penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Skin deep

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Recently I downloaded some pictures from my camera. I had forgotten they were there. When I started to shuffle through them, I gasped a bit.

Some of the pictures were from Christmas, soon after we had seen the dermatologist. My youngest son’s eczema was still full blown.  In the months that it has taken to heal, I have almost forgotten how angry and painful his skin had been.

He has had eczema almost since his birth.  It would get much worse in the summer and the winter.  Several times he had impetigo when it became infected.  Nothing seemed to help – moisturizers, changes in diet, multiple baths.  We took him to see an allergist when he was two (my other son having an allergy to peanut, treenuts and the environment in general) but when they tested him he only had an allergy to cats and other furry creatures (we have none in our house).

I had hoped he would outgrow it, as his brother had.  But last summer, his skin looked so terrible and he had been through another bout of impetigo again.  People were starting to look at us funny at the swimming pool because he looked like he had the plague.  I was starting to be worried he might be scarred for life.

My mother, literally on her death bed, took my hand and said “Take that child to see a doctor.”

And so began our journey into the health care system with a relatively mild, but challenging issue.

We went to see our family doctor several times. The first time we saw him (which was the day before my mom died) he said “Ha, ha, good thing school is out, his skin is really infected.” I was horrified. He had been to daycare and the wading pool numerous times in the past week. The doctor ordered up a prescription for antibiotics and asked us to keep my son at home a couple of days.

Then we started the merry-go-round of medication. Things would almost get clear…and then the medicine would be done and we would be right back to square one.

The third time around I asked the doctor to see a dermatologist. He’s a good family doctor, but I felt we were going around in circles and I did not like how many antibiotics we were on.

Just before Christmas we visited the children’s hospital for the first time.

When the dermatologist looked at him, she changed his skin cream to something stronger.  She put him on antibiotics again. She also told us about better all over creams to use – which were essentially Vaseline mixed with lanoline mixed with mineral oil. She recommended bathing him every day and to give him a bleach bath him a couple of times a week.  I had read about bleach baths on Mayo Clinic but was a bit reluctant – it seemed a bit harsh. “Just half a cup in a full bath,” she said.

Things seemed to get better for a while but after the meds ran out, things went right down hill again. Luckily it was timed perfectly with our next trip to see the dermatologist. I asked again about allergies (although I myself did not think this was the cause having seen the allergist already). She looked determined.  She ordered six weeks of antibiotics plus a different cream.  She asked if we had been faithful with bathing and while the answer was “mostly” she said we really, really needed to stick to it.  She also agreed that upping the number of bleach baths to three a week might help.  She even asked that clinical pictures be taken – my son smiled as a stranger asked him to stand on a drop cloth in front of blazing flashes.

I wasn’t comfortable with six weeks of antibiotics –  I was worried about my son’s gut flora, which might be annihilated.  He hated yoghurt, so I started to make smoothies.  Combining his skin improvements with live bugs in his diet seemed to improve not only his skin but his overall outlook on life. He seemed to yell less and be less grouchy. He hasn’t quite out grown his “anger management” nickname, but overall he improved. It has made me wonder about how much pain he has been in – but if all his small life he has been suffering from sore, itchy skin, maybe he hasn’t even been able to express how he truly felt?

Since his last visit to the specialist his skin has mostly been better.  Every once in a while, things will back slide a bit and we will pay extra attention to that scaly bit that has popped up.

I have to admit, it has been a surprisingly bigger challenge that I expected.  While it might seem a small thing to add a longish bath and two sessions of covering your child in several types of cream twice a day, it has taken more effort than anticipated. No five year old wants a bleach bath (he has started to ask “Is tonight a bleach bath mummy?”) and he certainly can’t accidently drink the water. So he has every bath toy known to man in there with him.  I’ve also learned not to wear clothes I care about if I am slathering slick, goopy cream on him.

But I can’t deny the difference it has made in his skin, in his personality and in our lives.  I’ve also come to enjoy that moment to slow down and listen to him talk to his plastic dolphin save the bath planet for the rest of his small ocean.

I also feel so incredibly lucky. I can’t imagine how families whose children have much more severe, life altering health conditions cope, if I find even this slight departure from routine difficult.

But it is seeing that picture, and the positive difference it has made to my son and his skin, makes it all worthwhile.


Written by pennyinacastle

July 30, 2015 at 2:44 am

Posted in Random thoughts

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