The Social Issues of Eczema - Treating the Whole Person.

The Social Issues of Eczema - Treating the Whole Person.

Anne Fairchild McVey

The Social Issues of Eczema - Awareness is Key

It makes me sad to write this blog post on the social issues of eczema because it shouldn’t have to be this way for eczema sufferers. I feel strongly that awareness can make a difference in the life of someone who is struggling with much more than just an itchy rash.

New research is showing that eczema is a major problem. Recent studies have shown that eczema can decrease quality of life, interfere with achievements in school and careers and affects friends and choice of partners.

Eczema is not just a skin disease. Eczema has major psychological impacts on the sufferer. Treating eczema requires understanding the disease and how it affects a person physically and emotionally. An informed and sensitive approach to eczema by relatives and friends can be extremely helpful. Accepting the person rather than the illness can make a huge difference in interpersonal relationships and psychological health for the sufferer.

Treating the Whole Person not Just the Skin.

Effective eczema treatment improves the skin and the person.

It is important to discuss the psychological impact of eczema with the physician. The psychological impact of eczema is often neglected because the physical treatment can be overwhelming and require many questions. Patients should feel comfortable talking about how eczema affects them emotionally. Discussing can be therapeutic and parents, patients and physicians should be aware and know how to recognize signs of depression or anxiety in people with eczema. Depression is one of the most common medical problems in society and people with eczema are at higher risk for depression than the general public.

Family Relations and Eczema.

The Eczema Relief Store

Parents of children with eczema have reported sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and feelings of helplessness. Parents also commonly feel guilt and feel responsible for their child’s eczema. The worse the eczema is, the greater its negative effect on family life.

The eczema child’s skin commonly feels rough and this can negatively affect the sensation of touch, which is important for bonding with child and parents. Inflamed skin can be irritated and sore which can affect someone touching the child and being affectionate. Parents should be aware of this and if physical affection is difficult the parent should try other techniques for bonding such as playing and talking instead of holding or touching the child. Reading books, playing checkers or cards and hide and seek are examples of games that can be enjoyable for a child with eczema. Make an effort to bond with your eczema child daily – this will relieve stress and strengthen your bond with the child which in turn helps with coping.

The treatments of eczema, which is commonly time consuming and messy, can become a source of conflict in the home. The child can use eczema as a weapon in manipulating their parents. A child with eczema may need more attention than a sibling with no such problem, affecting family dynamics. The healthy child can resent the eczema child or the parents and feel neglected. Make sure you don’t let the treatment of eczema become stressful. Include games and toys when treating eczema or let the child watch television or their favorite movie while treating eczema or play with their favorite toy. Also, make an effort to spend quality time with the other siblings that may feel neglected because they are healthy.

Social Issues from Eczema

Unfortunately people with eczema look and feel different. Standing out for the wrong reasons is uncomfortable for most people. Our skin is what others see, and they often judge based upon it. Ignorance of skin disease is still widespread. Sufferers of eczema often hear ill-informed comments and mistaken anxieties that these skin issues are contagious.

In older age groups, when physical appearance becomes very important, chronically inflamed, cracked, dry skin is seen as unattractive and can cause anxiety or depression.

Awareness is important and the eczema sufferer should feel comfortable expressing that they have eczema, that it is one the most common skin conditions and it is not contagious. Again, talking about it helps with awareness and can be therapeutic. Breaking the stigma on eczema takes openness which increases awareness and acceptance.

School and Eczema

The lives of preschool children can be severely affected by eczema. Preschoolers with eczema are more anxious and more dependent on their parents than other children. Eczema children are overwhelmed by itchy skin, disturbed sleep and distress. Older children with eczema may have trouble at school due to sleep deprivation and the itch that requires scratching. With eczema, social development is affected due to poor self-image and lack of self-confidence.

Sleeplessness from scratching leads to fatigue, which can increase psychological distress.

School issues are general avoidance by other children because other children may have a fear of “catching something” along with teasing and bullying.

In one study, 39% of 14- to 17-year-old patients reported being teased or bullied because of their eczema. At school, bullying and teasing can lead to shyness, withdrawal, underperformance or a refusal to attend classes.

Read this article on how to minimize eczema during the school year There are over one million school-age children suffering from severe eczema in the United States alone. Eczema can make school and learning difficult for a variety of reasons. Eczema can cause extreme sleep deprivation from itching and scratching at night which can cause drowsiness at school that can lead to learning disabilities if not addressed. including physical (drowsiness, itching, irritability) and emotional and social (embarrassment and being shunned from ignorance from scaling, rashes and open sores)

You and your child are not alone. Although eczema is not contagious, symptoms like scaling, rashes, and open sores can cause social and emotional issues that make life even more difficult for young children already dealing with a challenging disease.

The National Eczema Association has developed Eczema: Tools for School to help parents, educators, and students learn more about eczema. By working together, we can raise awareness, increase understanding, and give children with eczema a happy, healthy school experience. The elements of Eczema: Tools for School can be divided into two parts: A Parent’s Guide and An Educator’s Guide.

A Parent’s Guide includes a comprehensive manual on eczema and a fact page offering tips and suggestions for discussing eczema with your child.

An Educator’s Guide is an eczema manual for educators. It covers everything from basic eczema facts to strategies for managing eczema in the classroom.

We encourage you to distribute these materials to your child’s teacher, school personnel, and other parents at your child’s school to raise awareness and understanding of eczema. By doing this, you will help make school a better place for children with eczema.

The Dreaded Itch of Eczema

Itch is one of the most troublesome symptoms of eczema. It affects almost every aspect of a sufferer’s life and reduces quality of life.

Itching can make the sufferer angry and resent those around him, especially family members. The scratching and resulting disfigurement of the skin can be used by children as a powerful manipulative tool but at the same time reduce the patient’s self-esteem.

Many describe eczema as the itch you can’t scratch. Eczema sufferers say the itch is under the skin so scratching it doesn’t help it go away, it just temporarily relieves the itch during the scratching, but unfortunately, it always comes back.

Eczema is created by an allergen which puts the immune system on alert. People with eczema can have an increased response to the allergen and the body can see it as a threat such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites.

The immune system reacts with inflammation that produces an intense itch and the itching and scratching begins. It is almost impossible to resist the intense itching which some describe as being similar to poison ivy. Itching damages the skin barrier so more of the allergen can enter making the situation worse.

The below diagram shows the Itch-Scratch Cycle.

The itch-scratch cycle of eczema.

Once the skin becomes broken it is also more susceptible to infection such as staph. You will need to visit your child’s healthcare provider if you think the eczema is infected.

How Can We Help this Dreaded Itch-Scratch Cycle?

Find out what is causing the allergic reaction and try to remove it from your child’s environment. An allergist can help you find the allergen but sometimes it is difficult or there are more than one. It can be a food such as dairy or gluten or a chemical ( i.e.: laundry detergent, shampoo) or an environmental allergen such as pollen, pet dander or dust mites.

Repair the dry, cracked eczema through moisturizing and wet and dry wrap therapy. Repairing the skin barrier through intense, much needed moisture is essential to stopping the Itch/Scratch Cycle. Below is a diagram of the process of wet wrap therapy. This process can also be done with dry clothing for dry wrap therapy. Using clothing damp may be necessary at first to get the eczema under control then switch to dry clothing.