From a young age, I suffered myself with eczema, psoriasis on my scalp and generally dry skin that was prone to cracking in winter. It was dealt with by application of many different creams, ointments, and I remember vividly a particularly nasty alcohol based solution which my mum was supposed to rub into my scalp after washing my hair but as my scalp was red raw this sent me through the roof in tears of pain, so she stopped doing that after a few attempts and we treated it with T-Gel shampoo amongst other remedies.
My father is prone to dry skin, particularly on his face and head, his elbows, knees and shins, and these areas seemed worse on me, too. As a child I wore my hair long, but during summer months the heat made my scalp itch constantly, until I was 11 and announced that I wanted to shave my hair off. As a compromise, mum allowed me to have an undercut, which I kept for two years before growing it out, and since then (touch wood) I haven’t had a flare up even half as bad as it used to be.
The Hubby also suffers from dry skin, which like mine becomes particularly bad in the winter. He remembers the skin at the bottom of his ear lobes cracking open the winter he turned 19 and was doing deliveries on a moped, constantly putting on and removing his crash helmet, and also the skin on his hands and fingers cracking open and bleeding. Like me, he also suffers with the inside of his elbows, the backs of his knees and his shins becoming red and dry.
It seems inevitable, then, that our son suffers as well. From a few weeks old The Boy had one rosy cheek that seemed hot to the touch and dry, but I applied various baby-safe moisturisers to no effect. During his first winter, his whole body broke out in red, sore looking spots of dry skin, so we took him to the doctor who advised it was eczema, and provided us with Oilatum Junior cream and anti histamine for treatment. He also advised that I used only Fairy Non Bio washing detergent, and avoided washing my own hands with scented soap as this could cause a flair up for The Boy.
It had an immediate effect and it was quickly cleared up (The Boy’s cream was so good that it even stopped my hands from cracking and bleeding as I was constantly applying it to The Boy) We used it less and less frequently until around April, when the weather was warmer, the central heating turned off and his skin remained beautiful and soft, like baby skin should be.
Like a bad penny, the eczema returned at the start of the winter again last year. I was prepared, having purchased the Oilatum Junior Bath Additive as well as a bar of Oilatum Soap, I made a return journey to collect the repeat prescription for the Oilatum Junior cream and we started using it all again. We imagined that it would be the same as last time, that it would quickly take effect and would soon be a bad memory.
It didn’t disappear as we’d hoped. Instead of soothing his skin and making it better, it just seemed to keep it on an even keel and stopped it getting worse. As the eczema is concentrated on his back we didn’t think he’d be able to scratch at it, but we were wrong on that count, too – now an inventive little monkey, The Boy has taken to rubbing his back against things to relieve the itching (rather like Baloo the Bear from Jungle Book) He knows that the Oilatum cream helps, though – last night after his bath I was drying him off and he grabbed the tube of cream and was waving it at me. I did the usual thing of putting it in my hands before putting it on him (it’s a thick cream and its very cold straight out of the tube) and as I reached toward him he sat right forward to expose his back to me and was moaning with relief as I rubbed the cream in. He even picked up the tube and put some in his own hand then rubbed the lower part of his back where he can reach – it was so sweet to see him do, but also a bit sad as well, because no child of his age should be so used to using cream for sore skin that he helps you apply it!
While his back is the worst affected area – from the shoulder blades all the way down to his bottom – it is not the only affected area. The tops of his arms and his armpits are prone to becoming red and sore if not kept on top of, his thighs tend to feel a little like he has goosebumps if I haven’t applied the cream and his tummy gets small, penny sized circles of dry skin crop up randomly. I’ve got to the point of coating him entirely with the cream from top to toe, to the point where he’s a slippery little eel and if he was to wriggle away from me I’d never be able to catch him again! Dressing him afterwards is challenging, to say the least – especially getting a nappy on him! (He hates wearing a nappy anyway, so trying to get it on when his legs are greased up and you can’t hold him still is even more difficult!)
We were in town yesterday and I stood outside the doctors surgery for a while debating whether or not it was worth another appointment. Eventually I decided that I’d see what it looked like in the bath last night, and make my decision. When I undressed him it didn’t take much of an assessment to see that it had become more inflamed during the day – though I couldn’t tell you what might have caused that – and as soon as he was undressed he was rubbing his back against things and scratching as much as he could (I try to keep his nails as short as possible but despite that he cuts himself where he scratches so much if you’re not careful) In the bath, he shuffled himself to the end so his back was pressed against the lip of the bath, then wriggled against it. He knows the bath water helps soothe the itching, and he knows we use either plastic pots to pour water over him, or the sponge, and last night was no exception as he even refilled the pots to hand to his daddy to pour over his back, and tried to reach himself with the sponge.
This morning, I rang the doctors surgery and an unusually helpful receptionist spoke to me. She said the soonest appointment was in two weeks time, but if I felt it was urgent she could arrange an emergency appointment today. I said I didn’t think it warranted an emergency appointment, but that waiting another two weeks wouldn’t be helpful, so she suggested that she got a doctor to phone me and have a chat, and we could decide the best course of action from there. Fortunately the doctor who called was one who helped me before with The Boys skin complaints, and he wasn’t surprised to hear it had flared up again or that now, at 18 months, The Boy was being inventive with scratching the itch. He advised that he’d write a prescription for some steroid cream which I’m to use twice a day on the dry skin for a week, which should rein it in and then after a week return to using the Oilatum Junior cream again. I should continue to use my Fairy Non Bio for the laundry, and he recommended more Oilatum products for the bath like I’ve already been using, or else he said that E45, Simple and Dove were good alternatives. I did pick up some kids E45 bath stuff yesterday for sensitive skin, as the Oilatum products are so expensive - the soap bar is around £4 and the bath additive around £10 (but I can’t deny they’re good!)
So we’re off to the doctors to pick up another prescription, and we start the steroid cream tonight. What The Boy will make of it I don’t know, but he knows now that I put cream on him and it helps the itching so even if it’s a different cream maybe he’ll make the association. Whatever happens, I just hope it works and we can get it under control again before it gets any worse. It’s horrible to see your child uncomfortable like that, and I know how uncomfortable dry, itchy skin can be so fingers crossed this is our last trip to the doctors for a while!!