My physical and emotional struggles managing my son’s severe eczema.
Ten years ago, I gave birth to my youngest son, Ryder. Four months into his young life, he woke up with what I thought then was a rash all over his body.
After being misdiagnosed numerous times, we were finally told that it was in fact eczema. We had never experienced the effects of eczema in our life prior to Ryder, so we had no idea how to deal with his pain and treatments. We waited months for specialist appointments to educate ourselves on how to care for our baby, who was red-raw and covered in eczema breakouts, especially on his head.
My nights consisted of putting socks on Ryder’s hands to stop him scratching and waking up regularly to apply creams on him. I remember his sheets being covered in blood from how badly he scratched himself.
Not many people understand what life has been like for Ryder and our family over the past decade and how managing Ryder’s eczema has affected our lives. Ryder regularly has red flare-ups across his entire body. As much of Ryder’s eczema is on his face, it has resulted in him being bullied, people staring at him and complete strangers telling us how we should be treating him.
There is such little awareness about eczema that I have been stopped on the street by complete strangers and been told I am a shocking mother for letting my son get sunburnt. Some have also suggested that “He has a rash and you should probably get that checked out” while others have plainly asked me, “What’s wrong with your child?”
On one occasion, another parent said to me, “As a mother, you should be ashamed of yourself. How dare you bring an infected child with chicken pox into a public place and put all our families at risk. What kind of mother are you?”
I’ve faced many hard times and uncomfortable encounters, but it can’t compare to the bullying, suffering, and mental and physical toll my son has to deal with every day due to his eczema. Knowing that people make fun of him because of his skin and seeing him come home from school and cry is heartbreaking and as a family, we’re working together to ensure Ryder has all the support he can get.
At the start of each school year, we tell the teachers about Ryder’s condition and they’re extremely helpful. They encourage him to explain to his class what eczema is and debunk any myths surrounding the condition.
Although it has been tough, it’s not a life-threatening disease—it’s just a very uncomfortable one. We understand how lucky we are as a family to have really great support from amazing doctors, family members and groups like the Eczema Association of Australasia Inc (EAA) to help us through the tough times.
Dispelling common eczema myths
according to the EAA
Myth: Eczema is contagious
Eczema is not contagious, which means you can't "catch" the disease from another person and you can't give it to someone by touching them.
Myth: Eczema is like acne
Eczema and acne are completely different conditions. However, it is true that some medications may cause acne and complicate eczema.
Myth: People who have eczema do not wash properly
Having eczema has nothing to do with personal hygiene; the disease is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic and immune system factors.
Myth: Eczema will leave permanent scars.
Generally, no. Although eczema can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is unusual for it to leave any permanent marks on a person's skin.
Myth: Eczema can be cured with steroids.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. Although steroids have been used for a long time to treat eczema, they are not a cure and there are limitations for treatment.
Interview with Julia Simmonds, co-founder of Itchy Baby Co., on how to manage eczema for little ones.