Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eczema is not the only rash

Eczema is not the only rash.

Of course I know this, but last week I got a vivid reminder when both my kids came down with different rashes at the same time.

Shmoop had had a fever that peaked at 104F a few days before. Then, on the day before our planned trip to Lake Tahoe (naturally), he suddenly became itchy all over. Wherever he scratched, a red wheal appeared, with raised white welts. Soon he was covered head to toe in something that a cartoonist might have drawn to caricature a sick kid.

Voov, the one who has eczema, developed pinpoint dark red speckles on her arms and cheeks.

I made same-day appointments, took time off work, and drove the kids to the doctor. In the waiting room, as the kids played with toys they found there, I became aware once again that there is probably no better place than a pediatric waiting room to expose yourself to virulent pathogens.

Shmoop had the first appointment. The doctor looked him over and said that the rash was probably the result of his having a fever beforehand. Kids apparently are prone to getting rashes after fevers. Shmoop probably wasn't contagious...anymore. She prescribed Atarax (hydroxyzine HCl) as an anti-itch, and prednisolone if that didn't work. (We'd tried children's Benadryl without success.)

As I type this, I realize that I didn't check out all the side effects of Atarax. It's also used "for the short-term treatment of nervousness and tension that may occur with certain mental/mood disorders (e.g., anxiety, dementia)." It worked immediately to bring the rash down, which was great. It's also great that we got him off it asap. The idea of your kid being on a mood medication is disturbing.

Voov had the second appointment, with a different doctor. "That's hand, foot, and mouth," she announced confidently without even looking closely at the rash. As it turns out, it wasn't. Upon examining it, she said she didn't know what it was, but that Benadryl would probably work. And that kids get all kinds of rashes and this one didn't look like anything serious.

This sounded fine to me. I worry less than I should about things, to make up for my wife, Hidden B, worrying more than she should. Voov's rash did clear up, after briefly spreading to her face.

Through this experience I realized why people who see your eczema often react the way they do: avoid contact, pull their kids away from yours. They don't know what's causing the rash, or if it's contagious.

And neither do doctors. Pediatricians, especially, often have no idea why your kid is sick. And doctors in general often have no idea what is causing a skin problem for anyone, adult or child. The combination of kid & rash makes for maximum uncertainty. Eczema is not the only rash, nor the only rash of which doctors don't know the cause or cure. This is something we have to accept, difficult as it is, as the current state of medicine.


  1. The combinations can be interesting.

    I'm fairly sure I got chicken pox about 10 years ago (when I was ~30); I felt ill, and much more itchy than normal and had more spots than normal; wasn't sure though - went to the doctors, he thought it probably was just the Eczema worse than normal.

    However, a colleague then got it a few days later - so I think that's a pretty good indication!

    Hydroxyzine does seem to work well, and lying awake scratching the heck out of yourself soon makes you anxious - so it's not a bad thing!

  2. I hope the chickenpox wasn't too bad for you. I hear that it's relatively mild for children (I had it when I was about eight) but can cause serious problems for adults.

  3. Excellent blog very nice and unique information related to Eczema. Thanks for sharing this information.

  4. I used to suffer from Eczema a lot as a child, especially behind the knees and continued to get it on my hands into adulthood.... What seems to have finally cleared it up (at least 95%) is going on a gluten free diet -- I was diagnosed as a child (in Switzerland) as having a gluten intolerance issue but my parents assumed I out grew it by the time I was 5 as I did not have obvious problems anymore when consuming it... However with hindsight I think the eczema was my bodies way of trying to tell me that I should avoid it... Unfortunately it took till age 40 when I started having other symptoms for me to put two and two together. So my advice for eczema suffers is try eliminating gluten and see if it works for you -- you need to give it at least a month or two before concluding it does not help (IMHO). Hope this helps at least a few other eczema suffers as it has me (BTW my blood test for celiac disease was negative so that is not a reliable indicator of gluten intolerance).

  5. Thanks for your story, Stephan!