We Have To Talk About This.

There were several comments on my post about DIY Scratch Sleeves that theorized why my son’s eczema was so bad. I appreciated these comments, but by the time I had gotten them I already knew what they were telling me was true. And I didn’t mean to take a super long blogging break the first half of this year but I had to because my son was so sick. So sick. And he isn’t out of the woods yet, but he’s well on his way to healing from a condition called TSW or Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

Sounds weird, right?

You see, I thought withdrawal from medications was a fairly quick thing… a few weeks, max. In fact, we experienced a minor withdrawal when we switched from topical steroids to essential oils about a year ago. It looked like a minor flare, followed by a ton of improvement. But then on Halloween last year my family went to IHOP and my son was given a strawberry that had spent its life in strawberry syrup being coated in Red 40. We didn’t realize it until after he had eaten it, and as a result we spent several days in the hospital helping his body breathe. One of the steps in that process was a round of oral prednisone.
At his follow-up appointment with his pediatrician, the doctor pointed out that his skin looked great, but was looking very thin. After a couple of weeks, his skin began looking worse than ever, and at that point nothing helped.

The decline :(

In our Christmas photos, you can see that he just isn’t quite himself… and it just got worse from there. We didn’t leave the house for weeks. I hadn’t gone back to the topical steroids, but the prednisone set off the withdrawal that I suppose the switch to oils had *almost* saved us from.

not so bad anymore

If you’ve ever had the inkling that maybe your eczema or your child’s eczema was getting worse on steroids… or that your skin almost seemed to need the steroids… let me just tell you you’re probably right.

just about back to normal

After 9 months of suffering, my boy can play again. We almost never get questions about his skin anymore. I’ve watched friends go through this condition, though, and I know it might not be over for us. But for now we’re okay. And because of what we’ve been through I have to tell people and at least try to prevent another child from going through this misery. Because it’s downright horrifying what my son has had to endure and I can’t imagine not trying to prevent that!

If you want to know more, go to ITSAN.org. You’ll find forums there with people who have and are going through this. You’ll find research and photos of healing. You’ll find a list of symptoms that go beyond skin and maybe it will explain some of the things you’ve experienced that have baffled the doctors. I know I was thankful to find them and talk to other parents who have walked in my shoes, get advice, and help me figure out how to love my son through the hardest thing I hope he ever has to go through.

I have many more photos, but they are heartbreaking and very personal. There are other moms who have shared their TSW stories in far greater detail, and you can find them at http://www.itsan.org/get-involved/IMIA/

Help for Little Eczema Sufferers – No-Scratch Sleeves

My son has been suffering through the worst eczema flare-up I’ve ever witnessed. Seriously, I didn’t know eczema could even look like this. I’ve seen pictures of eczema that look like hives, red rashes, extremely dry and even very flaky skin, but not this. This is all of those and more. And I know the worst of it is caused by the fact that a three-year-old sweetie doesn’t fully understand the damage his scratching causes. And don’t get me wrong – we still love our eczema cream – and we have also taken the obvious steps of keeping his nails trimmed and wearing covering clothing – but since eczema isn’t merely a skin issue, we knew we had to take other steps.

Last Saturday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I saw his sweet face all scabbed up when he woke up (we cover him when he sleeps – footy pajamas are great – but his face is still exposed, so it gets the brunt of the scratching) and I couldn’t just lotion him and wait out his healing. I searched “eczema scratch prevention” online and found something I had never thought of before – scratch clothing!

There appeared to be two products on the market. One is called ScratchSleeves, and it’s made in the UK and shipped here. For about $23 (shipped) I can have my very own cardigan with mittens that my son would wear under his clothing. His hands would be completely covered, so any scratching would at least be minimally successful. The other was a similar product that’s made in the US and sells for about $25. It was the same basic premise, but the hands on these were open at the ends, and I knew my little guy would figure that out in no time.

Being that I can’t just learn about a product like and then buy it, the wheels in my head began turning and I decided I needed to see if there was a way I could make this myself. I thought up designs, what would be the most effective material to use, etc. – and then I remembered that I’m 9 months pregnant and we just moved into a new house, so all my sewing stuff is still in boxes. After a trip to the thrift store and finding nothing inspiring, I went to Walmart and found a set of 3 pairs of tights for about $3.97 – $1.33/pair!

