The British Skin Foundation sat down with Consultant Dermatologist Dr Tess McPherson to gain some insight in to what a Consultant Dermatologist who specialises in paediatric dermatology does, how they can help you and what advice they have if you or your child are struggling with the emotional side of having a skin condition.

Dr Tess McPherson, Consultant Dermatologist specialising in paediatric dermatology, teenage and young adult dermatology 

What does a consultant dermatologist who specialises in paediatric dermatology do?

All dermatologists have training in managing skin of all ages including children and young people. A consultant dermatologist who specialises in paediatric dermatology will generally have spent extra time training and managing skin conditions in paediatrics and may have had training in general paediatrics. They will have more detailed knowledge of how skin conditions present in the skin and are likely to do clinics in a children’s hospital in conjunction with paediatricians in other specialties. 

When would a person experiencing a skin issue be referred to you? 

Children and young people can be referred to dermatology through a number of different pathways if specialist input is thought helpful or necessary. This can include from Primary care (GP or advanced nurse practitioner), from paediatric team or from another dermatologist.

What is the general format of a consultation with you?

A consultation will include asking about the skin condition, the impact, background physical and mental health. Examining the skin and then discussing likely diagnosis, how we will approach managing and what extra support and resources may be necessary. I work with a specialist nurse who can help advise on practical management. In the clinic we run for young people we also work with a psychologist who will further address mental health aspects of skin condition. All of the team see addressing the emotional impact of skin condition as of vital importance.

Do the patients you see tend to struggle with their mental health as a result of their skin condition? 

Yes skin conditions can be associated with mental health in many ways and for many reasons including impact from skin condition and the lived experience of managing a skin condition.

 Are your patients open about the mental and emotional impact their condition has upon them? 

I find people like to be asked and will be open about the impact and have reported that this makes them feel more understood and supported. This is something I now feel more comfortable having managed young people for some years. When we have looked at qualitative data from the site young people consistently would like health workers to address the emotional impact of skin condition alongside discussions regarding management and treatments (2 top asks from health workers were to give more information and to address the emotional impact- article in BMJ open) and this was highlighted in recent work we have been doing in BSPAD to form recommendations for guidance for supporting psychological impact of living with skin conditions.

Do you have any tips to help people get the most out of their appointment with a dermatologist such as yourself? 

Think about what are the main issues for you. Is it to get a firm diagnosis? Is it to find what treatments have been proven to be effective? Is it to know what to expect in the future? Is it to understand more about the condition? Is there anything you are not doing because of your skin that you would really like to? Is it to talk about how this is making you feel?

 Will all the patients you see be given the same treatment plan?

No – this will be highly individual

Is there a difference in the mental/emotional impact a skin condition can have on a child compared to an adult? 

Yes – the impact will vary across individuals but there are particular times of life and development – for example adolescence- when skin conditions can have a huge impact and can.

Do you have any advice for young people whose skin is affecting their mental wellbeing? 

This will depend of course in what way and how. I would say in general be kind to yourself and don’t judge yourself by your skin. Skin conditions are very common and although it is very normal for them to affect how you feel they should not define who you are, what you do or how others judge and treat you.

Do you have any advice for parents whose young child has a skin condition? 

HUGE question – essentially get correct diagnosis, effective treatments and support

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