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Jane Yee: An exercise in eczema

Jane Yee
Supplied
JANE AND VICTOR

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I'm often told that Victor looks like his father. And when I say often, I mean daily. Sometimes twice daily. I don't think I've ever heard the words "oh he looks just like you!" - unless they're directed at Joel of course. To be fair on occasion I've had very diplomatic friends say that he looks like both of us, which is nice. They're lying of course, but still, it's nice.

There's very little about my son's physical appearance that can be attributed to me. Though he does have my colouring, and the jury is still out whose nose he's been blessed/cursed with; we need that little sucker to grow before we can be sure. Aside from the colour of his skin, there is one physical trait that my son has definitely inherited from me, and that's the texture of said skin. Like mine, his is very, very dry.

"Oh he looks just like Joel, he's adorable!"

"Yes, but have you seen his flaky dry skin? Have you? Cos that's all me! He gets that from his mama! Feel it, it's like sandpaper!"

And while I make light of his dry skin, it's actually not funny at all, because it's led to a rather nasty case of eczema, which we're really struggling to keep under control.

What started as red cheeks and barely noticeable flaky patches of skin on his chest has now progressed to a rash all over his chest, his back, behind his knees and ears, in his elbows, on his face, neck and armpits. We've spent the last few weeks trying to treat the eczema with the creams we've been prescribed, along with some natural remedies, avoiding soaps and any fragranced products etc, but it still flares up almost daily.

Poor little mite.

Every day I've been trying to figure out if I've eaten something that might have irritated his eczema, but the outbreaks are so frequent it's difficult to spot a pattern. So we took him to see a paediatric allergist this week in the hope she might be able to shed some light.

During the consultation I told the doctor that he wasn't scratching and therefore didn't seem to be bothered by the eczema, but when he underwent the allergy testing he suddenly became distressed. The doctor said his discomfort was likely due to the control test, which presented as a little raised area like an itchy bite. It was as if he could feel the itch but couldn't connect the dots to scratch it. I suddenly felt awful - all this time I'd figured if he was itchy then he'd scratch, and because he wasn't scratching I had deduced the eczema wasn't irritating him.

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Now I realise he might have been in pain and itchy all along and that would explain some of his erratic behavior - waking in the night screaming, getting upset when he is handled too much, suddenly becoming distressed despite being well rested and recently fed. Of course these things could be put down to teething or a growth spurt, but the reality is he's riddled with eczema and I was probably being overly optimistic to think it wasn't bothering him.

Victor didn't test positive to any of the common food or environmental allergens, which is a relief because now I don't have to worry about introducing new food to him, nor do I have to turf out the cat and/or dog. However, this means we're not really any closer to knowing what causes his eczema to flare up - though it's become pretty clear that they're unavoidable. We've been told the best we can do is continue with the moisturising and topical treatments to keep the flare-ups at bay, which will help reduce the risk of infection from broken skin.

So that, my friends, is the physical feature I've passed onto my son - faulty skin that is probably extremely uncomfortable - and there's nothing that can be done to cure it so we just have to hope he grows out of it. I feel bad that he's inherited my dry, flaky skin and that it's become a source of discomfort for him, but of all the things that could affect a baby's health, eczema really isn't a major. At the end of the day I'm just thankful he's not suffering through something more serious.

Have your children inherited anything from you you'd rather they didn't? If you've had any experience with infant eczema, I'd love to hear your story.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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