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Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK
'Surprise at how serious eczema is'
Child with eczema
Severe eczema can be itchy and painful
Neroli Wilson's son Christopher developed eczema when he was 13 months old.

But it was two-and-a-half years before she was able to find a doctor who understood what the family were going through and devised a successful treatment.

Neroli, who will tell her story to the Royal Society of Medicine's eczema conference in London next week, spoke to BBC News Online.


"Christopher had perfect skin until he was 13 months old, when he developed dry skin on the back of his knees.

"The GP diagnosed him as having atopic eczema three weeks after he had his MMR jab.

"We thought eczema was just a minor infection.

"But over the course of the next two years the GP tried to get it under control, prescribing stronger and stronger steroid creams."


When you have a child with a chronic condition, and there's no-one around with immediate experience, you do feel very alone and isolated

Neroli Wilson
The family, who live in Hampton, Middlesex, were given details of the National Eczema Society which helped them learn more about the condition.

Neroli said: "I was quite surprised at how serious eczema could be."

But she was soon to find out. Christopher would start to itch in his sleep and would wake up "ripping his skin to shreds".

She added: "Eczema is not life or death. I don't think GPs get much training on skin and they are reluctant to refer."

Alternative treatments

Doctors tried a number of treatments for Christopher, but Neroli often found him with bleeding skin because he had itched so much, and the stress and worry affected the whole family.

After two years, the GP referred Christopher to a dermatologist, but Neroli said: "She treated him as an adult, and said 'when he's older, he won't be able to be a chef!'

"She didn't seem to be able to relate to us dealing with a child who had eczema, and about how difficult it was to, say, get him into the bath."

Next, the family tried homeopathic medicine.

"That's when things went really wrong.

"She was horrified about Chris having nasty steroids, and she advised us to stop all that.

"He developed septicaemia because he had been scratching so much and it had become infected.

"The hospital treated the infection, but they couldn't really get the eczema under control."

Under control

She took her son back to the GP, where another doctor referred them to a paediatric dermatologist.

"We went to see her, and she got his eczema under control in six weeks."

The dermatologist introduced new treatments, such as wet-wrap bandages and using antihistamines.

Christopher is now nine, and his eczema is well under control.

But Neroli said: "When you have a child with a chronic condition, and there's no-one around with immediate experience, you do feel very alone and isolated."

See also:

24 Sep 02 | England
23 Jun 02 | Health
13 May 02 | Health
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