“I had to lie in bed with her and hold her arms away from her body.”
The idea of soft, baby-smooth skin may be a myth if the results from a survey conducted by the Eczema Association of Australasia (EAA) are anything to go by.
Of the 4000 people surveyed, 66 per cent of the eczema diagnoses were before the age of two—in fact, more than half (52 per cent) were between zero and six months old.
So if your child has eczema—or you think your child does—you are certainly not alone.
Alicia Preston’s daughter, Poppy, was just 11 weeks old when she was diagnosed with eczema by her paediatrician.
“The first 11 weeks of her life, Poppy’s skin was beautiful and perfect,” recalls Alicia, who lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
While the real cause of Poppy’s eczema is unknown, doctors suspect a gastrointestinal virus may have changed the stomach lining of 11-week-old Poppy, resulting in a flare-up.
“But it’s also possible she was always going to get eczema and it just coincided with her falling sick,” says Alicia, who prior to Poppy’s diagnosis, never had much exposure to eczema.
For the next five to six months, Alicia struggled to keep Poppy’s eczema under control—it affected her baby from head to toe.
“She didn’t sleep because she was scratching. I had to lie in bed with her and hold her arms away from her body,” says Alicia. “Everything I did to try to control it just didn’t work.”
The turning point came when Poppy was nine months old.
“There is a lot of misinformation surrounding eczema. The best thing I did was to start seeing dermatologists and specialists who dealt with infant eczema. I now know what to do straight away,” says Alicia. “Eczema doesn’t scare me anymore.”
What to do includes bleach baths, wet wraps, steroid injections, cortisone cream and topical antibiotics. Poppy is now four and Alicia is also very careful with the type of laundry detergent and cleaning products she uses, and is vigilant about regularly changing Poppy’s bedsheets and vacuuming, as well as having the house professionally cleaned every six months.
The weather can be a major trigger for eczema flare-ups and in May, in the lead-up to winter, sufferers may experience especially dry, cracked and raw skin.
“The cleanliness guidelines to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 is also a concern for those with eczema,” says EAA president Cheryl Talent. “The emphasis on cleanliness has proven a trigger for a lot of sufferers due to their sensitive skin and not understanding which hygienic products to use.”
“It’s hard and there will be sleepless nights watching your child rip at themselves,” says Alicia, “but be strong and you will make it work and it will become a part of your normal life. Once you get a good team of specialists around you and a good routine for your child, and find out what works well for your child’s skin, it takes a big load off. It may take 12 months or four years, but you can treat it and you will get there.”