Asthma, Allergies, and Eczema… Oh My!
Sometimes when I tell stories about my childhood people have a look on their face like they’re watching a really scary movie and waiting for the “bad guy” to pop out. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of happy memories, too, however my early years are filled with what we will call “problems”. My Dad got custody of me when I was 5. Soon after I was in his care I needed to be hospitalized. It was discovered that I have been living with asthma for a few months and it wasn’t being cared for. While I was in the hospital it was also discovered that I had severe eczema. At first, they thought it was a skin rash from having such a high fever. I was in the hospital because of my asthma for 5 days. When I was released the fun was just beginning for my single Dad.
Eczema proofing the house
The first thing he had to do was change all of my sheets and every fragrance in the house. The combination of my severe allergies and eczema couldn’t be around any articles that were heavily scented. Even my Dad’s cologne would cause a flare up. I wasn’t allowed to be around dust, pollen, animals, you name it!
"I literally look back and think I should have been living in a real-life bubble."
By the age of six my eczema was still pretty unpredictable. My Dad said the dermatologist suggested I get an allergy test. The dermatologist said that my eczema seemed to flare up when I was around certain allergens so they wanted to determine what exactly I was allergic to. I remember being SO nervous about this. I was 6 years old and I remember the Doctor’s name was “Dr. Check”. At the clever age of 6 I remember sitting in the waiting room thinking, “I wonder if she became a doctor just so she can give people “check-ups”. At the wise age of 33 I realize now that it was just a wild coincidence.
The allergy test
The allergy test consisted of getting 10 pricks on the inside of my forearm. A small amount of a specific allergen was injected into the skin of my arm. After 15 minutes, if a hive formed on that area, that meant I was allergic to that allergen. It was determined that every exterior allergen that can be exposed to my skin was an indicator that would cause a flare up. It was also determined I was allergic to eggs. I had eggs every day for breakfast so I remember thinking “well, that stinks!” Another discovery unrelated to eczema is that I am allergic to bees and I am 33 years lucky to never have been stung! (Cross your fingers for me.)
"The findings of this allergy test and asthma diagnosis went way beyond tissues, inhalers, or nose spray for me."
The impact of my atopic eczema
These other conditions were also the main cause of my eczema. It meant no pets, no flowers, no perfume, no nail polish, no bubble bath… basically to a child the condition felt like... NO life! For my sister, my condition meant she had to do all the chores because I couldn’t be around dust (thank you, eczema!) And for a single dad my condition felt like…."Help!!" Here I am at 33 and we all survived. It is a long journey that takes patience and most importantly consistency. Because let’s face it those flare ups can sneak up on you like a bad guy in a movie!
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?