Q We adopted our Thai daughter Alice when she was 18 months old. At that time, she had gastroenteritis, bronchitis and level-one malnutrition. Two years on, she is healthy and happy but, each winter, the skin on her back, shoulders and upper arms becomes hard, almost as though goosebumps have come up and become set.
It clearly irritates her and I have to stop her scratching. I have tried numerous skin creams, including calendula, graphites and E45, but nothing works. Eventually, by May, her skin is soft and normal again.
Neither my GP nor homoeopath has been able to help. The only thing I can think of is that it has something to do with the light level over the winter. I have thought of giving her a vitamin D supplement as winter approaches, but not without guidance as I know it can be highly toxic in overdose.- GH, Staines
A We consulted our panel member Harald Gaier, an allergy specialist who sees many cases of the kind you describe. Most commonly, these hard bumps occur on the back of the arms, but sometimes they even appear on the cheeks.
Dr Gaier believes it is most likely an allergic reaction to something she is eating or even an airborne allergy like mould, which is more prevalent in the winter. Even food allergies can be seasonal, and low levels of vitamin A or D precipitate them. Given Alice's special background, it's likely she was not breastfed and was fed the wrong foods before you adopted her. This makes it likely that she developed sensitivities to certain foods, which may have been given to her too early - before her digestive system could cope. The two most likely culprits are dairy products or soy (since she was probably given either cow's milk or soy formula), or a grain such as wheat.
As with James (see above), Alice would benefit from a clinical ecologist with experience in allergies. If the problem is a food, simple avoidance should solve the problem. If her allergy is airborne, you may wish to consider a course of homoeopathic desensitisation drops. (For a list of practitioners, call The British Institute for Allergy & Environmental Therapy, tel: 01974 241 376.)
If Alice is prone to vitamin D shortage, you may consider boosting her D levels with cod liver oil (or beta-carotene supplements if you are vegetarian). She might also benefit from children's vitamins. Our sister publication PROOF! tested a variety of brands, and concluded that the best value for money were BioCare 's products. This Birmingham-based company does a series of vitamins in drops, which can be mixed with juice and made palatable for the very young.