Many parents will encounter childhood eczema. If you have not experienced it in your own children, you probably know a parent who has. Some children may experience it briefly or on occasion while others struggle with it daily. It can be difficult to identify the cause and equally difficult to soothe the symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine offer treatment options that few parents are aware of. We talked to Katherine to learn how she used Acupuncture to help her own son’s eczema.
Treating Pediatric Eczema with Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine
It wasn’t until I had my son that I realized how prevalent childhood eczema, atopic dermatitis, is. From mild dry skin patches to itchy red patches all over the body, I was seeing eczema in babies right and left later in my own practice.
What was most disturbing to me was that pediatricians were prescribing Aquaphor or steroid cream to deal with the dermatitis. They were focusing solely on the visual ailment (dry, sometimes itchy or red patches), but not looking at or treating the root cause. “Treating” topical eczema with Aquaphor or steroid creams is actually a bandaid, yet not a long term solution.
In my training I learned that something appearing on the outside of the body is a sign that something is out of balance internally. This is where Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine differs from the Western approach – acupuncture works to treat the root cause of the skin ailment. It offers a safe and effective way to treat eczema, and not just cover it up short term.
So what causes Eczema?
Western medicine often depicts that childhood eczema is genetic, but at 1 year old my son developed mild eczema with no prior family history.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) identifies several causes of eczema. The two main causes are Wind-Heat and Damp-Heat. Wind can be caused by an illness (common cold, flu, etc) and Dampness may be environmental (humidity) factors or diet based.
Children carry a lot of heat, which is why eczema is so common in kids. It is also why eczema can be exacerbated by fevers or really hot baths.
- Wind-Heat is heat in the body combined with Wind or Dampness. According to TCM, these two conditions lead to eczema where the skin is dry and scally. It may be itchy, often appears suddenly and spreads quickly. It may also be accompanied by constipation.
- Damp-Heat eczema is often found in skin folds. The skin will usually be moist vs. dry and may be oozy. The child may also experience diarrhea or loose stools.
How does acupuncture treat Eczema?
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine work to establish and maintain balance of yin-yang and homeostasis of the organ systems in the body. Just as every child is different, every case is different and the child is treated as a whole. Treatment for eczema will often include a combination of Acupuncture, dietary changes, topical herbal ointments and sometimes herbal medicine.
How is acupuncture treatment for babies and children different from adult treatment?
Children are full of active energy (aka, qi) that is ready to be redirected into a healthy pattern of movement. Therefore, the treatments require less points and take less time.
For infants, needles do not even need to be retained most of the time. Also for older children who are afraid of needles, or don’t respond well to them other techniques are utilized such as a Japanese massage technique called Shoni Shin, or the use of acupressure and magnets to redirect energy.
When are dietary changes and the introduction of herbs usually necessary?
In eczema that is caused by Damp-Heat, it is important to avoid dampening foods such as dairy, cold or raw foods, fatty foods, refined grains (white flour) and sugar.
For eczema caused by Wind-Heat, it’s important to avoid hot foods such as spicy food and shellfish; but healthy fats in moderation may be helpful.
What is a popular and safe topical treatment?
In cases where the eczema is causing the child discomfort or embarrassment, I often recommend Emily’s Skin Soothers. Emily’s Skin Soothers is a line of natural topical ointments meant to reduce inflammation and nourish the skin. As I mentioned, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work to treat the child vs. the ailment. Eczema can be very complicated and it’s best to consult your local acupuncturist before undergoing treatment.
Katherine Rohland has a Master’s in Acupuncture and runs a private practice located in downtown Manhattan. Katherine specializes in Women’s health and pediatric care. She is dedicated to helping her patients with natural and effective means. Katherine became an acupuncturist in order to help others who suffer chronic, undiagnosable, or just plan out frustrating problems such as she has. She works with everyone on an individual basis to craft the treatment that is right for them.