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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« Here's where I get all preachy. You can skim this one. | Main | Only two reasons why I married the right person. »

Don’t rub me like a Jedi knight.

The above is a statement uttered by Henry. I was going to provide the anecdote that would put it in context, but the hell with it. You might think you can figure out why he would say such a thing but you won’t be able to figure it out. Henry is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, side-by-side with a conundrum, across the way from a bugaboo.

In other news, my son is covered in rashes. This is not new. For lo these many months he has been bedecked with eczema and bespeckled with hives. As he himself put it, he is "itchy, itchy Ichabod." I haven’t done much about it because—well, I blame the liquor. Whoops! Actually I am sober 89% of the time, and we’ve done everything we can to figure out what the problem is, and everyone’s conclusion is that there’s no real problem. Except he’s all scratchy and hive-y. The hives bloom and then fade of their own twisted accord, with no apparent connection to anything he’s eaten or done or said or thought. One doctor posited that it might be a reaction to our wool rug, so we no longer let him lounge pantsless on said rug. We apply medicinal salves and unguents on a regular basis, and we dose him with Benadryl. Our detergents are everything-free. No longer do we enjoy bubbles in our bath—instead we add soothing but decidedly un-festive baking soda, or as Henry calls it, “baby soda.” After the bath, instead of rubbing him like a Jedi knight, we pat him softly like a Sith lord.

Then he spent the weekend with my in-laws, and returned with smooth, rash-free skin for the first time in, oh, since he was born. My in-laws denied doing anything special for him. So the only reasonable conclusion is that his skin benefited from their lack of squalor. That a weekend in the suburbs meant a blessed reprieve from the dust mites and chiggers that usually gnaw on his infant flesh as he slumbers. In other words, we live in filth. Which I guess means I should vacuum or clean or whatever, but I’m so tired! And self-absorbed! Oh—and drunk.

Reader Comments (62)

hehehe, i love the unsolicited advice so much i feel i must join in! i have low lying exema (although i can't spell it) all over my body, have my whole life.

what has made a difference for me and for my friend who has it as well is the addition of omega 3 stuff. so, salmon oil, flax seed oil, stuff like that. these are things that will no doubt be the favourite things of a toddler, no? *grin*
February 17, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermainja
Hah, oh man, "itchy, itchy Ichabod" made me laugh out loud. I don't remember that particular book, but that's totally cute to imagine a little boy saying.
February 17, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterH.E.R.
If the rash "is New York," does this mean Sacramento is the new Eczema?

At any rate, filth is clearly the new black.
February 17, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
i've had exzema my whole life. when i was younger, it'd be around my neck, inner elbows, and behind my knees. when it got really bad, i'd scratch in my sleep. at times, it looked like someone had come and skinned me in spots, leaving behind clotted blood. now i'm older and rely on precription creams with at least .05% steroids in it to keep it under control. my cousin has it, too, and his mom's trying to keep him from scratching and making it worse, only she can't. my friend has it on her scalp. her doctor recommended she cut her hair short, the cream she has makes her hair greasy, the flakes come off and looks like bad dandruff, and she bleeds from her head. have fun!
February 17, 2005 | Unregistered Commentercohesash
My son Max (11/03) has had skin like a 59 year old Yukon fur-trader, circa 1875, since he was born. Poor baby, he has never been soft. My friends think I'm really weird when can't stop rubbing their babies and I gush about their "frictionless" skin. He is just dry all over (like me, really), but the worst are the recurring patches of eczema.

We've tried Eucerin of all types including everything made by companies under the aegis of the Eucerin Group (kidding, but you get my drift), everything made by Cetaphil, everything made by Jergens, Vaseline, foreign brands, off brands, etc. Not even Aquaphor OINTMENT makes a dent in his patchy hide.

He's been to two dermatologists, and both have assured me that changing detergents won't help. I didn't believe them, and so I did, but it didn't. We tried Soy formula and that didn't do anything. Max has flare-ups and then they just go away ... and there never seems to be much of a rhyme or reason.

