Monthly Archive for August, 2007

Pets get eczema, too

Early on in my search for soaps, I asked a local saddlery about products. I must have had the term “saddle soap” in the back of my mind – I figured I’d find soap products for washing horses that would likely be fine for humans, too.

I was surprised to find that all of the products available for washing horses were detergent-based, most using sodium lauryl sulfate. I did a little hunting on the web, only to find that horses are having eczema problems in recent years, especially certain breeds. Family pets get eczema, too – You don’t even necessarily have to wash them to expose them to detergents, they get significant exposure just from detergents in modern household dust.

And it sure seems to me from everything I have read that the underlying causes (plural) as outlined on my site are the same as in humans. Makes sense.

I hear myself say this over and over, but … Although my site is geared to parents of babies with severe eczema – people who need to see rapid and dramatic results for infants who have the most permeable skin – if you read and understand the underlying issues, it’s possible to make sense of and solve eczema in pets.

I don’t know if eczema in pets makes them less cute and cuddly and more likely to be abandoned or worse (especially since detergent-caused eczema would be present early on), or if current trends of offering more advanced medical care to pets would make caring for a pet with eczema more common. The information I can find about eczema in family pets is very sketchy, so I fear the former may be an issue. I’d love to know more about the problem from anyone who works with animals.

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Autumn Eczema

We stayed recently with friends whose soon-to-be toddler has detergent-reactive eczema as bad or worse than our son did at that age. Going detergent-free in their home took more work than we did in our case, and what we did was enough! Fortunately, as their baby enters toddlerhood, their baby’s skin will become naturally less permeable and so can tolerate more detergent exposure without breakouts. But, I warned, at their baby’s age, they have one more difficult autumn, then it should be smooth sailing from there.

I encourage people with this problem to maintain the changes over time – even when susceptibility to breakouts decreases as children get older and their skin becomes naturally less permeable – to keep that reduced antigen load and hopefully reduce asthma and other allergy risk. Their skin should also stay more substantial and less dry that way. But when that threshold to breaking out increases, it is no longer is necessary to sweat the small stuff. As toddlers enter early childhood, they may even seem to “outgrow” the eczema. Unfortunately, sometimes, then “autumn eczema” hits.

As everyone with eczema knows, weather and humidity modulate eczema severity.

Summertime humidity can be such a help to those who are in the problem-solving stages, or who have a baby whose exposures are very difficult to control. Unfortunately, when autumn rolls around, and the heat comes on indoors – drying the air – people with detergent-reactive eczema become more susceptible to breakouts from lower levels of detergent.

I have in the past told friends to write a note about this in their calendars and not to panic if they see new breakouts at this time – they just have to be a little more vigilant to bring detergent exposure down to a lower level for awhile. (Usually they forget and panic anyway, but soon sort it out with just a little more vigilance.)

As I point out on my site, absent detergents that increase skin permeability, even dry air will not result in eczema in susceptible individuals. If you’ve gotten lax like we always did over the summer, now might be a good time to increase vigilance about exposures to prevent those autumn breakouts. (Or, wait until the heat comes on and just remember not to panic…)