Conventional & Alternative
I'd like to preface this post by saying... I believe balance is key in just about every aspect of life. This includes dieting, exercising, raising my children, running a business, serving in my church, maintaining family relationships, etc. Some aspects are harder for me than others. I am a big believer in seeking a balance when it comes to Conventional vs. Alternative medicines. I've always believed there are legitimate natural and organic ways to treat several illnesses and injuries while at the same time believing there will always be a place in this world for Western medicine. There are certain things, particularly with my children, that I would never dare to try and treat myself at home. We have been fortunate in finding a well respected pediatrician in our area who supports using natural and alternative treatments when appropriate. In this post I will describe all the different treatments we've experimented with and the results.
This is what the windowsill above my kitchen sink has looked like for the last year and a half. Basically this has been our experimental treatment area for J. In the beginning, before we knew that he had Skeeter Syndrome, the primary source of treatment prescribed by the doctors was a combination of oral steroids, steroid ointments, antibiotics and narcotic painkillers. He has also received this same cocktail intravenously as described in "The Finger Incident". I don't believe that the antibiotics were ever really necessary. The doctors were prescribing them to treat Cellulitis (bacterial infection of the skin) which J never had. We never had much luck with any of the creams including Benadryl, Hydrocortisones, After Bite, Cortizone10, Aveno, Calamine Lotion or anything prescription strength. The narcotic painkillers didn't always have as big of an impact in reducing J's pain as I had expected either. They wound up being somewhat useful in allowing him to sleep better during those really tough nights when he had such a hard time falling or staying asleep. The oral and/or IV steroids seemed to be the most effective in stopping and eventually decreasing his reactions and severe swelling. The problem being that sometimes it would take multiple rounds of dangerous steroids to accomplish this.
As far as antihistamines went... Children's Benadryl and Allegra never made any difference whatsoever. We found Children's Zyrtec to be somewhat effective. We currently purchase a generic brand called "Children's Cetirizine" in bulk at our local big box store. The maximum dose for J's weight and age is 1/2 tsp twice a day or 1 tsp once a day. I give him 1 tsp every single morning regardless or his current symptoms.
During the worst parts of J's reactions I will alternate between Children's Ibuprofen and Children's Acetaminophen. Sometimes these medications seem to help more than others. I feel they're a much safer alternative to the narcotic painkillers prescribed and I will continue using them as directed during his worst episodes.
We tried a product called Cortizone10 Quick Shot. It's in an aerosol spray and claims to relieve itch fast and dry quickly. J screamed his head off the couple different times I tried using this product. It seemed to burn or sting his bites and each time he would not calm down until we put him in the bathtub to soak.
I purchased a product called Medicated Campho-Phenique. It came in a small glass bottle and claimed to be a "pain and itch relieving antiseptic liquid". It never seemed to have much effect in reducing any of J's pain or symptoms.
Then I decided to try an aerosol can of "Hospital Strength Dermoplast". This product claims to be an anesthetic pain relieving spray that relieves pain and itching. Up to that point this was the product providing J the most relief and we were so grateful to have found it. The downside was that it was purely a pain reliever and therefore had little effect on actually calming the reaction itself... which usually lead us back to using more steroids. Late one night after running out of this spray I ran up to the local drug store to pick-up a replacement. I didn't see the Dermoplast brand we had been using but saw something called Solarcaine that looked to be very similar. We quickly found it was not the same and did not work the same either. In fact the Solarcaine seemed to further irritate J when applied. Upon inspection I realized they were completely different products containing different active ingredients. My suggestion is to stick to the Dermoplast which contains Benzocaine USP 20% and Menthol USP 0.5%.
