I’ve shared my son’s nightmare eczema/infection/food allergy journey to healing at least 300 times. Facebook groups, friends, strangers in the grocery store, family functions, people who’ve randomly messaged me after reading my previous comments, people who’ve messaged me seeking private, vulnerable discussion about their or their child’s issues … You probably don’t know this, but I talk to people about eczema and food allergies every single day. I’m a Christian, mom, wife, copywriter, graphic designer, blogger and major Eczema Healing/Food Allergy Awareness Advocate.
I share this information because I know the pain.
If you’ve ever watched your child lie in a hospital bed for more than an ER visit or outpatient surgery, you know this pain. If you’ve ever had to watch your young child get upset because they can’t eat the yummy treats everyone else is enjoying, you know this pain. If you’ve ever had to leave the room when your husband rubbed creams and ointments on your child because they’re screaming bloody murder … every single day … for weeks … you know this pain.
I’ve never experienced pain worse than watching my child suffer while every single thing I try fails to work, over and over, for months on end.
I’m pretty sure the emotional damage was worse for me than it was him.
This is my son, Matthew, before his skin strep infection (not to be confused with strep throat). He had “normal eczema”. Red patches on the backs of his knees, inside elbow creases, maybe a bit on the wrists. He only flared when he accidentally ate dairy – his only allergen at the time. It was relatively easy to manage with topical steroids as needed.
(the legs are boyhood battle wounds, not eczema)
This is the humble beginnings of our nightmare … Matthew called it his “toe boo boo”. It started around March 2015 I think. Two rounds of oral antibiotics, topical steroids and topical antibiotic (mupirocin) did not completely get rid of it. Months later, during his first hospitalization, they actually did an MRI on his toe to see if they could find what could be so resistant to treatment. (Answer: a nightmare case of strep).
(Don’t judge the toenails – boys are filthy animals)
Pro tip: Eczema does not have pus. It does not weep or ooze. That is a dead giveaway of infection.
“Toe boo boo” started in March as just a bad patch of eczema. Our pediatrician was aware of the problem. Nothing we did KEPT it gone. It always came back. Because lurking beneath the “toe boo boo” surface was a powerful strain of Strep bacteria.
Do not be fooled into believing it can’t happen to you. Skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects us from all sorts of stuff, including bacteria. Eczema skin is a weak skin barrier. It is often scratched, which makes tiny little open wounds. It doesn’t have to be bloody to be an open wound. Bacteria just needs the tiniest little opening. One time my oldest got Staph from sliding into 3rd base. We never even noticed the broken skin, just a big bruise. She doesn’t have eczema.
Skin infections can happen to anyone. People with eczema are at a dramatically higher risk of infection. That’s why it’s soooo important to nip that crap in the bud! You don’t want to know the pain.
Moving on… This was July 31, 2015. Matthew had gotten a hair cut a couple of days before. We’re not sure if the infection made its way from his toe to his neck then all over his body, or if his neck was exposed to strep via the hair salon clippers. Either way, his neck was irritated from the clippers on Day 1. Day 3, well…
We went to the pediatrician. She said it was Eczema Herpeticum (think cold sore herpes, except all over the body), prescribed oral Acyclovir and sent us home.
I’m not called the Research Queen for nothin. It only took a few hours to realize, “Holy crap!! This is SERIOUS!” We packed up and went to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Definitely not the closest hospital, but I had high hopes he would get the best possible medical care there.
Do not be fooled. There are alligator tears hiding behind that smile.
I told Triage his pediatrician had diagnosed him with Eczema Herpeticum prior to having received the lab culture results. They did another culture to confirm the diagnosis. It was negative for Eczema Herpeticum, Staph and MRSA. They said it was a “false negative” and that it was, in fact, herpeticum.
They did not re-test. And by that time, we were already being admitted and whisked into isolation. It didn’t dawn on me to INSIST they repeat the test.