Nothing helps except Baby Exzema (sp?) Cream by ... Orajel (random, huh?). It's thick as hell and a bit greasy, but after 10 minutes of settling in his skin is positively satiny. It works really well to slather it on before bed so it can stew under his jammies and socks. Oh, and also, we were not giving Max a ton of baths because I thought I was drying him out, but actually giving him daily baths and then lotioning him up directly afterward has been the only thing close to helping keep him hydrated.

Sorry for all the busybody advice. Good luck.
February 17, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjulia
We used to have houseplants that we would force to live dangerously -- little water, no food, etc ... just to see how resistant they would become. Think of how strong Henry will be! Science!
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermitch
i, too, am rasherific (though hardly as bad as i was as a kid - hope for the future!). interestingly enough, i also had a similar experience at age 4 - the magical rash-remission at gramma's. only mine, according to legend, was NOT because they did not do anything special, but because by grandmother bathed me EVERY DAY (despite my mother-via-my-dermatologist's explicit instructions not to) and slathered me in vaseline intensive care lotion post-bath. i know because i have heard the story at least 47 times. and i am not recommending vaseline lotion...i think what happened at gramma's was something flukier and weirder than that.

regarding dear henry, though, i'll throw some stuff out at you that might be worth trying, depending on your/henry's patience and your collective level of frustration:

- try cutting dairy out of his diet - cheese, milk, the works - for a while and see if that does anything. dairy promotes inflammation and it makes a lotta inflammatory conditions (mine included) worse (i.e. eczema, asthma, etc.)

you might wanna try rice milk instead of soy. for one thing, i think it tastes better and for another, it tends to be less allergenic. i know of what i speak!

see what dr. weil has to say about this. he has a pretty even-handed approach with this stuff. ( you might hafta do this for a while (er, coupla weeks? a month?) to see if it helps...but if it does it's totally worth it.

other stuff worth eliminating (check out some books about "rotation diets" for allergies), either all at once or one at a time (see books or do as you will): wheat; citrus, chocolate, nuts, eggs, seafood, tomatoes. all pretty allergenic, though of course not equally for everybody. but seriously, my eczema got cut to less than 1/2 when i figured out the tomato thing.

- aveeno bath stuff (the big drugstore chains make a generic that's just as good) feels really good on itchy skin. someone posted here about "sarno", and if i'm not mistaken, that's the same thing. oh wait, someone said something about aveeno too. so yeah!

- keep that kid outta itchy clothes! ix-nay on the ool-way! and polar fleece, though soft, is pretty sweat-trapping...sometimes getting too sweaty makes that rashy stuff flare up. think: breathable. like cotton.

- ditto on the adding certain fats to his diet, as someone said (again, check out what my man dr. weil has to say about supplements! that guy knows about it!) most of them can be snuck into food and stuff so i doubt henry'll fight you on it.

- for em who posted about weird rash by eyes -- try elidel. i swear, i am not a spokesperson for novartis but it rocks the friggin house. you might have a hard time getting your health ins. (if you have it) to cover it 'cause they'd rather you use the evil cortisone (thins out your skin if you use it too long in same spot.) but get your dermatologist to say you are sensitive to cortisone and they'll usually pay for it. elidel has no such dangers (that they know of yet) and it has literally changed my rashy-assed life. i use it on my face every day. i am pathetically, wicked photosensitive and it keeps those rashes in check.

alice, it's safe for kids too so you maybe you should look into it for H, if you're not already there.

warning: if you have a rash that's already "bloomed" (i.e., it's already pretty itchy), the first few times you try it, the elidel might make it feel warm/slighty burny/more itchy. which totally sucks. if you can get through it though, it will help keep that shit in check and not feel like that again if you use it regularly. might wanna take benedryl to get you through that first time.