I was reasonably happy with the pain relief being provided to J with the Dermoplast. I was not happy that still too often we were resorting to a prescription of steroids to manage the reaction itself. I continued searching the internet for a better option. I was reading through a long thread of comments in a forum when I saw somebody mention that they had been pretty successful using 100% pure tea tree oil to treat their child's welts from Skeeter Syndrome. My massage therapist sister had also mentioned that we should experiment using essential oils to treat J because maybe we would find one that would help him. She was much more the believer at that point than I was. Using essential oils as a natural repellent made perfect sense to me since they were scented, but using them as an actual treatment was a completely foreign idea. I was very skeptical that a plant oil would have any better results than the million and one other things we had already tried. However, I have to admit I was curious to give it a shot after running across the recommendation once again from some mom out there who said it really did help her child.
My sister came over with a variety of oils. She had done a little research and gave me some sample bottles of a few different oils to try out. I asked her about the Tea Tree Oil specifically, but it was not one she had any experience with (she was relatively new to the world of essential oils herself). J had a brand new bite on his arm that I immediately began treating with the oils. My sister told me that I could use them as much and as often as I wanted... and the more the better. I alternated between the samples of Eucalyptus, Lemon, Lavender and Melaleuca she had given me. I applied a couple drops to J's bite every hour or even more often when he was complaining. They seemed to give him relief when applied and he actually started asking me for more oils. We continued this procedure the rest of the day, a few times throughout the night and the entire next day. I was honestly shocked when the bite had already begun scabbing over and going away by the next night! It didn't swell up half the size as it typically would have and it never blistered! The reaction was being drastically reduced and J wasn't experiencing a fraction of the pain that he would have normally. I was so relieved that I cried when I realized how effective these oils were.
Over the next several weeks I experimented with different combinations of oils and/or using single oils one at a time. I discovered that it was actually the Melaleuca oil that gave us the best results. I also learned that how quickly I was able to start treating J after he was first bit made a huge difference. The longer he went before the oil was applied the worse the reaction and the longer it took to get it under control. I attended a few essential oil classes that my sister invited me to. We were both amused to learn that Melaleuca alternifolia was actually the scientific name for Tea Tree oil. I also learned how important the purity and quality of the essential oil was. A common practice for the manufacturers of the cheaper drugstore brands is to dilute the oils with either a cheaper carrier oil or even alcohol. Obviously this also dilutes the potency and effectiveness of the product. What drew me into a particular brand was the emphasis they put on the purity and quality of their oils. They explained their process for testing each batch of oils to guarantee that every bottle contained a high quality therapeutic grade oil. It also rang true when they discussed their philosophy regarding the importance of harvesting the plants used in making the oils from their native regions. It's common knowledge that where different foods are harvested has a major impact on not only the quality but the taste. California Oranges, Utah Peaches, and Michigan Cherries are a few of our favorites. It only makes sense that climate, soil conditions, etc. are important factors in the quality of the plants harvested to make essential oils. I appreciate that this company is committed to harvesting their plants where they originate and I believe this plays a big factor into the therapeutic grade and therefore effectiveness of their oils.
As mentioned previously, I have recently signed-up as a distributor with this particular company. This was due in part to the large volume of product I found myself ordering. We now receive an automatic monthly shipment containing both the repellent oils and Melaleuca oils that we use for J. I'm happy to say that it has been months since J has needed a prescription for steroids... we have really been that successful in using the essential oils! In fact he started preschool a couple of months ago and our Pediatrician, being impressed with the results, actually wrote a medical order for the Nurse at the school to reapply J with the repellent oils as needed and to treat any bites and/or reactions with Melaleuca. We poured some of the oil into a roller ball applicator which makes it super easy to apply. We are very blessed that both J's preschool teacher and the school nurse have been more than supportive in using the essential oils to treat J and his unusual condition. They too have been impressed by the results.
If you or someone you know suffers from Skeeter Syndrome I encourage you to try using essential oils. I know you will be as amazed as we were with the results. It is very important to apply the oil immediately and often after first being bit. You must be careful not to get the oils in or near your eyes as it will sting (flush your eyes with milk should this happen because water will only make it worse). Melaleuca will not only help reduce the reaction that takes place but provide you with some much needed relief.