“These are the words going around my mind when I think of eczema…” Tracy, mother of a child with eczema.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an incurable (though it can go away naturally) skin disease which affects up to 20% of children, with 60% diagnosed under the age of one year and experiencing a cycle of painful and unpredictable ‘flare ups’. Eczema is on the increase (2-3 fold in the last century) and often associated with other atopic conditions such as asthma and allergies. The impact of eczema on life is vastly underestimated by the general public. Sadly, the reality for our families is shaped by pain and constant itch, cracked skin, infections, time-consuming treatments, sleepless nights (83% of families), days off school and work for carers (over a quarter), low confidence and feelings of despair.
“I drew this because I wish I could play at the park like my friends without getting all hot and itchy and feeling angry at my skin.” Gaelle
Eczema can have a negative effect on a person’s physical but also psychological wellbeing: 20% of children with eczema are bullied at school (NES 2008) and 1 in 2 has low self-esteem (APEL QoL 2010). In some cases, this can affect an individual well into adult life. A 2012 British Skin Foundation survey found that 47% of respondents with skin disease had been victims of verbal abuse and a further one in six people admitting to having self-harmed as a result of their condition. 1 in 3 mothers admit to feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger and sleep deprivation can lead to high anxiety levels and elevated risks of depression (Manchester university 2006).
Schools also find it hard to understand the needs of children with eczema and the strategies for dealing with it. They may be reluctant to help with the application of moisturisers and often underestimate the child’s emotional and social struggles in regards to friendship and self-confidence.
“Eczema is far more than dry skin or a bit of an itch. Eczema can demand an all consuming lifestyle and coping techniques which need to be embraced by not only the sufferer, but their family as well. Only when people fully understand the far reaching impact of this relentlessly itchy, intolerable skin condition can we hope for better treatment and acceptance.“ Mother of a baby with eczema.
Our experience shows us that, without help, most families dealing with severe eczema may struggle to understand their treatments or experience daily battles to follow them, with no one to turn too. However, their lives can be turned around with the right information, 1-1 support and a chance to meet other families in the same situation, which is why EOS exists.