Family ties

Dublin mum of three, Emma Douglas*, has suffered from eczema all her life and now her children have inherited the same skin condition. Here, she talks about the difficulties of living with eczema on a day-to-day basis and how they manage it as a family

Dublin mum of three, Emma Douglas*, has suffered from eczema all her life and now her children have inherited the same skin condition. Here, she talks about the difficulties of living with eczema on a day-to-day basis and how they manage it as a family

Family ties

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Emma has never known a life without eczema. “My own mother had it and I have had it all my life. I have memories of spending summers in the 80s on the beach in Wexford endlessly itching and scratching my skin. My mum found it really hard to find a sunscreen that suited my skin and didn’t irritate it further so, summers were really difficult for me for flare-ups. 

“I always remember having to be careful of everything I used in the shower. My doctor prescribed a shampoo and a prescription cream and my mum used simple products with no perfumes on my skin. I have a steroid cream I use on my eyelids during very bad flare-ups, the same one that I have used since I was a child.”

Eve, Emma, Caleb and Finn.

MORE PRODUCT CHOICE

When Emma was a teenager, she also found it difficult to source make-up that suited her sensitive skin. But thankfully today, she says, there are far more skincare and make-up brands addressing the needs of those with skin conditions, such as eczema, offering more choice. “Compared to when I was growing up, there are more accessible products on the market and the packaging is clear and informative when it comes to listing ingredients. I am always trying new products to see how they work.”

Emma, her husband, Clive, and their children on holidays. Like in winter, the summer weather and seasonal activities can cause flare-ups in the children.

INCREASED AWARENESS

Emma works as a primary school special needs assistant and has three children: Caleb, who is seven years of age; Eve, who is six; and Finn who is three. All three children also have eczema.

“The difficult periods for us are the middle of winter and summertime. In winter, going from hot to cold all the time and central heating can really affect the skin; while, during the summer months, sweat, sun cream, chlorine in pools and even seawater can cause flare-ups.” 

Emma explains how uncomfortable it can be for her children when their skin is badly aggravated: “When they start scratching at their skin, causing it to bleed, I’m always afraid of scarring. It is heartbreaking to watch as they are old enough to be aware of their skin and are conscious of it – on holidays, my youngest son asked to get longer togs for swimming as he wanted to cover up his legs.”

Dr Paul Ryan, GP and pharmacist, gives his five family-friendly tips on treating eczema

  • Apply your preferred emollient three to four times daily. Emollients are the mainstay of eczema treatment and when used frequently are shown to reduce need for topical steroids.
  • One finger tip unit (FTU) is the amount of topical steroid squeezed from a standard tube along an adult’s fingertip, from the very end of the finger to the first crease. This amount is enough to treat an area of affected skin which is twice the size of the flat of an adult’s hand with the fingers together.
  • Use emollients 30 minutes before applying topical steroids.
    Apply emollients using downward strokes in the direction of hair growth to reduce risk of hair follicle inflammation.
  • Use emollient cleansers as soap substitutes rather than soaps/shower gels which can have a drying effect on the skin.
  • Pat skin dry after washing then apply emollient liberally.

MINIMISING FLARE-UPS

Day-to-day management is important and Emma points to a number of factors that can help keep flare-ups to a minimum. “I am really careful about what I put on their skin at all times, but I pay particular attention during the winter and summer months. As well as making sure I have good skincare products for them, I also use non-bio tabs in the washing machine. I am also aware of other allergies, so sometimes wool can irritate their skin for instance.

“The best advice I could give is to talk to your pharmacist and  continue to moisturise daily. Moisturising with a good cream that suits your skin will help to keep the skin in the best condition possible. And for young children, let them get the sun and air at their skin whenever possible. But, most of all, it should be remembered that what works for some, may not work for others – I have found this with my three children – so, try new products and find out what works best for your own skin.”

*Emma and her family are currently trialling the RELIFE Relizema product range.

Eve, Emma, Caleb and Finn.

Emma, her husband, Clive, and their children on holidays. Like in winter, the summer weather and seasonal activities can cause flare-ups in the children.

Dr Paul Ryan, GP and pharmacist, gives his five family-friendly tips on treating eczema

  • Apply your preferred emollient three to four times daily. Emollients are the mainstay of eczema treatment and when used frequently are shown to reduce need for topical steroids.
  • One finger tip unit (FTU) is the amount of topical steroid squeezed from a standard tube along an adult’s fingertip, from the very end of the finger to the first crease. This amount is enough to treat an area of affected skin which is twice the size of the flat of an adult’s hand with the fingers together.
  • Use emollients 30 minutes before applying topical steroids.
    Apply emollients using downward strokes in the direction of hair growth to reduce risk of hair follicle inflammation.
  • Use emollient cleansers as soap substitutes rather than soaps/shower gels which can have a drying effect on the skin.
  • Pat skin dry after washing then apply emollient liberally.