My original thought was a body suit that would cover my boy from head to toe, including his hands. Then I talked to my brilliant husband and we decided that the most important factor was keeping his hands covered. Before bed that night, I grabbed one set of tights, snipped a small line down the middle, and put them on my boy. Perfect.

No Scratch Sleeves
My boy rocking his red no-scratch sleeves with his Spiderman t-shirt

Now, I realize that when most people think of eczema, something like this seems rather extreme. If that’s you, then I’m sorry but you haven’t seen eczema like I’ve seen. But if you’ve ever woken up and dreaded looking at your child for fear of what they’ve done to themselves overnight this time… if you’ve ever spent half your car trip explaining to your sweet child that it really is important that they don’t scratch… if you’ve ever dressed your little one in clothes that were maybe a little too warm for the weather in hopes that an extra layer would prevent him from hurting himself – then you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and you might just want to make some for your sweetheart. Well, thankfully, it’s super duper easy!

What you need:
-Tights, about the same size as your child. (My son is a 3T and we bought 2T-4T sized tights)
-Scissors

Unroll the tights.

Tights Find the center seam of the tights. Cut about 3 inches (depending on how broad your child’s shoulders are, this may vary.)
Cut Tights Cut Done

Put on the way you would put on a sweater. I find it easiest to roll up the tights to the end onto my thumbs (the same way I would put tights or socks on myself) and have him stick his hand directly into the end. Bring the back around, and do the same on the other side. Pull the front to a comfortable position.

Sleeves Front Sleeves Back

That’s it! Now put a shirt on and you’re ready to go!

Sleeves in PJs
Here he is in the white set with his PJs! I find it fun/easy to make it match his outfits.

My son has been wearing these for about a week and we’ve had minimal problems with them. He still scratches (we’re making diet changes and hoping that helps), but he isn’t breaking the skin anywhere near as easily as he used to. He can function well in them – he’s doing a puzzle as I type, and he can eat, color, and play without trouble.

To wash them, I put them all in a pillowcase, tied it shut, and put them in the washer on delicate. If you want to get fancy, you could get a lingerie bag but we didn’t have one on hand and I was afraid the zipper would cause snags. Some pairs got a little pilly, but a lint shaver would solve that problem. (I love mine, but it’s still in a box somewhere!)

So, that’s one step we’ve taken to help my son’s skin heal. We’re still putting his homemade eczema cream on every day, but this has made the battlefield more level, for sure.

If you make some, I’d love to see pictures!

What’s All This Stuff About Essential Oils??

I have posted several times about the use of essential oils in my home, both here and on Facebook, and I’ve gotten many questions – mostly asking me just what these things are! In my area, these things are exploding as a ‘new’ way to care for and promote wellness within our families, and everyone seems to either love them or shun them. I was once one of the latter, myself! What changed my mind? I actually tried them, and they made a huge difference in our lives. Now they’ve replaced many items I used to have in the medicine cabinet, and I feel like I have a much better handle on my family’s health.

What are they?
The dictionary says they are: a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.
What does that mean? It means they are an extract of a plant, pretty much. Found in nature, extracted, and placed into bottles. Sounds simple enough, right? But they’re also quite powerful, so you want to make sure you get *good* ones, not just any old oil off the grocery store shelf.

What do they do?
They can do a great number of things. I have a Quick Reference Guide that I just love to use when we’re struggling with something in our house. Google is also pretty great. Just last night I looked up ‘bloody noses’ and found that my daughter could breathe in (aka – smell) a combination of lavender and lemon oils to stop her nosebleed (and guess what? It did!) We also use a combination to help with allergies. We use a homemade cream with essential oils for skin troubles. I also have a blend I made to help with tummy yuck, and one I use when I’m having muscle pain. So, if I can do so without sounding cliche, I’d say the better question is what don’t they do! Because, seriously, we use them all the time around here.