(sigh) sorry alice. i typed too many words at you. i hope something from someone here helps. i get home from work at 6 am and i am all wired and tired.good luck to you guys! feel free to email if you wanna.

little miss autoimmune disorder(western brooklyn title holder)
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterrooftop_holler
oh lawd. that was long as hell. i am totally mortified. and totally going to bed now.
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterrooftop_holler
Henry has such an expansive vocabulary! What books do you read to him? My two-and-a-half year old's sentences are more of the "Me go car" variety. Maybe I should be drinking more?
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermelanie
My youngest son has the same problem with his skin. He is the itch master. I have tried everything. Diet. Lotion. I tried cleaning once but it gave ME hives and made ME itch, so I ditched that one. I even tried the sacrificial lamb, but even that didn't work.

Good luck. We just go through good times and bad times with the skin. I do know extreme temperature changes make it flare up.
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
Three more ideas:

Witch hazel, somewhat diluted in a spray bottle, spritzed on the itchy body.

Eliminate all processed foods, which contain so many ingredients, and see what happens. My next-door-neighbor's toddler was "itsy" until she eliminated corn sweetener from her diet.

Get or make some sheet sleeping bags and change them and the pillow case and pajamas every day. It's easier than changing the sheets, so you may actually keep it up for a while.

February 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterGinger
My sister and I have always tended to get eczema in the winter -- random places, but usually small, isolated dime-sized patches on the arms and legs.

Increasing my water intake helps a lot for me, as does using a moisturizer with aloe vera in it. But what really helps me is Vitamin E oil (break open the little capsules.) It really works wonders for me in reducing a patch to softness overnight. My sister used hydrocortisone creams with less success, but it did seem to help the itching.

Itchy, itchy Ichabod. I, I, I.
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered Commenternotsoitchyichabod
Poor Ichabod. I, too, suffer the Evil Hives of Doom. Doc told me that 70% of the time they never find the cause of hives. Only thing that helps me is ZYRTEC. Not sure if it's approved for small people, but it keeps me from cutting my feet off so they'll stop itching.
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
i have never had a rash my whole life.and i have been drinking since i was 3.coincidence?
February 18, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterredclay
Eczema is often irritated by milk. I's not the cause, but it sure does bring out the itchiness.If he drinks a lot of milk it maybe worth cutting it down for a while.

Aloe Vera also reduces the itching (it stinks though).

February 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKatrin
Rachel, that lotion is called Sarna. My mom uses it, and it was recommended to me for a nasty outbreak of eczema a couple of years ago. I used Gold Bond lotion sometimes, but showering every day and using heavy duty lotion worked the best. I think I used St. Ives Advanced Care or something like that. Whatever they have for "extremely dry, flaking off, looks like leprosy skin." But my eczema was caused by starting graduate school. Somehow I don't think that's the case for Henry :)

Good luck, Alice. Being an itchy adult is bad enough. Being a little kid who has to depend on others to fix your problems is probably worse.
February 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermelhope
Have you checked him for pubic lice?

February 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
Have you checked for fleas?
February 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
Have you tried licking him?
February 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
Hives break out... they do not pleasantly "bloom" like flowers. You is a weirdo. I stopped by funny enough to see why supposedly you were made fun of... now I know why. You refer to hives on your child as "blooming"? How healthy and funny! Damn that *was* funny! NOW I see why you were nominated for being funny! Funny as in .... scarey? Yes. *nods*
February 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterfurrypants
ummm.... if you still exist in the blogosphere next year you are vehemently getting smoked down by Fatty in the public media and the blogger vote. I wish I had beeen more hardcore about voting this year and had looked at your crappy blog.

February 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterfurrypants
hives bloom like poison ivy, like weeds. they bloom like bitterness at the rehab clinic.

or maybe i get so much hate mail i can't tell when somebodies trying to be funny. it's a lot easier to tell when they actually ARE funny.
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterredclay
What is wrong with you people?
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
I think the correct question is "What is wrong with you person?"

In other news, I can't stop singing "Rub me like a Jedi Knight" to the tune of "Rock You Like a Hurricane."
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralice
And I've just realized that my lifestyle really should include more "lounging pantsless". That's what I've been missing. It all makes sense now.

But I will remember to avoid the itchy ol' wool rug. My skin, too, is sensitive like an overwrought thirteen year old.

February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

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