Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Treatment of Childhood Eczema and Chinese Medicine

By Eric Aufdencamp, L.Ac.

Chinese medicine is very effective in the treatment of childhood eczema. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, refers to inflammation of the skin and a group of other allergic diseases that commonly develop concurrently or later in life. The most common symptoms include: itchy, red, inflamed skin that may be dry and scaly or exude a clear to yellowish fluid. A Western medical diagnosis provides useful information, but the best information for your acupuncturist is the specific symptoms your child has. This information guides the diagnosis and treatment process.

Chinese Medicine and Eczema

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the skin not being properly nourished is the main underlying reason that eczema occurs. The Blood and fluids nourish the skin in Chinese Medicine theory. The manifestations of the condition will reveal the specific disharmony disrupting the flow of Blood to the skin. Although there can be many diagnoses in Chinese medicine, some of the most common are: phlegm and damp accumulation, heat in the Blood and/or Blood deficiency. The root of most childhood eczema is chronic lingering pathogenic factor (LPF). This refers to improper treatment of an illness that your child may not have fully recovered from, or the result of some pharmaceuticals. It is important to determine which factor is predominant for the initial treatment. Below are types of eczema and their causes according to Chinese Medicine theory.

1. Phlegm and Dampness Accumulation: This type of eczema is generally caused by a weakness of the Spleen, which then creates dampness. Symptoms can include: rash with oozing fluids, nasal discharge, productive cough, and skin with a yellowish hue.

2. Heat: The heat may be the result of ‘fetal toxins’ or ‘constitutional weaknesses.’ Symptoms may include: red face, irritability, hot to the touch or hot all the time, restlessness, excessive thirst, and appetite. The lesions may be dry if heat is more prominent than dampness.

3. Qi and Blood Deficiency: This is caused by weakness of the Spleen that produces the Blood that nourishes the skin. Symptoms include: dry, flaky skin with a rash that is not very severe, pale or white face, poor appetite, shadows under eyes. The child may tend to be lethargic.

4. Lingering Pathogenic Factor: Symptoms may include: swollen glands in neck or groin, history of repeated illness, frequent antibiotic use, and immunizations.

5. Accumulation Disorder: This is caused by a weakness of the Spleen causing an accumulation dampness that combines with heat. It can be the result of introducing new foods, which are difficult to digest; frequent feedings, which weaken the Spleen; or the use of antibiotics, which create dampness. Symptoms: red, oozing rash, strong constitution, green nasal discharge, swollen abdomen, foul-smelling stools or scent of apples, red cheeks with green hue around the mouth, and irregular stools.

Home Care for Pediatric Eczema

The root of most cases of childhood eczema is the Spleen/Stomach system. That is why diet is one of the most important ways to treat and prevent childhood eczema.

1. Eliminate: excessively sweet foods such as juices, tropical fruits, peanuts, dairy, oily, fried foods, wheat and all sugar.

2. Put your infant on a regular feeding schedule and don’t feed every time they are fussy or cry.

3. Apply a customized essential oil blend to soothe and heal the skin. It must be extracted without chemical solvents, otherwise it may irritate the skin or have very little to no therapeutic effect.

4. An oatmeal bath helps soothe the itchiness associated with many inflammatory skin conditions.

5. Talk to your acupuncturist about home massage techniques you can perform on your child to strengthen his or her Spleen/Stomach (digestive system) meridians.

6. Avoid steroid creams and ointments, if at all possible. They may drive the causative factor deeper into the body, thereby weakening other internal organs.