Where do I get them?
Honestly? If you just want plain old essential oils, you can go just about anywhere. If you want the good stuff, go to Young Living. You can sign up as a customer and try any number of wonderful oils at your leisure, but the better bargain is to sign up to be a member (also called a distributor.)

Wait – You want me to sign up for something?
No. Well, not just for the sake of signing up, anyway – I want you to get the most for your money, and simply buying bottle after bottle of oils is not the best way to do that. I am a researcher. I spent weeks looking at the cost of oils from different places (as well as the credentials of those places – if they had any), and what I came back to was the Young Living Premium Starter Kit.

starterkit

It’s an up-front investment of about $150 (plus tax & shipping), but you receive an amazing value for that money. Nowhere – not even the cheap places – can offer you a diffuser worth nearly $100 and 11 different oils and oil blends, in addition to some lovely samples and reading material for anywhere near this price. And with Young Living, you get the SeedtoSeal guarantee — meaning you know you’re buying high-quality, unadulterated, undiluted essential oils.

everydayoils

If you want to see all of the amazing ways our family has begun using Young Living Essential oils, check it out here. Here are some other pretty amazing uses for the oils that come in the starter kit:

Young-Living-Ditch-Drugstore-Medications

Like I said – some pretty amazing stuff!

Additional Resources:
Anyone who buys their starter kit from me will be mailed a Quick Reference Guide. This is such a great resource for learning how to use your oils, that I think it would be a disservice not to provide it to you! You’ll also be invited to a Facebook Group where you can ask questions about your oils and get advice when something comes up. In the meantime, the Oily Families Facebook group is a good resource to get your questions answered or just to see testimonies of how Young Living Essential Oils have helped others!

Want In?
If you’re ready to join, click here and fill out the form. If you mark yourself as a “Distributor,” you’ll get immediate access to buy one of these great kits, plus you’ll get a 24% discount on every oil you order for the rest of forever. No – you don’t *have* to buy anything else, and you aren’t going to be made to ‘keep up’ a membership to get that discount. If you go a whole year without ordering anything, you’ll have to order $50 of product to get the discount again – but that’s not hard. You’ll probably wind up restocking every few months. Pretty sweet, right?

Have Questions?
If you’re wondering something I haven’t covered here, just ask below! I’ve really enjoyed getting a handle on my family’s wellness with the use of these oils – and I’d love to help you do the same!

**disclaimer: I am not a doctor, just a mommy learning to care for her family the best I can. I speak from experience, but not medical expertise. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, consult a medical practitioner. If you are just looking for new and helpful ways to continue caring for the ones you love, I hope you find my ideas useful in that endeavor. Thanks!**

The Truth about Food Coloring

I’ve shared our journey to living a life free of synthetic food dyes, but I realize that, apart from my son with the allergy, it can be unclear why these products are bad and should really be eliminated from our diets – and lives – entirely. There are a multitude of resources out there regarding this topic, so I’ll give you a break down and then some links so you can dig deeper if you so desire.

The Basics
Synthetic Food Colors are found in just about everything. I talked about it here, but it is in many many things. Add to that the general lack of knowledge of how awful it is, and you’ll find that it’s in ‘natural‘ products, as well. It is completely chemical, made in a lab from petroleum derivatives, and several variations of it have been pulled in the last few decades because they were proven to be carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Very little testing was done before these lovely things were approved to be put into our food, so many of the side effects weren’t discovered until much later.

The Truth about Food Coloring | LearningtoLiveIt.com
It’s anything but harmless, trust me.

The Risks
As you’ll read in the links below, the UK and several other countries have decided that the benefit of these products (they’re pretty), does not outweigh the many risks of using and consuming them. A European study showed that synthetic colors (specifically Red 40 and Yellow 5 – the two we use the most in the U.S.) caused severe hyperactivity in children. In a double-blind test, the children who were taken off of food dyes showed improved behaviour during the elimination period, and a drastic change once dyes were re-introduced. (I personally attribute the fact that my son skipped the ‘terrible twos’ entirely to artificial food coloring having been out of our diet for the better part of a year.) It’s been shown in other studies that these synthetic dyes cause allergic reactions, and proven in yet more studies to be cancer-causing, neurotoxic, and even to cause chromosomal damage! It’s my personal belief that the increase in the use of artificial dyes (we use 5x the chemical dyes today that we did 50-60 years ago) contributes to a large number of medical, behavioural, and societal issues we face today that were almost non-existent in previous generations.

