Eczema has always been part of my life, though its intensity has varied a lot over the years. When I was a child, my hands, knees and arms were badly affected, and I can still remember not being allowed anywhere near a sandpit because of my bandaged hands. I was lucky that most of my symptoms had eased up significantly by the time I started school, and apart from the occasional outbreak, I could keep my eczema largely at bay without using steroid creams.
During my first pregnancy, my skin was as good as can be and I had hardly any eczema related symptoms. A few months’ post- birth, however, it was a very different story. Whether it was a change in hormones, a sudden new reaction to certain foods (my diet had not changed), or just bad luck, the skin inside both my palms became extremely dry and itchy. It happened overnight. I tried to manage with a range of over the counter moisturisers, but with no effect.
I started to dread washing my hands (which, with a new baby, seems to happen every 3 minutes approximately), as they were raw, sore and my movements were restricted by painful cracks. Simple things such as opening all my fingers at the same time brought blood to my hands and tears to my eyes. In the initial baby haze, I was too caught up in my baby and being a new mum to take my skin problems seriously, and rather optimistically I assumed that things would somehow get better by themselves.
As those with children will know, the amount of hand washing you do with a precious new baby in your life is unprecedented. There are countless nappy changes, bath time, and the general ‘every germ is out there to get your baby’ paranoia, where washing your hands becomes the main weapon for protecting their innocent little immune systems.
With all that in mind, my eczema was just about manageable until we reached the 6-month mark, and a new adventure into early parenthood began: weaning and solid foods.
I don’t need to tell anyone who suffers from eczema just how painful it is to handle certain foods (citrus fruits, onions, tomatoes), combined with the added dryness from the over-cautious hand washing, when you already have highly irritated skin. Holding a burning hot piece of coal in the palm of your hand is the closest I can come to describing it, and to then repeat this ‘experience’ countless times every day.
Not only was I preparing different snacks and meals for my baby about 5-6 times a day, but I was also careful that every piece of food I gave her was as clean as can be, on an equally sparkling clean plate, with her own hands being washed all the time as well. Unsurprisingly, all this additional exposure to food and water meant that the skin on my hands went from bad to worse.
One of my first points of contact was my GP; however, I didn’t find the advice I was given particularly helpful. After taking one quick look at my hands, I was given some Aveeno samples and sent on my way.
On my second trip the doctors, this time with a different and more understanding GP, I was prescribed a mild steroid cream. Even though I didn’t want to use it, largely out of fear that some steroid components might filter through to baby through breastfeeding, I gave in, and luckily for me, the cream did its job very quickly.
Once my skin had improved, I tried to find ways to prevent the problem from coming back. Finding a (non-steroid) cream that was suitable for breastfeeding and had restorative ingredients became a game changer.
I started with a GP prescribed hand moisturiser that, despite smelling rather unpleasant, was brilliant. I have since done a lot more research, and come across many products online that for me, are a lot more effective than most big-branded creams from supermarkets and drug stores.
What has also been very useful to me was to purchase some gloves for everyday use at home. Whilst this might sound a little strange, I highly recommend them to anyone with sore hands, as I noticed a huge improvement shortly after using both latex and cotton gloves.
The latex gloves are pretty much exclusively for use in the kitchen, as they act as a second layer of skin, under which you can apply your moisturiser, and then get on with it – chopping, cooking, and cleaning without exposing your skin to water and food.
They also have the added benefit of making you feel a bit like a surgeon! I know not everyone can use latex as it can be an allergen, but if you can, I would strongly recommend them.
The cotton gloves helped overnight. I would wear them over a thick layer of moisturiser which would give my sore hands some precious time to heal.
These little life-hacks made a huge difference for me, and I made sure that after baby number 2, I made most from my new eczema knowledge and paid more attention to my skin from the start. We are nine months into life with a (weaned!) baby and toddler, and so far, my skin seems to hold up well.
Healthy Little Frugals
Healthy Family Cooking on a Budget – eat well, spend little, be healthy!