When my first daughter was 6 weeks old she started to develop eczema on her face which over the next few weeks would gradually get worse and spread all over her body. When she was teething and dribbling she constantly had a red patches on her cheeks and around her mouth; her skin was incredibly dry and her eczema would regularly flare up which seemed to happen randomly. We took her back and forth to the GP and after trial and error with many different kinds of emollients we eventually found a regime that worked for her using Doublebase and Epaderm, though her skin was so dry I had to apply her creams every two hours. We always had to dress her with long sleeves because the instant her arms were exposed she would scratch; it was worst at bedtime and her sleep was disturbed at night with scratching so she would often wake, I would find blood on her bedsheets from the scratching which was absolutely heartbreaking.
At 6 months her eczema was still severe and even though we were treating her with steroids it was not improving. Her cheeks would be red raw and she developed thread veins. I would regularly get comments on her skin and lectured by well meaning individuals on remedies to try (which was really, really annoying – I have tried everything Thank You very much). At this point I was still breastfeeding but looking at returning to work and started to think about formula feeding, so one day I gave her a couple of ounces of formula milk to try. She drank it all up: 10 minutes later she started scratching her face and didn’t stop, her face went red and blotchy all over and she started to bleed as she scratched, hives started to cover her body. I was absolutely terrified; realising she was having an allergic reaction we thankfully had some Piriton at home as the GP had prescribed some for her when her sleep was very bad. She calmed down after the medicine; I however, cried all afternoon. I had found out she was allergic to dairy.
All this had happened just before our appointment with the dermatologist for our baby’s eczema. We saw a lovely consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital from the Children’s Dermatology department, who agreed that she had a milk allergy and prescribed Neocate (a hypoallergenic formula) straight away and arranged a referral to the Childrens Allergy department. She also prescribed a unique preparation of propaderm (a very potent steroid) diluted in soft white paraffin to be applied to her skin – which was obtained only from the hospital. I have to say this was the turning point for us – she started to itch less when she started drinking Neocate and within a few weeks her eczema began to improve. It took another 3 years for it to very gradually, get properly under control using various forms of treatments.
At 10 months we eventually got to attend the Children’s Allergy Clinic at St Thomas’s, where they confirmed an allergy to egg, dairy, tree nuts and fish (I have to say the team are fantastic here and are one of the leading research teams in the field of allergy, I cannot compliment them enough). This was 7 years ago and it’s been a learning curve for us, and fortunately more people are becoming aware of allergies.
When I had my second baby and she started to develop eczema in the same way I suspected that she too was allergic, so I went straight to the doctor and I was right – she is currently allergic to egg and dairy. My two have also developed further allergies to chicken(!) and various types of fruit. Having said that it’s much easier to manage second time around and less daunting.