We spent the following few days in isolation … with a window view of the playground. Yay. He was hooked up to IV antibiotics (“just in case”), Acyclovir (antiviral for the herpeticum), liquids, and Benadryl to help him not mind all the misery as much (and the itching, of course). Pretty sure there were some mild pain meds in the mix.
At one point, he was sedated. Ever seen your child get sedated? It’s freaking traumatic. I’ve seen it twice. It’s marking. You never forget it. It’s like you just saw them die. You know they’re not dead, but it’s hard to convince your inner Mama Bear it’s just sedation. I can still vividly remember my 12yo’s sedation (tongue stitches – don’t ask) from when she was 18 months old.
After a few days, he was taken off isolation.
Seeing this pic reminds me of how difficult it was to get his IV in place. He had to have it done three separate times because, yeah, he was a toddler.
Later that afternoon we were released to go home. I had missed orientation at the kids schools, but at least I got to see my middle child hop on the school bus for the first time on her first day of kindergarten.
But the victory was temporary. We came home with prescription Acyclovir. No antibiotics. Because the antibiotics were being given at the hospital as a preventive/”just in case”. So a couple of days off antibiotics and the infection was back…
My heart was broken. I cried a lot. Probably more than I’ve ever cried. The entire time we were there.
This time, Matthew was seen by an entire team of physicians.
Aaaaand still, no one cultured this kid for strep.
Back on IV Acyclovir and IV antibiotic. He healed much faster this time. He was taken off isolation the second day.
(Don’t judge my soda and chip consumption – and yes, my son found comfort in a baby … he also makes fart jokes)
We were released on the third or fourth day. Just in time to celebrate Daddy’s birthday (August 16, for those trying to keep up with the timeline – this started July 31)
I remember being so emotionally exhausted I couldn’t really enjoy myself during his birthday celebration.
Aaaand again, the victory was short lived. Because again, after seeing literally 11 physicians by this point, no one had repeated the culture to try and confirm the diagnosis. Even after I asked. And despite asking at the hospital, we never saw a dermatologist.
So a day or two after coming home, the bumps started coming back. Again. For the THIRD time.
I called the dermatologist we had seen once for “toe boo boo”. I explained the hospitalizations and literally begged them to see him immediately.
Praise God, they did. Otherwise we would’ve had to go back to Scottish Rite for a third time.
These two photos hurt my heart. I’ve done a BOATLOAD of emotional healing, but don’t think I’ll make it through writing this post without crying.
My poor, precious son. His body would continue to look not much better than this for months to come.
Do you see exactly why I am so passionate about this??
I have so much gratitude for Sara Barr at North Atlanta Dermatology. She immediately identified it as Strep and did a STAT culture to confirm it. She sent us home with a HEAVY dose of antibiotics with instructions to return in a couple of days. We did. He continued to improve. Sara had us take ANOTHER round of the antibiotics (20 days total) to be absolutely certain the infection was GONE.
And it was.
I wish that were the end of the story. At this point, we’re still in August. Matthew didn’t find complete healing until almost December.
The Strep infection left his skin incredibly weak.
You may already know that almost everyone has staph on their skin. It doesn’t bother healthy skin because, well, that’s skin’s job! What you probably don’t know is that skin weakened by eczema can become very irritated by the Staph A bacteria commonly found on the human body.
The itching, burning redness that covered up to 70% of Matthew’s body was caused by Staph A. The infection also triggered new food allergies/sensitivities. LOTS of them. Also an allergy to dogs.
Our dog of 7 years now lives with my mom. Eight months later the kids still miss him all the time. Matthew still can’t be around him. He can’t visit my mom’s house (she has other dogs = lots of dander).
This was taken before the infection. Dogs never bothered him before.
We tried everything you can imagine. We saw an allergist. Did skin prick and RAST blood tests for allergies. Eliminated every possible allergen and then some. We tried every cream, lotion and OTC product. Countless prescriptions. Essential oils. Manuka honey. A plantain salve. Different soaps/detergents. Wet wrapping. Bleach baths. We saw one of the best dermatologists in metro Atlanta. We even traveled two hours to see a physician that also practices holistic medicine.
