The impact of severe eczema
Four-year old Jade Byers has suffered with severe eczema her whole life. Unlike her older brother, who only had mild eczema until the age of one, Jade’s condition can regularly leave her skin – including her face – cracked, bleeding and sore.
In people with eczema, the function of the skin as a barrier to the outside world doesn’t work properly. This means that allergy-inducing irritants can enter the skin causing dryness, inflammation and infection.
Jade suffers from broken sleep as the itching wakes her every night which can leave her tired, grumpy and wanting her mum. She is subject to endless appointments with the doctor or at the hospital as the experts decide which treatments work for Jade. These can range from emollient moisturisers that are applied several times a day; to antibiotics, antiviral medicine and even wet wrap bandages.
Jade’s mum, Rebecca Byers, told us how the eczema has a massive impact on their family in terms of everyday practicalities, along with the emotional side.
Rebecca explains, “There’s lots to think about on a daily basis – it’s relentless! Jades level of care means that she qualifies for Disability Living Allowance and I for Carers Allowance – it’s a challenge to get her to not scratch or damage her skin further. We have to ensure that she wears the right cotton clothing, we have bought specialist protective bedding, along with only using gentle washing powder for everyone. We can’t have any perfumed products such as soaps, shampoo or body cream and we keep Jade’s bedroom at the correct temperature so as not to exasperate her eczema further. There are always things to consider, such as; external environments like play centres, parties and what is available for her to eat that she’s not allergic to and of course when to give her next dose of medication or treatment. It’s always there – it’s difficult to switch off, and there’s the fear that she could be admitted to hospital which has happened twice before.”
Jade’s parents are often left exhausted due to the time consuming nature of Jade’s condition. It can affect everything from her parents’ career decisions, to where they can go on holiday. Rebecca experiences feelings of helplessness, guilt and worry as she faces the relentless everyday battle against eczema.
She says, “My husband and I work hard as a team, and we have a great support network from family and friends to health professionals, especially those at Sheffield Children’s Hospital; we couldn’t do it without them all. However, it’s an extremely difficult condition to live with that has changed life in our family forever. But as ‘eczema parents’ we can only do our best to manage the situation and tackle the challenges positively to ensure Jade stays healthy and lives as normal a life as possible.”