Moisturisers, medicated ointments, bandages and tears. This is often the bedtime ritual for a child with eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis). The daytime ritual includes more of the same but with a range of other things as well such as monitoring everything they eat and touch. When a flare-up occurs, it has an effect on everyone in the family. Everyone shares the pain and discomfort. It can contribute to broken relationships, years of sleepless nights and depression.
You can’t control it and there is no cure
It’s heartbreaking knowing that everything you do as a parent/carer of an affected child may not even give relief for a short amount of time. You can’t control it and there is no cure. At best there will be times during an affected person’s lifetime when it seems to go away. But then it always comes back, frequently with its friends because eczema likes company. Not just with its host but a range of other genetic conditions such as anaphylaxis and asthma. Between my three children, eczema was evident virtually from the moment they were born. Recently the anguish of their childhood came flooding back when my eldest grandchild had his first sleep over.
The transformer bed
Last night, little Special K came for his first sleep over. It wasn’t a true sleep over ‘all by his own’ because his mummy (my daughter) came too. The sleep over followed a day over which actually was ‘all by his own’. Late in the afternoon when it was approaching five thirty, little Special K (aka Kieran) was begging to go to bed. He wasn’t tired and it was two hours before his normal bedtime but he couldn’t wait to get into ‘the transformer bed’. The ‘transformer bed’ is just your average sofa bed, but in Kieran’s eyes it’s a transformer. And who could argue with that?
The big issues
At just three years of age Kieran’s already dealing with the big issues. He understands the pain of isolation from his friends and family due to Covid -19. In fact, he seems to have a better understanding and definitely more empathy about why we need to isolate than some of the current world leaders. After the catastrophic Australian bushfires during the summer of 2019/2020, Kieran began to understand the tragedy of extreme weather events. Shortly after he returned to Melbourne from a family holiday on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, half the island was decimated by catastrophic bushfires. Back home in Melbourne he was surrounded by graphic images of the fires, people everywhere were talking about the fires, and then there was the smoke haze, the ash and the smell of smoke in the city and suburbs. On top of all that he has eczema.
Take note people: It’s not something you can catch
Eczema is horrible but take note: It’s not something you can catch. Mayo Clinic says The primary risk factor for atopic dermatitis is having a personal or family history of eczema, allergies, hay fever or asthma.
Due to a gene variation, the skin lacks the ability to retain moisture and therefore does not provide protection from bacteria and allergens. This results in dry, itchy, scaly skin. The intense itching is unbearable and leads to compulsive scratching. Sadly this does not provide any relief. Instead the scratching makes the rashes spread, the skin swells and breaks causing lesions that increase the risk of skin infections. Stress and environmental issues are often triggers that can’t be avoided. As a young child, my son was asked by a medical specialist what is the worst thing about having eczema. He replied it’s ‘like having zillions of ants under the skin. When you scratch they go crazy and they won’t stop’.
Footnote: I must add here that my two year old grandson from my son’s family has not shown any signs of eczema. I am anticipating that this will never change because I would never want him to go through what his father went through as a child.