We went to an allergist and did extensive testing-- Kaspar is highly allergic to dozens of foods-- but that doctor really didn't offer much beyond avoidance and directives to use steroids and constant Benadryl (I’m talking 24/7) to try to quell our nighttime misery (we'd have to physically restrain a screaming Kaspar from clawing at his skin... We were clocking only three hours of interrupted sleep nightly. It was bad). Steroids only helped for as long as we used them, but since there are serious side effects to long term exposure, and the doctors were clearly unsure of how much was too much, I was just not down for this approach (as much as we all craved sleep). The Benadryl didn't do very much, either.
I understood that this was a systemic problem and really wanted to do more than stick an insufficient and hazardous band-aid on it. We tried homeopathy, but that didn't work, and since our circumstances were so extreme, I didn't feel we were able to really experiment with it (under a practitioner's care) enough to find our magic remedy. I called a good friend, Colleen, one afternoon, in tears. I was exhausted. I’d bought every product on the market that claimed to help with eczema. I’d spent every day at work with one hand in professional doings and another sifting through information on this stuff. We'd found a new family for our two cats, and purchased a crazy powerful HEPA air purifier for our bedroom. We weren't getting anywhere. Kaspar’s eczema was obvious, but we’d been living our lives during this time (returning to work in NYC, then moving halfway across the country, immediately picking up with work and freelance/creative pursuits in Austin, and— significantly— truly enjoying all that is new-parenthood; Kaspar has a perpetually delightful disposition in spite of these challenges). Few of our friends and family really understood the extent of what was happening.
“Oh my God, Taylor,” Colleen said. “You guys need help. This has to change.” She had an idea, too: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Lots of people had offered ideas, and I’d tried every natural remedy known to man, so I wasn’t deeply invested in the suggestion when Colleen brought it up. I was, however, willing to try it. I’d received acupuncture several years earlier, with fantastic results, but I’d done recent cursory research on baby acupuncture and deduced that children need to be able to stay voluntarily still before they become eligible for acupuncture treatment (Kaspar wasn’t there yet). I’d assumed Chinese herbs were simply supplementary to the needles, so hadn’t considered that they might constitute a course of treatment in and of themselves. But when I called the local Acupuncture school here in Austin, which has both professional and intern clinics, the woman on the phone relayed the doctor’s assertion that we could, in fact, treat Kaspar. With herbs. Click "read more" below and prepare to have your mind blown.
He prescribed raw herbs (about ten different varieties) that we boil and put in Kaspar's bottle (Kaspar drinks hemp milk). Within two weeks, the constant scratching subsided. It's now been two months, and Kaspar's skin is CLEAR. He looks like a different baby. He looks the way he did while we used the steroids, actually, but without the torturous rebound effect, and without the risks. He hasn't vomited once since we started the herbs, and there have been no histamine reactions. None. We’ve been given our lives back. Kaspar has been given the world.
Kaspar’s also not getting vaccinated anymore. Not for a while, anyway. His round of nine-month shots spun us into a hell-hole that I never want to revisit, so we’re keeping our distance for the time being. I think that was the downward turn, however, that inspired us to finally test for allergies, which got this big ball rolling… So, you know, silver linings and all.
My goal is that when we re-test next year, we'll see some serious changes on the allergy front. As in, seriously reduced/eliminated allergies. Aaron thinks that we will, and that many of the changes we’ve seen already are part of a natural progression away from allergic responses that would have happened anyway. I both agree and disagree: the correlation (and extent of change) between Kaspar’s state of being before and after beginning TCM is too dramatic to deny. But, the whole idea with TCM is that the treatments—whether acupuncture or herbs—suggest to one’s body that it should do something it already knows how to do (whereas pharmaceuticals force a change). In that sense, Kaspar’s positive response has definitely been a natural and inherent one.
I’m sold, obviously. I’ve even been getting acupuncture again, at the school’s intern clinic. I’m being treated for the year-plus of stress and extreme sleep dep. Not so good for the liver and kidneys, as I'm told. Whether or not my internal organs are in distress, I love acupuncture; I emerge from treatments feeling vaguely drunk, and I absolutely notice improved constitutional balance.
I guess the bottom line here is that our situation was feeling pretty stuck, but, as a mom, I kept looking, kept asking, and somehow got an answer. I’d read hundreds of accounts like this one espousing the benefits of some other ‘successful’ approach to treating kids’ eczema or allergy problems, and those didn’t work for us. Somehow, Traditional Chinese Medicine did. If your kid has eczema/allergies/asthma/etc., I encourage you find a good practitioner (the best around) and try it. And if it doesn’t work (though I’d bet high stakes that it will): keep pushing, keep looking, keep trying. You’ll find something. I promise.