Sounds delicious, right?

The Proof
If you like reading super technical stuff, here is a copy of the actual study done in the UK that initiated their banning/increased labeling standards of synthetic dyes, and here’s a breakdown of what it says.

You can also find some more fun food coloring reading at family gone healthykitchen stewardship, red40.com, and a wonderfully enlightening read by Robyn O’Brien at AllergyKids. If you’re a fan of infographics, I’m particularly fond of this one.

And last but not least, here are some sources for natural food dyes:
DIY: here or here
Buy It: here or here

The process of eliminating synthetic dyes from our diets has been a fairly arduous one, but I’ve found it to be worth it. If you or your children are suffering from ADD/ADHD, Migraine headaches, Eczema, food allergies, etc., I would encourage you to look at the ingredients in your food and consider that there could be a correlation.

Best Skin Cream Ever!

I’ve been using this skin cream on my son now for several months. His eczema was as bad as ever and I was so very tired of topical steroids that only seemed to prolong the problem rather than solve it. My son is sensitive to petroleum-based products and can’t use anything scented or colored, so we tried the few store bought lotions that didn’t contain those things, and still nothing helped. Finally, I reached out for help on Facebook. A dear friend messaged me and wound up bringing me samples of two essential oils she had read were very effective for this type of issue when combined with coconut oil. After numerous recommendations and testimonies, I decided it was worth a try.

Everything Skin Cream!

Y’all, this stuff was amazing. We fought an uphill battle and some steroid detoxing for the first couple days, and then his skin was moist and like new. It didn’t prevent itching or breakouts, but it moisturized his skin and fought potential infections while doing so.

The more I researched essential oils, the more I realized this wonderful mixture was capable of. When my daughter came home from school with a mysterious rash on her arm, I slathered her up and she woke up with her arm back to normal. I’ve used it time and again for diaper rashes, and it soothes my baby’s bottom the instant it touches him! I’ve also loved putting it on my son because it gives me the softest hands in the west — even after a day of doing dishes when my hands can feel like total sandpaper!

So what is this awesome stuff? I’m glad you asked, because I’m about to give you the simplest recipe EVER, and you’ll have this lovely stuff in your arsenal for everyday use.

EVERYTHING cream:

1 cup coconut oil
10 drops lavender essential oil (I only recommend Young Living – learn why!)
10 drops Melrose essential oil blend

Mix coconut oil with essential oils and lather on generously!

That’s it! I’ve seen people recommend whipping it, and that can lead to a beautiful texture — just toss it all in the mixer and let it do all the work! I usually just put the coconut oil straight into a jar and stir the oils in with a spoon because I hate washing my mixer lol. I have also let the coconut oil melt by putting it next to something slightly warm (preheating oven, fireplace, sunlight) and dropped the oils in the melted CO and shaken. That’s super easy if you have lots of time before you *need* the oil, and it will solidify again at room temperature.
Tips:
-No matter which method you use, it will get hard if it gets cold. Rubbing the jar between your hands is usually enough heat to soften it up some, or you can just dig it out with your fingers – I’ve done both.
-Use a jar or container with a lid. The essential oils will evaporate and you’ll be left with nothing but a pretty-smelling lotion if you don’t close up the container between uses.
-If you are using the cream for eczema, apply often. Moisture is a huge key in helping eczema skin heal, and unlike a prescription – you can’t put this stuff on too much!
-It will have an oily texture on your skin, but unlike olive and vegetable oils, it isn’t going to leave oily splotch stains on your clothes. That said, I usually apply it to my son on a towel because it’s just easier that way.
-As versatile as this cream already is, it can be even moreso! I’ve added Thieves oil for additional protection against infection during the worst eczema flare-ups, Peppermint to help ease itching, and Valor when my son was complaining about growing pains (since I was rubbing this stuff all over him, anyway!)

If you try this, let me know how you liked it!