This was after a round of oral prednisone. October 16, 2015. Slight improvement. It came right back though…
Note the bodysuit or “footie pajama” in this photo…
Matthew wore footie pajamas every single day. Everywhere. When we went to church, we put his regular clothes on top of the pajama. Thankfully it was Fall/Winter. But people made comments everywhere we went. Not negative comments. Usually just a quick, “Aw, was someone too tired to get dressed today?” or my personal fave, “How precious, I didn’t know they made footy pajamas for kids that big!” (Only like two clothing manufacturers make them in sizes bigger than 24m/2T – We always bought Carter’s). Explaining to people everywhere we went why he was still in his pajamas was … exhausting.
I didn’t need the pity. I didn’t need the unsolicited advice (hello, Research Queen here). I just wanted to buy my dang groceries and go home.
There were other ER visits. He had a severe allergic reaction to the holy grail of eczema prescriptions, Protopic. Extreme itching, redness, swelling, hives, the works. What’s worse, all the ER (CHOA at Egleston this time) did was give him Atarax (anti-itch similar to benadryl, minus the drowsiness). I was in such a brain fog that I didn’t even think to WASH THE CREAM OFF of him. The ER didn’t either. He went home no better than he arrived.
He had a similar adverse reaction to Cloderm as well.
Does this story ever get better?
I joined a Facebook group, Eczema Parents, while going through this nightmare. Highly recommend! I kept hearing person after person talk about Dr. Aron. I was SUUUPER skeptical for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
- I prefer natural treatments whenever possible.
- Dr. Aron is in South Africa. He works with patients via email in conjunction with your local physician.
- His method involves long-term use of topical antibiotic (mupirocin) and steroids. (However, they are very diluted in Vanicream lotion). I didn’t like the idea of using topical antibiotic for more than a couple of weeks because of antibiotic resistance.
- I didn’t think it would actually work because we had already tried undiluted topical antibiotics and steroids.
I still remember my breaking point. I was sitting downstairs, listening to my son scream in pain as daddy rubbed in creams and prescriptions. “Not the tingle!” he would beg.
I was done. That was it. We got on Dr. Aron’s treatment immediately.
Miraculous is not a word I say, pretty much ever. We saw MIRACULOUS overnight improvement. Literally. Over night. We rubbed the compound on at night and woke to skin that was at least 50-60% improved.
24 hours after beginning Dr. Aron’s ‘ARON Regimen’
Within 4-5 days, he was completely clear. His skin was baby soft. We hadn’t seen skin this clear since July!!
This Before/After was created November 14, 2015 to share in my fave Eczema Facebook groups.
I was still holding my breath, though. I thought we’d be stuck using this compound for the rest of his life. I worried he would become dependent on topical steroids or develop antibiotic resistance.
But he didn’t.
Christmas Day 2015 (we are in Georgia and it was unusually warm … pretty sure this was rain water lol)
Today is May 19, 2016. Six months on The ARON Regimen (formerly known as The ARON Regime). Matthew is healthy, happy, and clear. He uses the compound as needed, which means only when he has an eczema flare up. He only gets flares when he eats dairy or is around dogs for more than a few hours. Those flares are “normal eczema,” not the red, whole-body Staph A irritated eczema. They clear up in 1-2 days.
After the nightmare ended, I still struggled with a tremendous amount of emotional damage for months. We also created a Target addict from all of my sympathy gift buying/shopping with him.
My Top Eczema/Food Allergy Tips
#1 Be an advocate for your kid! Stand up! Push back!
Between ER visits, hospitalizations, specialists and his pediatrician, Matthew received treatment from more than 15 physicians. Who found his healing treatment? I did. The medical system failed my son over and over. I had to push back, insist on more testing, insist on more in-depth re-testing, beg for appointments, etc. and ultimately he was healed by a treatment from a Doctor all the way in South Africa.
