Figures are holding hands in a circle, while one is singled out and the chain is broken because the rest refuse to hold their hand which is affected by eczema.

Living a Lifetime with Eczema

The earliest memories of my battle with eczema would be perhaps 60 some years ago, when I was around 6 or 7. The fact that I still remember the feeling of shame and hurt shows how much other’s reactions to our eczema hits us at a gut level.

Kids at school were not very nice

It happened at school when all the students were supposed to walk out two by two, holding hands. You can probably guess the rest. My eczema was scary to my schoolmates, and no one was brave enough to take a chance of “catching it.” I think the teacher was the one to hold my hand.

The other early memory was around the same age, at brownie camp. My older sister and I were sent home a few days early as weeping and scabby spots spread from just our hands and feet to our arms and legs. To our torsos and faces. It probably looked as bad as it felt.

Treatments were different years ago

The standard treatments of the day were oatmeal baths and Mazon cream. I vaguely recall some kind of smelly coal tar ointment, perhaps wrapped, that didn’t wash out if you got it on anything. If my hands were not open and oozing, Watkins medicated ointment smeared liberally on my hands and covered with gloves was a standard nighttime ritual. It did help with hydrating my extremely dry skin. I still use it occasionally.

My eczema triggers

We lived in a small town with no access to a specialist, but the family physician eventually did the requisite allergy tests. I still remember all the itchy little scratches on my back and both arms. Grass, numerous weeds and flowers, wheat, cats, dogs, and house dust were the big ones that I remember. That was the impetus for our family to get its first vacuum cleaner. Bonus!

Atopic conditions in my family

My oldest sister was the unlucky one who had severe asthma, but at least not eczema as well. The next was just like me: dry skin and eczema with almost constant flare-ups. It did seem to improve slightly in our teens but always reared its ugly head at the most inopportune times.

Avoiding triggers

Late fall and winter became my favourite time of year, as outbreaks were less common then. I’ve had periods when my eczema was calm, and times when I thought it would never end. I still can’t wear sandals or go barefoot as contact with grass still causes flare-ups. Eczema between the toes is not pleasant, as I’m sure most of you know. I had allergy shots for grass and cats for a few years in my sixties, and can’t really say they made much difference.

Getting hay fever

When I moved here to the West Coast, I had my first attack of hay fever. Perhaps a warning? I’ve made all the recommended lifestyle and home adaptations, including blinds instead of drapes, hardwood everywhere as opposed to the warm, comfy carpet I love, and of course an air conditioner instead of the wonderfully fresh outside air.

Sharing my lessons

Now,  has given me the opportunity to share some of the things I’ve experienced and lessons I’ve learned after living a lifetime with eczema. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve had years of just minor flare-ups, and treatments that work - for a while. Finding what works is wonderful. Anyone care to share their best solutions?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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