Torin age 2 with no visible eczema
Age 2 happy at the beach
Age 6 with great looking skin at the beach
Torin age 2 with no visible eczema
Eczema through the years
Life at 24 Months
At 24 months, Torin had reached the ‘maintenance’ stage of keeping normal skin on his body as opposed to the initial stage which involved getting rid of infections, all detergents and allergens.
Needless to say, if he got exposed to food he is allergic to then the situation was still as serious as it ever was, but in terms of detergent he was definitely getting less sensitive as his skin got thicker and healthier, and his whole system got stronger from not fighting off his triggers constantly. He could come shopping with me for a few hours and his hands got itchy and his eye lids went red by the end, but his cheeks didn’t crack and weep anymore and he didn’t turn into an itchy mess from being in public. As a safety measure for both him and for keeping our house detergent free still we still gave him a bath or shower if he was in town or with friends. (update: At age 3, even this was not necessary anymore as his sensitivity to detergent triggers lessend. I gave him an extra bath if he reacted to detergent while outside the home, but not unless that happened)
Life at 6 years old
Just before Torin turned six years old he started school. He had been in Montessori school for a year before that and this was a major step as I didn't know if homeschooling would be our only option due to his conditions or not. We tried Montessori and for the first month and a half I sat in the corner of his class to supervise any reactions and see how he was getting on. We were incredibly lucky to have found a Montessori teacher that embraced his issues and worked with us from the start. A year later when he started primary school his Montessori teacher accompanied us to a meeting with his future principal to make sure the changeover would be smooth and to see what issues may arise. Again, his school were very understanding and willing to make the changes to accommodate him. I will explain all the steps needed to enter a school with his conditions in more detail in a later blog post which I will link here but in the meantime here is a summary of what needed to be done in order for Torin to be able to go to Montessori and primary school a year later which may help you if you have a similar situation:
The school environment needed to be turned into a nut free zone. This means all snack and school lunches had to be nut free and any activities such as halloween projects with peanuts or pancakes with chocolate spread on pancake Tuesdays had to be rethought. (We are not religious but schools here in Ireland are mainly catholic so Pancake Tuesday was pancake making day in the school). This then had to be policed accordingly
Generic detergents had to be removed. So hand soaps in bathrooms were replaced with natural real soap, any cotton towels washed in detergents would be replaced with paper towels, and school cleaners received a bottle of my homemade antibacterial cleaner that they would use to clean the school. Teachers also received a bottle of this to wipe down tables and whatever else in the classroom.
Irritants such as glue and some crayons and craft materials had to be monitored as his hands reacted to PVA glue and some craft materials. In this case we would find an alternative, eg. a Pritt Stick instead of liquid glue.
I as a parent that had to visit the school often and sit in class had to get Garda vetted to be legally able to be in a classroom of kids that weren't my own. This process took a few months in advance of school starting.
School lunches that were delivered - the primary school Torin goes to gets school lunches delivered to those kids that order them so I had to get a detailed ingredients list off the lunch company at the beginning of the school year to make sure any ingredients didn't contain nuts and also if Torin was to order them, to make sure that he didn't have a lunch he was allergic to. On one occasion he was given the wrong sandwich in the correct packaging and was it not for his teachers vigilant attention he would have gotten extremely sick as she noticed his sandwich didn't look like his usual kind and stopped him from opening it.
Epi-pen/Ana-pen training - Due to his nut allergy I went to the school on several occasions to train the teachers how to use an anapen in the case that he may go into anaphylaxis. I also made lists to show all the different types of nuts that one can get so there was no confusion and a list of lunch things that have nuts in them that one would not necessarily think has nuts in it, and also suggested some alternatives. Torin has two anapens in his classroom at all times in case of an allergic reaction and teachers also have to remember to take these with them on school walks or outings.
The primary school undertakes swimming lessons for the kids for three months of the year starting in first class but due to Torins skin sensitivities he has not been able to go into a pool freely unless it is a rain water pool or a once off occasion here or there. His skin would flare up and his breathing would also be affected. Hence we took up a membership at the only rain water pool in Ireland which we are lucky to live half an hour away from but the pool the school uses was a different one. Bearing this in mind we are still unsure what will happen now once swimming lessons start in his school after the Covid-19 lockdown but it is food for thought that this situation will need accessing and awareness.
Due to Torins asthma history over the last few years we also received an Asthma action plan from the hospital that is revised regularly and I explain this plan to his teacher and provide the relevant inhalers at the school for him.
Due to kids bringing in new items in their lunch boxes on a daily basis, some of which I am not familiar with and Torins teacher may not have seen before either, we have set up a very good parent/teacher communication where we have each others phone numbers and if a student brings in an item his teacher isn't sure about she can send me a picture of the ingredients list and I answer back straight away if the item is OK to consume in the classroom or not. Having your phone on you at all times when your child is in school in these situations is imperative.
Park walks with Torins class had to be reconsidered at certain times of the year as he had an allergic reaction once when the lawns were being cut and chestnuts on the lawn were being milled up with the mower and their fine dust lingered in the air. Walks were done when lawns weren't mowed and pollen wasn't too high, and at times when chestnuts were plentiful I would gladly accompany the class in the background in case any situation happened.
Fundraisers/Cake sales are something all schools organise and when our school does it I generally make something that is allergen friendly so Torin can have something at the sale and I hang around to make sure all other cakes Torin comes in contact with are also safe. The same goes for him going to friends birthday parties. If the school occasionally got an ice cream van to celebrate holidays or the like I would be informed beforehand and I would organise an ice cream that I knew Torin could have when the others had their dairy ones.
As you can see starting school was a major milestone but I am extremely grateful of everyones cooperation in making Torin feel at home and as little of an outsider as possible.
At this age it was also getting a lot easier to take him to public places. His skin only flared up if a chemical turned up in his environment that aggravated him and in that case we would treat it at home accordingly.
Unfortunately due to his immune system being more fragile than the average child he still spent a lot of days sick at home. When a 'normal' child gets a cold, Torins cold would turn into a full blown flu with fevers and febrile seizures or asthma attacks and it would take three weeks of home treatments and medications from his GP and sometimes even hospital visits and stays before he would be ok again. I am now, at age 7, seeing somewhat of a pattern in these episodes. September, back to school month, and the following month October are always bad ones with 'back to school colds', December seems to be another time for illness with the damp weather in Ireland (surprisingly his last December 'episode' cleared up when we went on holiday to Tenerife - dry, sunny weather), and then February to May seems to make things worse too as the pollen in the air accelerates any aggravation in his system. Then in late autumn with nuts and fruit on the trees and lawns he also seems to get more sensitive to sniffles and they can then turn serious very quickly. Every year his system does however get stronger and we are seeing a slow decrease in the amount of time he is sick.
Some people may think we are crazy doing all this work when doctors here don’t see detergents or intestinal issues as the cause of eczema as mainstream but don’t we all have to move on and learn more at some point? We weren’t willing to sit back and just cover our son in more chemicals for a temporary solution, we were willing to go all the way and do everything we possibly could to help him get better. I could see what works for him, and if getting rid of detergent and getting alternative remedies was what did it, then that’s what we did.
Some people may say ‘Oh well hasn’t he just grown out of it, like predicted?’, well no, because if we had left him in the state he was in and only masked his symptoms then his body would have been sick and inflamed under the surface as opposed to healthy and happy without continuous medication. In the process we as a family also educated ourselves. Knowledge is power to take action for your own health and safety.