Peter's Eczema Skin Story
Itchy Skin Story: Father to daughter (now 18) who had severe eczema, and partner to our Managing Director Jo.
What did your day-to-day life look like back when your daughter had severe eczema?
I was working full time and commuting into London and Birmingham. I would leave the house at around 6 am and wouldn’t get back until at least 7 so Jo (my partner) was pretty much doing it all. With hindsight that was tough on her. I suppose I felt that I was supporting Jo and Jo was dealing with Bonnie’s eczema.
It was very full on. We had a really intense bathing schedule that we would do 3 times a day and then afterwards there would be a whole routine of applying emollients and cream. She used to look like Caspar the ghost, she was absolutely lathered in the stuff. Then we’d put her into her Cotton Comfort suit - her Mitten T Pjs at night and her little dungarees and gloves during the day. Over time her skin improved so we dropped the middle bath.
When the weekend rolled around, I would try and take over and give Jo a rest, but of course when you’ve not been there you don’t know the exact right things to do, so although it was well intentioned it was maybe not practically that helpful.
Have you ever had your own experience of itchy skin?
I had eczema as a small kid, mainly on the back of knees and elbows. I’m allergic to grass, trees, pollen and pet dander and I remember having eczema in the summer months in particular. It never prevented me from doing anything though. It came back a bit in my 20’s and 30’s - always on my feet. I remember just having very itchy feet and I linked it to sport and playing outside. I’m still not sure why it went away.
Can you describe what your daughter's skin looked and felt like?
It was almost like carpet burns or astro burns. It would weep a lot too. Weeping red skin. She was constantly trying to itch it. When she was a baby it was very difficult to put her down because she would want to scratch her cheeks with her hands or against something else. Lots of kids have a bit of eczema behind their knee or on their ankles but Bonnie’s was all over and really severe. We didn’t know anyone else who was experiencing it the same as us and that can be hard.
We’d have to think very carefully about her room, her clothes, what was in the house, how clean we kept it and what she was eating. Her eczema turned out to be connected to multiple food allergies, which made it very difficult to eat out. If you were driving, you couldn’t just pull into a service station for a snack. It also made it tricky asking friends or families to look after her because everyone was so scared of doing something wrong which meant that we never really got a break.
Did dealing with your daughter's itchy skin take a toll on you personally? What was this like?
I was really incredibly lucky to have Jo, and I think it took more of a toll on us as a couple than on me personally. I was working extremely long hours out of the home and Jo was the one who really took charge of finding a solution for Bonnie’s eczema. The first 12 months after she was born it felt like we hardly slept. Bonnie would be up all night itching and crying, we didn’t know what was triggering it and it was torture. I don’t know what I would have done if Jo hadn’t been so proactive and dedicated in finding ways to manage it. She found the specialists who helped get it under control and identified her allergies and found Cotton Comfort too which really helped with the scratching and the sleep. If it had been down to me, I would have been like ‘oh just accept the GP’s advice, we’ll just have to live with it,’ and that would have been absolutely miserable.
What advice would you have for anyone in your position now?
Don’t just take the first piece of advice you receive - especially if it’s not from a specialist but do also persevere with things even if they don’t work immediately. We ended up using a cream (diprobase) that initially seemed to make it worse but after using it regularly definitely helped. We had a pretty clear routine we stuck to and thought a lot about Bonnie’s environment and clothes – we took out Bonnie’s bedroom carpet and she only had a few soft toys that we put in the freezer occasionally – both to avoid dust mites, and she only wore cotton next to her skin.
When we found Cotton Comfort - their organic cotton clothing was a lifesaver - we stuck to that and all through her school life Jo made sure she wore cotton tops and leggings under her uniform. She still has some eczema now, but you wouldn’t know it as she moisturises regularly and avoids things that trigger it. The food allergies have continued though and they are really the things that she has to manage the most. We were always very matter of fact with Bonnie about her allergies and her eczema. She would know that if she was going to a party, she would take her own food as she wouldn’t be able to have any of the chocolates in pass the parcel or any birthday cake, so she’d go off with her own little Tupperware. Our daughter is very self sufficient and doesn’t like us to fuss about her food or skin. We tried to deal with her skin as it was and never spoke to her or felt like it was anything to be embarrassed or feel shameful about. Perhaps her confidence stems from that, I don’t know.
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