"Eczema is a disease that no one can understand fully unless they have experienced it themselves. For 15 years of my life, I have battled this disease by myself. But I’m starting to realize I don’t have to endure this fight all alone."
Published On: Nov 1, 2021
Last Updated On: Dec 2, 2021
My name is Jarett Anderson, and I am a parent of a child with eczema.
I’m here to tell you that while eczema is a difficult condition to face there are many resources available to help you find relief and a strong community of individuals who are there to support you and your loved one. My 10 month-old daughter, Joan, has always been a happy, active little girl. Despite her sweet spirit, strong will and infectious laugh, she has experienced a personal struggle with her unrelenting burden of eczema. In addition to the usual changes involved in becoming first-time parents, waking up frequently throughout the night, changing diapers and ensuring that our girl is sleeping and eating right, we have also been affected as a family by her diagnosis of eczema.
In many ways parenting has lived up to or even exceeded our expectations, with magical moments like rocking our girl to sleep or being on the receiving end of a slobbery baby kiss.
In other ways, it has been different and more challenging than we expected; one example is that we experience the normal sleep deprivation that most parents can relate to, but this has been exaggerated by Joan’s battle with eczema, which often wakes her from sleep, that slowly made its way toward the front lines when she was four months old.
My wife and I first noticed small areas of erythema and excoriation on her arms and upper trunk. My wife consulted our pediatrician, who suggested cutting back on bathing frequency, lotioning often with Vanicream or Aquaphor and limiting the use of soap on her sensitive skin. Despite these efforts, her condition worsened, and Joan continued to scratch the area aggressively at nearly any opportunity, which left behind scabs as a reminder to us of our failed efforts to relieve her discomfort. This began the emotional journey for my wife and me as caregivers for our child with atopic dermatitis (AD).
As time went on, we began to notice other patches on her stomach taking form, that would flare occasionally, becoming bright red and angry — fading within a day or two — only to return again, screaming red. There seemed to be no reason for it, as we had not changed our diet or any part of our normal routine. Her discomfort impacted the quality of her sleep, waking her repeatedly throughout the night. Joan’s condition seemed to snowball quickly, again turning us to her pediatrician, desperate for answers.
Her doctor advised us to try a topical steroid to the aggravated areas in order to calm the inflammation. As time went on, our playful, curious Joan continued to meet developmental milestones, including the long-awaited sounds of “mama” and “dada,” crawling and starting solid foods. As exciting as it was to witness her first successful crawling session and introduce her to some of our favorite foods, little did we know that her eczema would flare more than ever as a result. Her legs and knees showed bright red splotches. The delicate skin on her tiny hands cracked and bled. We turned again to her doctor, defeated and broken hearted at our inability to help relieve our baby’s discomfort.
After completing a round of topical steroids, things began looking better for about a week — only to resurface redder and angrier than ever. After a sleepless night of Joan’s crying and holding back her scratching, my wife turned to me and said “we have GOT to figure this out”.
She called the pediatrician again and asked if she would be willing to refer Joan to an allergist to test for any significant environmental or food allergies. A few weeks later, my wife held my daughter while they performed a skin-prick test for potential allergens, an unpleasant experience that left Joan in terrified tears. However, through this test, we were informed of her allergy to both egg and peanut, and were glad to have some clear direction. We also were prescribed an antihistamine and an epinephrine pen in case of emergency.
Both my wife, who is still breastfeeding, and Joan now avoid any food with egg or peanut listed as an ingredient. This has been a bit of an adjustment, and while it hasn’t cured her eczema, it has seemed to lessen its flares and severity. I am extremely grateful for the advice that my wife and I have received from physicians and other parents of children with eczema.
We, as parents, understand that there is no “cure” for eczema. We are deeply appreciative of the professionals that have allowed us to manage her eczema so that she can enjoy the things that every child deserves to enjoy.
Joan continues to laugh, talk and turn the pages of any book that she can get her hands on. I have loved the opportunity to pay that forward and post about our experience through social media in hopes that, someday, parents like us can understand our journey and appreciate that there are professionals, friends and members of communities like the National Eczema Association that want to help.
Jarett Anderson is a NEA Ambassador. Learn more and join NEA Ambassadors today.