**disclaimer: I am not a doctor, just a mommy learning to care for her family the best I can. I speak from experience, but not medical expertise. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, consult a medical practitioner. If you are just looking for new and helpful ways to continue caring for the ones you love, I hope you find my ideas useful in that endeavor. Thanks!**

Tips for Avoiding Food Coloring

HowToAvoidFoodColoring

I have posted before about my son’s food coloring allergy, but I wanted to be able to go into some more detail on the different everyday items that contain food coloring. Some of these you will have guessed, some you might not have. The reason I think this is so important is that the FDA seems to refuse to acknowledge that food coloring is as prominent in our food (and non-food) supply as it really is. I read one article citing that the FDA associated the hyperactivity in children with the “sugary, sweet foods” that contain the dyes. Having dealt with a severe allergy (how I wish it were simple hyperactivity) to chemical food dyes, I have to say that is completely ignorant. It is in so much more than cookies, cakes and candy. So, for the curious, here is a list of the many foods you will need to label-check if you are trying to avoid food dyes:

Sweets | I’ll go into more detail here, because you might be surprised at some of it!

Cakes

The Bad
Even the prepackaged, only chocolate and white cakes. And Twinkies. And the boxed chocolate cake mixes. And, while we’re at it, the icing. Yes, white, too.

The Good
Homemade cakes and icing really aren’t that hard, and it’s pretty easy to make them cute without using food dyes. And it’s typically significantly cheaper than buying a box. And as much as you love them, you know you don’t need those Twinkies.

Cookies

The Bad
You’ve already guessed that your favorite M&M cookies are full of food dyes, but so are the Snickerdoodles at your favorite cookie shop, and the chocolate chocolate chip cookies in the package at the store, and the ones rolled up in the little package.

The Good
Again, homemade cookies are way better and cheaper, but if you really need some dye-free store bought stuff, it is out there. Immaculate is a fantastic brand, and even some varieties of Pillsbury doughs are free of dyes.

Candy

The Bad
Again, you know a lot of candy has food coloring in it. Pretty much any colored candy you pick up at the grocery store, with the exception of a few, has food coloring in it. What you may not know is that Sugar Babies have food coloring in them, as well. As do those white “candy sticks” (candy cigarettes, if you’re from my generation).
The Good
Thankfully, this is one area where marketers have taken notice of the natural trend and there are some brands out there that are just fabulous. One is UNREAL. Their candy is completely natural, and they have some candy-coated chocolates and candy-coated peanuts that are just delicious. For all other ‘colored’ candies, our family has been blessed to have an aunt in the UK (where food dyes are banned) who sends us candy a couple times a year. Trader Joe’s also has a pretty great candy collection.

Other

Another notable sweet with unexpected food coloring is marshmallows. Apparently blue makes things appear whiter. But most store brand marshmallows steer clear of this rather unnecessary added ingredient.

Store bought pumpkin pies sometimes have food coloring. Pumpkin is plenty orange on its own, but last year my dad picked up a cheap pie and it was full of the junk. But don’t bother buying pies. Make your own. It’s so much yummier.

 

Cooking & Baking

– Beef Boullion

– Seasoned Salt

– Bacon Salt (they have switched to an ‘all natural’ formula, but if you bought your bacon salt a while back, you might check it out)

– Croissant rolls — basically any of the ones you find in a tube, with the exception of the Immaculate brand.

Salty Foods

– Pickles

– Dean’s French Onion Dip

– Cheetos, Doritos, most of the flavored Ruffles

– Certain flavors of Cheez-Its

Breakfast Foods

– Cinnamon Rolls in a tube (all non-natural brands)

– Eggo Waffles (store brand waffles do not typically have dyes)

– Most breakfast cereals (even if they don’t appear to be colored. Life, for example.)

Non-Food Items | We have found food coloring in many household items and play items that we surely didn’t expect to have to battle with. If you haven’t already switched to all-natural household items, you might check the labels on the following, as well… though, note that many of the following items are generally considered non-consumable and may not have all or any ingredients listed:

– Dish Soap (dishwasher, too)

– Laundry Soap & Fabric Softener

– Hand Soap (even if it is clear soap!)

