a substantial improvement. The most common triggers for sensitive children are eggs, peanuts, chocolate, wheat, chicken, and potato, besides cow’s milk.
Skin applications to cure eczema may give temporary relief, but if the exudation is suppressed, some other more serious disease of childhood may develop. The best way to deal with this disease is to cleanse the blood stream and the body.
In case of small babies, mild cases of eczema can be treated by placing them on an orange juice and water for a day or so. Olive oil may be applied to the dry, scaly patches. This will be sufficient to keep the rash under control.
The other very important aspect of treatment of eczema in babies is to prevent them from scratching the rashes. This can be done by cutting short finger nails and by applying cotton mitts to cover the hands when they are sleeping. This will reduce scratching to the minimum.
In case of young children, the child should be placed on an all- fruit diet for two or three days. During this period, he should take fresh juicy fruits such as apple, orange, papaya, pineapple, pear, peach and pomegranate. This will help eliminate morbid matter from the body and lead to substantial improvement. A warm water anema may be administered during this period to cleanse the bowels, if possible.
Fruits, salt-free, raw or steamed vegetables along with whole wheat chappatis may be taken after the all-fruit diet. After a few days, curd and milk may be added to the diet. The child-patient may thereafter gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet, according to his age. The emphasis should be on seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruit. This diet may be supplemented with vegetable oils, honey and yeast.
The child -patient should avoid tea, coffee and all condiments and highly flavoured dishes, as well as sugar, white flour products, denatured cereals and tinned or bottled foods.
Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of eczema. One of the most effective of these remedies is musk melon (kharbuza). In fact, an exclusive diet of melons for a few days can be adopted by older children which has beneficial results. Only sweet and fresh fruits of the best variety should be used for this purpose. The juice of the fruit is also beneficial as a lotion in chronic and acute cases of eczema.
Raw vegetable juics, especially carrot juice in combination with spinach juice, have proved beneficial in the treatment of eczema. The formula proportions considered helpful in this combination are carrot 150 ml.and spinach 100 ml. to make 250 ml. of combined juice.
The green leaves of finger miller (ragi) are valuable in chronic eczema. The fresh juice of these leaves should be applied over the affected areas in the tretment of this condition.
Use of black strap molasses (sheera) has been found beneficial in the treatment of this disease. This is presumably due to its high nutritive properties. One tablespoon of molasses mixed in half a glass of milk should be taken twice daily by grown-up children. Improvements will be noticeable within two weeks time.
Certain liquids have been found useful as washing lotions for cleaning the affected parts. These include water in which margosa (neem) leaves have been boiled, rice starch obtained by decanting cooked rice and turmeric (haldi) water prepared by boiling water to which a little turmeric powder has been added.
The child should get as much fresh air as possible. He should drink plenty of wter and bathe twice daily. The skin with the exception of part affected with eczema, should be vigorously rubbed with the palms before taking a bath.
Coconut oil may be applied to the portions with eczema. It will help the skin to stay soft. Sunbathing is also beneficial as it kills the harmful bacetria and should be resorted to early in the morning, in the first light of dawn. A light mudpack applied over the sites of the eczema is also helpful. The pack should be applied for half an hour twice daily.