If you don’t like your doctor’s answers, push for more. INSIST. Go to another doctor if you must. Want more testing? INSIST.
Eczema is TRIGGERED
Eczema is an autoimmune response to a trigger. It doesn’t just ‘happen’. Find the cause. Food allergies are one of the most common causes of eczema. Dairy is the biggest culprit. Get allergy testing. Skin prick tests are usually the first step. They also produce false negatives. RAST blood tests are a better indicator, but they too can lead to false positives. Still very helpful though!! Our allergist said it best, “The best allergy test for Matthew IS Matthew.” Observe and record foods and reactions. But still get testing.
There is no cure for eczema
Many of the people in Facebook groups are looking for something they can use once and never have to worry about eczema again. It doesn’t work like that. There is no cure for eczema. It’s in your DNA. Part of who you are. You can identify triggers, eliminate them as best as possible, and heal. But if you’re exposed to that trigger, you will have eczema.
Many kids grow out of their triggers/allergies. This is especially true with dairy allergy. And when the trigger goes away, there eczema goes with it. We are patiently waiting for this glorious moment.
But there is no miracle cure product for eczema. You just manage it.
If it doesn’t look like eczema, it isn’t eczema
As mentioned, people with eczema are at a high risk of skin infections like Staph, MRSA, Eczema Herpeticum, Impetigo, Hand Foot & Mouth Disease, Strep and more. If your/your child’s eczema starts to look different, develops little pimples or puss-filled bumps, etc., see a physician and INSIST they do a CULTURE to find out what it is. I will say molloscum doesn’t really need to be cultured because it doesn’t look like an infection. But all the other infections look SO much alike that it can be difficult or even impossible to truly know what it is.
Even if the treatment works, you still need to know what it is. Infections like Staph and MRSA aren’t contagious to siblings without eczema, but Hand Foot and Mouth, Eczema Herpeticum and others can be spread to anyone. Additionally, Herpeticum is viral and can come back. It’s like cold sores. Once you’ve got it, it’s there for life. And it can be spread to anyone. So you need to know for sure exactly what the infection is.
Your Pediatrician or General Practitioner is not an Allergist or Dermatologist
Specialists like Allergists, Immunologists and Dermatologists spend a tremendous amount of time studying their specialty. A general practitioner or pediatrician does not have NEARLY the level of expertise in these areas as a specialists. They should be your starting point before seeing a specialist. They should not be your go-to doctor for eczema, allergies or other health conditions better suited for a specialist.
You must completely eliminate allergens/triggers
You can’t “avoid” dairy and expect healing. It takes six weeks for dairy protein to work its way out of your body. Whatever the allergen is, you cannot have it “every now and then”. It WILL cause a flare.
This is especially true when you’re still healing. I’ll be honest, I allow my son to have a tiny piece of birthday cake at parties. Small amounts don’t usually bother him anymore. BUT when he was going through the “psycho immune system” phase with all that red skin, he would SEVERELY react to even small amounts of dairy.
Once the skin is healed, you can experiment (with medical supervision) to see if allergens are still a problem and what type of reaction to expect. But until the skin is healed, they should be completely avoided.
Who is Dr. Aron’s treatment for?
The compound could be used to treat and heal even minor eczema, but personally, I only recommend Dr. Aron to people who’ve been struggling to get eczema under control. I’m still a natural mama at heart. I personally wouldn’t recommend the treatment to myself if we were struggling with Matthew’s “normal eczema”.
But if the eczema is difficult to clear, if it keeps coming back as soon as you stop steroids, or if your child’s quality of life is affected by their eczema, yes, I highly recommend the treatment.
Many Dr. Aron patients have whole-body eczema like Matthew’s. But some just have 1-2 really bad patches/areas. It’s not about the size of the eczema flare. It’s about how chronic it is, how difficult it is to control and how it affects quality of life.
