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Eczema in Kids: A Chelsea, Michigan Teen Shares Her Story

This chronic skin disease that affects how millions of children feel, think, sleep, look – even what they do and wear. Take a closer look at this condition through a Washtenaw County kid's eyes.

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"Right now, I can feel the tingling in my ankle. I'm not going to itch it."

When Jacquelyn Busch, 13, scratches, she knows what'll happen. First, it'll feel tons better. But a few minutes later, it'll tickle again – worse – and she'll have to keep attacking it, even if it starts to sting or hurt.

"If I scratch hard enough, it'll really open and bleed and ooze," the Chelsea teen explains. So she twiddles her thumbs or focuses on flipping pages in a book. She'll smack, pinch, push or rub the area. Or she'll apply cold water, ice cubes in towels, or pop a Benadryl.

But it's crazy tough. It's like when someone tells you they know a secret.

"I need to know, I need to know, I need to know – that's the way the itching is," she says. "You know, 'I shouldn't do it.' You just have to. It just feels so much better afterwards.

"The itching is worse than the cuts that you get."

A prevalent issue in kids

For the 20 percent of U.S. kids with eczema (EK-zeh-ma), a chronic skin disease, this can be a daily, even minute-to-minute battle. Jacquelyn has the severe version. "Atopic dermatitis" is marked by itchy, dry, scaly skin – especially the elbow crooks, backs of knees and face, according to the National Eczema Association. On Jacquelyn, it "jumps." Her ankles are the worst; then her knees, wrists and elbows. Recently, it's flared on her face.

"Imagine being itchy 24 hours a day," says NEA spokesperson Diane Dunn. "They can't control it. It's constant." It leaves rashes, scars and thin, infection-prone skin. It impacts sleep, focus and how kids play and dress.

And it's the first thing people notice, says Jacquelyn – a bright, green-eyed teen with dirty-blond hair who loves skiing, Glee and no-bake cookies. "Did I get sunburned? Why does my skin look like I'm a grandma or alligator?" are typical questions. "It looks kind of reptile-y. I just have a lot more wrinkles than everybody else on my knees and my hands. Creases."

There's no cure – yet. Still, there's lots of support to help families manage it – and live full lives. That's a message Jacquelyn, her family and other allies hope to spread during October, which is National Eczema Awareness Month.

Reasons and triggers

As in so many cases, the itching started early, when Jacquelyn was only about 4 weeks old, recalls her mom, Carol Froczila.

"It was all the time," says Frocilza, 46. "She was very ingenious. She'd scratch, and she would use anything she could," from pointed Barbie hands to brush bristles – even Velcro on the infant mittens she wore at night.

"We were pretty desperate. Nobody was sleeping, and everyone was pretty miserable."

At least 17 percent of kids experience eczema symptoms before the age of 5, the NEA notes. While roughly half can "improve" between ages 5 and 15, others, like Jacquelyn, may have life-long flare-ups.

Old to new | New to old
Oct 4, 2012 09:25 am
 Posted by  rebblondy

My daughter is 12 and has had eczema pretty much as long as I can remember:( This story hits home on so many fronts. I would love for you and my daughter to become pen pals so she has more support as no one understands this like someone else who has it.

God Bless your family

Oct 16, 2012 04:40 pm
 Posted by  yfitch

I went through what your daughter went through. I've seen Dr. Hanifen the best Eczema doctor in the world and he told me I'd never be able to shave, etc. He also said that he hadn't seen a case as bad as mine that wasn't home schooled. Pantene Pro V irritated my scalp and made me lose my hair. I did the UV treatment too, but actually did more harm than good because I was allergic to eggs and I got a crescent each time I went. Figuring out my allergies, relaxing, and hypnosis in high school over time I now need a normal life. Email me at eveyswan@live.com if anyone wants to talk.

Oct 17, 2012 10:52 pm
 Posted by  MAS

I read the story as I have a 6 year old daughter that experiences eczema. We have been successful in treating eczema with the indications the Dermatologist has provided on how to apply the medicated creams (have tried several, last one lipid containing); however we added our own procedure of applying starch on top of the cream. The starch forms a layer that prevents the medicated cream from getting onto the bandage or clothing. This way the cream is fully absorbed by the skin. This has worked as a miracle and I fully recommend everybody to try. The recovery is so fast that you see results next morning. It is important to constantly maintain the rest of the skin with moisturized cream to avoid eczema moving into in new areas.

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