Every May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada, and we’re so excited to welcome Avazera co-founder, Shiva Burnett to share her journey that is very near and dear to her heart. Today Shiva shares her story and best advice for overcoming her struggles when caring for her then-newborn son’s eczema, the discovery of his severe allergies, and why she choose a natural approach to recovery!
Any parent caring for a child with eczema and allergies has their unique journey.
How it all Began
My son, Shyon was born with a severe case of eczema. It first started with extremely dry skin, which then became inflamed, red spots all over his face and body, and at times baby acne popped up! Realizing that “baby smooth skin” did not apply to my little boy, I was extremely frustrated and determined to find a solution. Strangers would look at me and ask “Oh, what happened!” and our families kept questioning if we were doing the right things. Unfortunately, we were unaware what the actual cause was- all that was certain for my husband and I was that we were dedicated to getting to the bottom of Shyon’s eczema and refused to put cortisone cream as the first solution.
I kept having the feeling that something was happening internally. I became obsessed with every little thing that was happening? Was it our diet? Was it the lotions we were using? Was it the clothes he was wearing? It wasn’t until one day we gave him a cashew cookie and he showed a very severe reaction. This prompted us to follow up with our family doctor who then referred us to an allergist. The visit proved to be an invaluable source of information as Shyon was allergic to pretty much everything! Dairy, wheat, eggs, the grass family (which includes rice and corn) were off the table. Truthfully, my initial reaction was sadness as I thought he was not able to eat the “regular things” everyone was having. As well, as I was still breastfeeding him, I too had to make significant lifestyle changes. However, what we discovered was part of the journey that has forever helped us! Below I have put together some of my tips based on my experience to hopefully help a family that may be experiencing the same journey.
Healing Eczema | Where to Start
1.) Allergy Testing
If you suspect that your child’s eczema is due to allergies, I recommend visiting your family doctor to see if allergy testing is an option. As well, find out if you or your partner has a family history of eczema, asthma, or any other allergies such as food or environmental. As this will give you an idea of what your child may be dealing with. Often dairy is a big culprit!
2.) Keep a Journal
If you have yet to do an allergy test, I highly recommend keeping a journal of everything you [if you’re currently breastfeeding] and your child is eating which may help to detect your child’s eczema triggers. As well, you will have information ready to provide your family doctor or allergist.
3.) Small Changes, Big Differences for Summer
Summer is coming up! However, I know from experience how dealing with eczema during this season can trigger a flare-up. Here’s what you can do to ease the transition:
– Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water!
– Avoid going outside during the sun’s peak hours to avoid sweating and overheating. As well, pollen and allergies are at their highest which can trigger allergies and subsequent flare-ups
– Keep moisturizers, gels, and emollients you use in the fridge to keep them cool
– Wear loose, light fitting clothes made from 100% cotton
– At night, keep your child cool with clothing and bedding. Consider adding a fan in their room to ensure a consistently cool temperature
– Look for a natural sunscreen to reduce irritation and skin itch
Change to an unscented, dye-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergents and wash. With my son personally I found this change was a major factor. If your child’s eczema is pretty severe, consider all other family members to switch over. As well, avoid using fabric softeners!
– Limit using overly hot water and bathing your child too frequently
– While washing use unscented, hypoallergenic products and wet lotion them for added moisturizing benefits
– Gently dry skin by patting skin dry- do not rub!
– Once dry, add a barrier cream to lock in further moisture such as coconut oil or shea butter. Continually keep on moisturizing throughout the day!
– Always patch test new moisturizers or emollients prior to use
– Trim fingernails to minimize skin scratching, if itching occurs. Or if your child is quite young or cannot stop scratching consider putting mittens to reduce irritation further
5.) Dietary Changes
After finding out what Shyon was allergic to such as dairy, wheat, eggs, and cashews and things in the grass family the next step was elimination, management, and substitutions.
Today there are a lot of substitutes and recipes to help guide the transition! Please be mindful to not solely focus on eliminating foods; you also want to add wholesome stuff back into the diet! For me, that’s how I started looking for natural sources of calcium and plant-based proteins to ensure my son was meeting all his dietary needs for optimal health. My goal was to keep our diets rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods and throughout my journey of finding alternative forms of nutrition I found a variety of superfoods I had never heard of before! We used baobab as a source of calcium and dietary fibre; spirulina is a rich a source of plant-based protein, chia seeds were great for egg-replacement for vegan baking- so Shyon still had his cookies, and lastly, we substituted quinoa for rice.
6.) Don’t Forget About You!
If you are currently breastfeeding your child, your child’s eczema may be affected by your diet. I do suggest the following:
– Increasing your water intake! With summer coming up (and if you can) try young coconut water to avoid dehydration
– Avoid common eczema triggers such as food additives and reducing inflammatory foods from your diet
– Increase anti-inflammatory foods such as green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, etc. within your diet
7.) Positive Mindset
Dealing with eczema for both parents and children can be difficult. However, I am a firm believer in staying positive, and that within itself is very healing. Whether you laugh, giggle and play it will all help with relaxation and take your child’s mind off their eczema as you go through your healing journey.
How is Shyon Now?
Shyon’s eczema and allergies are well under control! After the age of 5, I slowly started to reintroduce rice and corn back into his diet, and he can now successfully have them. However, dairy and nuts are still a no-go. Despite those two dietary restrictions, he is thriving and has come such a long way!
The key to managing eczema is consistency, just know that you’re not alone! If you have any tips for eczema relief please share in the comments.