As she had just started taking solid foods, I tried letting her have avocado, which is a generally safe first food. But after eating it, I realised that she had some minor rashes on her body. Her skin seemed dry and patchy and there was some redness, though it was pretty mild then.
“At one point, she was using four different creams of various steroid intensities.”
Both my husband and I had eczema when we were kids but we’ve both recovered. As her older sister Jolinda had it, too (she recovered from it pretty quickly), we thought it would be the same for Jophia.
So, we went to the paediatrician to get the same cream we’d used on Jolinda previously. This was a cream that contained steroids.
However, the rash didn’t go away.
In fact, it got worse and worse, to the extent that the doctor increased the dosage of her creams. At one point, she used four different creams of various steroid intensities (between 0.1 and 0.5 per cent) for different parts of her body.
In addition, I was told to bathe her in an antibacterial wash ― the type that is usually used post-surgery.
Various things could trigger her flare-ups ― it could be dirt, heat or things she ate. But the causes were always quite difficult to pinpoint.
To make things worse, Jophia, who wasn’t able to understand us at that time, kept scratching whenever it itched. We couldn’t stop her. She scratched so badly, particularly during the night, that we would need to wake her up several times a night, just to stop her from scratching herself.
It was not only very draining on us, it was very difficult for us to see our child scratching so uncontrollably knowing that it would only worsen the situation for her.
I felt angry whenever I saw her scratching and my heart ached when I saw her open wounds. She would also wail and scream whenever we bathed her.
“We couldn’t sleep during those weeks as we had to constantly keep an eye on her and apply moisturisers on her skin.”
After four months of applying steroid creams on her, we decided that enough was enough. We realised that the creams were not improving her condition, and in some cases, had even made her eczema worse.
Having read about Topical Steroid Withdrawal, I was determined to wean her off the steroids. Hopefully, that would improve her condition.
It was really difficult. Initially, when we stopped using the steroids, her skin flared up really badly for a whole month. We couldn’t sleep during those weeks as we had to constantly keep an eye on her and apply moisturisers on her skin. We used a simple, natural moisturiser to just make sure that her skin was hydrated.
We changed our floor cleaner and laundry detergent. We bought a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner to make sure our home was free from dust mites. After getting recommendations from the Internet, we started using natural and organic oils, and different calendula creams to help her skin recover.
During her first test, we found that she is allergic to almost every single allergen on the list – except for sesame and fish.
Because I was breastfeeding her at that time, I restricted my diet, and slowly reintroduce the foods again one by one, to check if she was still allergic. Slowly, her tolerance for most of the foods got better.
We now take care to prevent her from eating anything that contains dairy, in particular. This includes cakes, ice creams and some soups.
It isn’t easy to restrict my little girl’s food. One of the most heartbreaking occasions was when there was a birthday celebration in Jophia’s preschool.
Her school has an app that allows parents to view photos of the children in school. One day, I happened to be glancing through the app and spotted a picture of my daughter sitting miserably in a corner, looking at her friends enjoy the party food that she couldn’t eat.
It broke my heart to think of all the times she was excluded whenever her school had celebrations. I really hope that parents can be sensitive to the needs of kids with allergies, and perhaps consider hypoallergenic cakes for their kids’ celebrations.
There were also so many other instances when we brought her to indoor playground, but she just couldn’t enjoy herself because she was itching. Other kids would be playing happily, but she would just sit on the floor and start scratching.
For Jophia’s second birthday, I was determined that she enjoyed a cake she liked, something that wouldn’t cause her eczema to flare up. A friend gave me the idea to make a jelly cake. Since Jophia loves Sophia the Princess, I made her a Sophia jelly cake with ingredients that are safe for her. After much trial and error, I’m glad I could make her something that she liked ― her smile made it all worthwhile.
These days, her condition has improved tremendously. The thing about Topical Steroid Withdrawal, is that the skin condition will show improvement for a while, then it would flare [worsening of the condition] again. There would be more improvement and it would flare again ― it’s just full of ups and downs.
But we noticed that with each flare-up, it wouldn’t be as bad as the previous one, so we believe that we are on the right track.
“But we noticed that with each flare-up, it wouldn’t be as bad as the previous one, so we believe that we are on the right track.”
To further prevent flare-ups, we try to eat in air-conditioned places. She also bathes in Epsom salt or red rooibos tea when her eczema gets bad.
After her bath, we apply natural creams, and then oil onto her body. The first 3 minutes after her bath are the most crucial as the oils are best absorbed then. We continue to apply the creams and oils five or six times more throughout the day. Her preschool also helps her with this routine twice during the day. She also take Lactogg, a probiotic, and fish oils, as these help reduce the number of flares.
On a friend’s recommendation, we plan to bring her to a TCM practitioner to see if he or she can help her skin improve even further.
My hope is that we will be able to educate her well, so that she can manage her skin on her own, and that she will eventually get better.”
Joanna Goy, 31, is mum to Jorissa, 4 months, Jophia, 2, and Jolinda, 5.
Photos: Joanna Goy
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