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Eric and Jill attended the 2012 NEA Conference with 7-year-old Jarrett who has eczema.
When we got back from the NEA conference, we wanted to put together what we learned to help in managing Jarrett’s eczema. Here are the main points we found useful for us, along with the things we have started to do differently to manage Jarrett’s eczema. We just want to share some of what we learned at the conference in the hope that someone else will find this helpful!
Jennifer LeBovidge, PhD, a psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital who specializes in Pediatric Psychology, talked about the importance of children developing coping and self-regulation strategies. This will become more and more important for Jarrett as he gets older, since he will not always have people around to distract him from his itchiness. Based on the ideas and strategies Dr. LeBovidge shared, we have started to explain to Jarrett why his skin gets itchy and why it’s important for him to take care of his skin. he’s been asking a lot of questions and seems to understand why he needs to rinse/soak and moisturize his skin.
Dr. LeBovidge suggested teaching guided imagery techniques that kids can use when they feel stressed, tired, anxious, etc. We tried this on the plane home when he started scratching. We’re not sure how effective it will be for him at this age, but he played along and it became a sort of game.
Dr. LeBovidge suggested we come up with a secret signal that Jarrett can use with his school teacher, so he doesn’t have to call attention to himself if he needs to go to the nurse’s office because he feels an intense scratch attack coming or he wants to relax his body or use his wipes and moisturize. The teacher can also use the signal with Jarrett if s/he sees that he’s getting really itchy. Since Jarrett is the type who will keep saying he’s okay until the itch is unbearable, this might be a particularly good approach to use while he’s at school.
There was a lot of talk about food and environmental allergies. To sum it all up into one sentence, food allergies do not cause eczema. The hives that food allergies do cause are generally itchy and the increased itchiness often makes it appear that certain foods cause flare-ups. We are told these are two distinct conditions. One does not cause the other. In other words, eliminating certain foods will not make the eczema go away.
Allergy tests are not reliable when it comes to positive results (these results are just 50% accurate), but these can be helpful in eliminating allergies (negative results are more reliable).