The biting cold is back, and this is bad news for eczema sufferers like myself.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is characterised by dry, scaly, flaky, red and irritated skin.
The wintery air makes the skin dry and very itchy, and it eventually cracks and bleeds.
People with eczema get patches of inflammation, often located behind the knees, at elbow joints and sometimes experience swelling of the lips, darkening of the skin around the eye.
We don’t exactly help the situation by blasting our heating during the cold months, as this dries out the air. The temperature extremes make it difficult for the skin to retain moisture.
At this time of year, eczema symptoms flare up, and can be made worse by the usual triggers like harsh soaps, perfumed items, fabric softeners put in the washing, woollen clothing, dust and certain foods.
It’s crucially important that during the cold, we prevent the skin drying out. So keep a tub of cream with you at all time and slap it on thick, especially after having a bath or shower, so your skin remains moisturised.
My eczema is now primarily dotted around my face, on my eyelids, around my mouth, and the torn, broken skin makes it painful to talk or smile some days. I wake up everyday with a flare up, which stings at the touch of water.
Throughout the day, the soreness continues and I constantly monitor my face in front of the mirror to ensure that it isn’t dry, and that there’s still a glint of cream, which hasn’t been soaked into the skin.
It’s funny; it makes me feel like my skin constantly needs feeding.
I get told by others to stop touching the patches, but it’s hard to ignore this insatiable, excessive itch.
As a result of my inability to bare the itchiness, when I was younger (I’ve had eczema since I was a child), the parts of my body where my eczema was, mainly my arms, used to be covered in bandages. I remember the skin being flaming hot underneath, and the fibres from the bandages would rub against the broken skin and blood oozing from it, making me want to restrict my arm movements.
I’ve tried most creams, including Calendula, Aqueous, Hydrocortisone, steroids, aloe vera, and I’ve even bathed in special ointments.
The funniest thing I think I ever did was to sit for an hour or two everyday with Manuka Honey thickly spread over my face. It was a recommendation by a friend who had read that this superpower honey actually helped, but it didn’t help me much.
I also haven’t tasted orange juice since I was a kid as it became linked with my flare-ups. I wont lie, I have had a few sneaky sips, where I wanted to remind myself of how it tasted, although I did pay for these little slip ups with an inflammation over the following few days!
I even tried going without dairy products for a while and cut out pineapple from my diet – a suggestion by someone I met while abroad.
The hardest things I’ve had to stop eating are sweets and foods with colouring, so Skittles, for example, are now banned!
I asked my doctor to undertake an allergy test but he insists that there is no specific cause for eczema, which is aggravating.
After a flare up I always review what new foods I’ve eaten and become weary about eating them again, and this seems to have helped.
The eczema seems to get worse when I feel stressed – just an ounce of stress and it’ll be visible on my face.
I’ve been taking snippets of advice from others and acting on them to see if anything will help, so I’m open to any suggestions please!
My painful battle with eczema continues and if there is anyone reading this who has had a similar experience, you are not alone and I feel your pain too!