According to NCBI, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that is characterised by dry, itchy rashes that often affects children.
Rachel Ogola first noticed her son’s skin was very dry skin as soon as he was born. When she asked around, she was told to use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, to help moisturise his skin.
“I used that and nothing was happening. The skin was just dry. Four weeks later it started itching. He started rubbing himself on the bed,” recalls Rachel.
To add to that, he developed rashes all over his body. As a first time mum, this worried her.
Visits to doctors’ clinics didn’t offer any relief. “I went to see four doctors. The first doctor said that this is just heat rash,” she says. However, it was the cold season and she didn’t understand why her son would be suffering from heat rash when there was no heat.
“I was told to dress him in light clothing. But nothing really happened,” she says.
She then proceeded to seek another opinion.
“It was at that point we were told the child has eczema.”
Subsequent consultations yielded the same results. “They would give us medication but it wasn’t really working.
Doctors would prescribe steroid creams but these only worked temporarily, the dry patches, itching and rashes coming back.
At one point a chemist even asked her who the steroid creams were for since the dosage prescribed was too high for an infant.
“I had never heard of eczema. I would tell people and they would ask ‘What’s that?’”
Shock and panic then followed accompanied by a myriad of questions.
Eczema has no known cure. Treatments are given to keep the itching and rashes at bay.
“I started doing research. I found out you need to watch what you are eating, the clothes you are wearing.”
Dairy products are a trigger for eczema. And when you have a four-week old baby, who depends on breastmilk for nourishment, you get stuck.
“I had to check what I was eating. With time I realised that whenever I ate fish, I was eating a lot of fish, I was told fish is good for milk, so that’s what I was eating unknowing that is one of the worst triggers of eczema.”
It was in an effort to create more awareness on eczema that Rachel founded Eczema Society of Kenya (ESK).
“I noticed other mums knew their kids had eczema but they didn’t know much about it.”
That was eight years ago. Rachel has since learnt what to do and what not to do when it comes to managing her son’s condition.
“Eczema is just special. Everyone reacts differently.”
For Rachel and her son, it has become easier to manage flare ups. Regular moisturising, using cotton bedding and clothes, mild detergents and keeping a clean environment are just some of the measures they have taken. At eight years old, her son now knows and understands his condition and what he should do to reduce chances of reactions.
But Rachel still faces challenges especially when her son is discriminated against. Most people don’t know that eczema is an uncommunicable disease meaning that you cannot get it just from touching a patient.
One incident comes to mind. “We had gone to Mombasa on holiday and my son jumped in the pool to swim. I started noticing people removing their kids from the pool, one by one. I didn’t tell him anything. I just let him swim until he got tired.”
When it comes to their home, she has had to train her son’s nannies on how to take care of him. When he started going to school, they explained the condition to the staff who now know that in case of uncertainty especially pertaining to food, they should call her for clarification.
Rachel says that when it comes to living with eczema, acceptance and learning how to manage it are very important. She is also using ESK to educate the public on eczema, a condition she believes has been neglected despite the many people who are suffering from it.
Facebook: Eczema Society of Kenya (ESK)
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