This is my personal opinion. And honestly, Dr. Aron has a waiting list periodically. Getting the treatment isn’t exactly a breeze. But it’s SOOOOOO worth it if you’re going through any of what I just mentioned.
Frequently Asked Questions / Hot Topics
Where can I learn more about this miraculous treatment?
DrAron.com is a good starting point.
There is an amazing Facebook group filled with patients, parents of patients and even Dr. Aron’s staff. Ask questions, get info to share with your doctor, find a doctor to work with and more.
Does it cure food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities?
Some report being able to “eat whatever they want” after being on the treatment for a while. After six months, my son still reacts to dairy. BUT when he was going through the post-infection nightmare, he began reacting to coconut, soy and other foods that he wasn’t truly allergic to. That’s what happens when your body is being psycho. You have an immune response to things that don’t normally bother you. Remember, eczema is an autoimmune disease that flares up when triggered.
Elimination diets and AIP (Auto Immune Protocol)
If you ask me, it’s a great idea! But you should do it under the supervision of a physician that’s familiar with this. Your allergist would be a good place to start. You want to be sure to test/watch for vitamin/mineral/gut biome deficiencies while going through this process with a medical professional. Especially with children, because they cannot always express what they’re experiencing (dizziness, fatigure, weakness, etc) whereas an adult is more in tune with their body and aware of these warning signs.
Should I use Probiotics?
Yes, totally, grab some high quality probiotics. But this alone isn’t going to heal the skin.
“I don’t want to use prescriptions. I prefer natural.”
Yeah, me too mama. Meeeee too. But if your child had asthma, you’d use an albuterol inhaler, right? Probably nebulizer steroids as needed too. If your child had any other chronic illness that was difficult/impossible to manage naturally, you’d use prescriptions, right? Would you rub manuka honey on a gaping wound? No, you’d go get stitches. You’d allow the doc to administer local anesthetic so the procedure wasn’t torture.
Same rules apply here.
Unmanageable eczema is a threat to your child’s health and even their life. Children can DIE from infected eczema. Infected eczema can trigger SEPSIS. WHICH IS DEADLY.
Oh, and you can go to jail. Parents charged with manslaughter after 9 month old daughter dies from eczema infection they refused to treat conventionally, only using homeopathic remedies. It’s not uncommon to hear of parents being charged with neglect and/or manslaughter after their child dies from lack of conventional treatment. Heard of the maple syrup meningitis parents? Their child died. They were found guilty of failing to provide necessaries of life and are currently awaiting sentencing.
There is a time and place for natural treatment. Sometimes you gotta suck it up and “poison” your kid with prescriptions … otherwise you risk their life. And jail time.
Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW), Topical Steroid Addiction (TSA), Red Skin Syndrom (RSS), ITSAN and Dr. Rapaport (and Dr. Aron vs. TSW)
We explored this route briefly. I’m not completely unpacking this because 1- It is highly controversial and my decision is made and I’m completely satisfied with it; 2- I’m pretty positive most people going this route aren’t suffering from true TSA.
“Red Skin Syndrome” is Staph A irritated eczema. It isn’t a ‘withdrawal’. It’s incredibly weak, very irritated skin. It’s the body turning psycho because the skin is highly irritated and no one is doing anything about it. The redness all over my son looks exactly like so-called “Red Skin Syndrome” … but it was staph.
Dr. Aron’s treatment gets rid of this “red skin syndrome” irritation because it includes antibiotics that eliminate the Staph. No staph = no inflamed skin = the immune system stops being psycho = healing.
My decision between TSW and Dr. Aron came down to this: I can either submit my son to literally years of misery, lower quality of life and dramatically higher risk of more infections (and therefore higher risk of death, more on that in the next section)… or I can try this wildly successful treatment and see what happens. Worst case scenario, I’d be back at square one and re-think the TSW route.