– Hand Sanitizer

– Shampoo & Conditioner

– Body Wash

– Bubble Bath

– Medicine (syrups AND pills, prescription AND OTC)

– Playdoh (all brands, sadly)

– Face Paint

– Markers (discovered this after he colored all over himself)

– Make Up (lipstick, eye shadow, etc.)

– Hair gels

– Hair dyes

– Perfumes/Colognes/Body Sprays

These days, my family pretty much looks at all labels for anything we buy. We haven’t gotten to the point of cutting everything chemical out of our lives (and if you have – kudos!), but we steer clear of these ones for sure. For my son, and for the rest of our family, too. Chemical dyes have been shown to be neurotoxins, and I can’t think of a single reason I would want those near my family.

The Good News

The good news is, there are a lot of foods and items out there that aren’t full of chemical dyes. I think this will become more and more true as our culture becomes more aware of the amount of chemicals used in our foods, and therefore become more naturally-minded. If you’re looking for better food options, Target sells a lot of natural brands, and if you have one near you, Trader Joe’s actually has a pledge to not sell foods with artificial coloring in them. And they even have red velvet cake. (I think Whole Foods may have this pledge as well.)

What do you think about chemical dyes in our foods and household items? Will you consider making changes to your family’s purchasing habits? Do you know of foods I missed, or stores that are good resources for naturally-colored foods? Please share below!

Essential Oils – Notes from a former skeptic

I wanted to let you know about a new(er) development in our home.

Although we had experienced a dramatic change in my son’s skin once we successfully eliminated all the food coloring, we still battled severe dryness and itching. We had used every soap and lotion we could find (including several $30 bottles of CaliforniaBaby which his skin didn’t like any more than it did the regular stuff), various oils (baby oil, coconut oil, etc) and we were still battling constant itching and bleeding, scabby legs from my sweet boy not knowing how to quit scratching. Desperate, I reached out to my friends on Facebook. I didn’t want to have the “stop scratching” chorus be my all-day-long song to my son any longer! I had one friend recommend using essential oils. I honestly thought it was crazy, but nothing else had worked, so I agreed to let her bring me some samples.

She brought me samples of lemon, lavender, and melrose oils. She suggested I place them in a carrier oil – I used some of the coconut oil leftover from previous ‘lotion’ attempts – and apply it several times a day for the first few days, and I could taper off after that. So I did just that. The first day, it looked about the same. Toward the end of the second day, it looked worse. I asked my friend and she suggested that it could be the steroid creams coming out of his skin. It sounded weird, but I was never comfortable with all those steroid creams anyway, so I went with it. On day 3, I started to see some real change… and I also began to run out of oil. I dragged my feet, and my husband and I talked about buying more, but what convinced us was what happened on the next few days. His skin continued to improve. I was basically shocked. The scabs were healing from all of the scratching, and he was no longer itchy all the time. At this point, I decided something had worked. It was no longer a constant uphill climb! We had reached a level of skin that was almost normal. I tell you, I could have cried. I probably did.

We have since begun using essential oils for many things. My son’s skin is still in better condition than it had ever been before. And most excitingly, if he has accidental contact with red (like his sweet sister sharing her candy, or chewing on a red pen – yes, both of those happened… within a 2-day period!), the “mommy lotion” keeps it from getting obnoxious like before. Benadryl is still needed in those instances, but we no longer need a round of steroids to get him breathing well again (as long as we catch it pretty quickly), and his skin doesn’t go back to crazy. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why it works. I just know my son is closer to feeling like a ‘normal’ little boy (if such a thing exists), and he is so. much. healthier.

For our family, we have found that making the essential oils into ‘medicines’ we can simply pull out as needed works best for us. We have small jars in our medicine cabinet, and I find myself reaching for lavender instead of tylenol these days for a headache, and Purification for a bug bite instead of After Bite (and a bonus – it doesn’t STING like After Bite does!) I’m excited about this new world of wellness to which I’ve been introduced, and we’ve had so much less sickness in our home than is normal for this time of year.

Have you ever used ‘alternative’ or ‘supplemental’ medicine? What have been your experiences? Do you have questions about essential oils? Ask them below and I’d be happy to answer however I can!