People die from going with this treatment (or lack of treatment, really).
Dr. Rapaport is the brains behind the TSA/TSW “discovery”. He’s the one who’s done the “research”. This doctor’s practice, which he is the head of, has a 3.5 star review on Yelp. I don’t want anything to do with a physician who has so many one star reviews. There are so many misdiagnosed patients … from a man who penned research “proving” something that’s essentially torturing people. My go-to Facebook group doesn’t even allow the discussion of TSW/TSA because, in short, it’s poorly researched and the ITSAN crew is bad about diagnosing people based on photos parents post. It’s one thing to tell a parent, “Your kid’s skin is infected. Go to the ER,” and another to say, “The medical industry is failing your child. Stop treating it with prescriptions. Sorry, but your doctor won’t be able to help you with this. Join our Facebook group. We’ll sell you our natural remedies and help you develop coping mechanisms for the years-long misery you’re about to endure.”
Still not convinced? Read this Yelp! review of his failure to identify a common staph infection in his Beverly Hills office. Even a pediatrician can spot a common staph infection. Dr. Rapaport is a licensed dermatologist. Misdiagnosing something so common is unacceptable. He didn’t even do a culture.
In this review, the patient’s bacterial infection was misdiagnosed as eczema and the King of the anti-steroid camp prescribed whaaat… none other than … steroids. The irony.
Another misdiagnosis. Oh look, this one is a TSW patient who Dr. Marvin wouldn’t even treat for their potentially fatal infection (which was likely a result of the lack of real treatment).
I’m not saying topical steroid addiction isn’t real. I’m saying that studies show it’s an extremely rare phenomena. It isn’t something parents on the internet should be diagnosing other peoples kids with via private message. Because it’s so rare, people should NOT be treated for this condition without a confirmed in-person diagnosis by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Our dermatologist (one of the best in Atlanta) doesn’t believe in TSW/TSA. That alone isn’t enough to convince me it isn’t a real thing, because the same doc refused to do Dr. Aron’s treatment. I do not think Dr. Rapaport should be diagnosing people without ever having seen their skin and done biopsies. If there is TRULY an addiction going on, you need to be damn sure. Otherwise you’re only subjecting yourself/your child to pure misery for nothing.
If you’re from the TSW camp, know that I will not debate with you in the comments. Period. I do not support this method of internet doctoring and there’s a good chance your comment will be promptly deleted. Unless you’re clarifying or correcting my statements with facts (via links to resources that back up these facts – not your personal experience), save your time and energy. Move along.
Stop treating Eczema like it’s a minor inconvenience, just a skin condition or that it only affects quality of life!
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It protects you from a world of nastiness. Unmanageable eczema isn’t just affecting a person’s quality of life. It is putting them at risk of contracting a potentially life-threatening infection. You can’t just “deal with it”.
If the following statement hurts your feelings, don’t be offended consider it a wake up call to take action. Allowing a child to needlessly suffer through eczema without doing everything in your power to fix the problem is neglect. That child is at a serious risk. Infections like MRSA and Eczema Herpeticum can cause severe, life-long damage to your body.
Worse, they can lead to death.
Eczema isn’t an inconvenience. It’s a slippery slope to hell on earth.
Been there, done that, got the emotional scars.
Can I contact you with questions?
I highly recommend visiting the Eczema Parents and Dr. Aron Eczema Treatment Facebook groups with questions and support. I pop in most days. Your questions will be answered MUCH faster there. You’ll get more than my perspective. Feel free to tag me in your post (Amanda Alexander) if you want my input.
Comments with questions will be answered at my earliest convenience, but if you’re on Facebook, I strongly suggest asking in one of those groups. As parents, we can only speak from personal experience. You need more than one person’s input.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician or medical professional in any capacity. I’m a mom who went through hell and made it out to share our victory. Don’t take my word for it. Talk to your doctor, your friends kids doctor, the best specialists you can find. Consult with Dr. Aron. That is all.