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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Skin-care for severe allergies

When my brother Riley was just a year old, he ate a cookie that changed his life forever.

Unbeknownst to our family, Riley was severely allergic to nuts, and the walnut-filled cookie he had eaten produced a chain-reaction that wouldn't come to a halt for months. When you are hit hard with a severe allergy, your immune system is lowered and weakened, which increases the chance that you will develop another allergy. This is especially true with children since they naturally have under-developed immune systems.

Because my brother ate nuts, he became allergic to all of the major food allergies like wheat, milk, eggs, and soy - plus more unusual ones like oats and dust. (Yes, he is allergic to dust!) In the end, his allergen list had about 40 items on it. As you can imagine, this put incredible strain on my mom's ability to feed Riley, and she had to keep a complicated food journal for him. If she fed him the same thing within 30 days of the last time he'd eaten it, he risked becoming allergic to it!

We eventually got the allergies under control, and with a lot of help from the Riley Hospital for Children, he even got to have all of his allergen foods back, with the exception of those pesky tree-nuts. It took years, but he did it. Unfortunately, during this entire time his poor little skin would get so scratchy and patched that he looked like he'd received minor burns all over his legs and arms. I can still remember the sound of him scratching in the night when he was just a toddler, and then my mother gently telling him to stop. The poor little guy.

We tried tons of lotions on him, but he had either scratched so much that his skin was broken and the lotion stung him, or it seemed to do nothing more than moisten his skin a little. Then he'd be back to scratching again.

One of the doctors finally gave my mom a prescription for what we saw as a miracle-cream. It was just Eucerin with cortizone mixed into it, but we didn't realize that Eucerin was available over the counter at the time. My mom was amazed at how well it made my brother's skin heal back up and she began to use it sparingly on my dry skin as well. I remember thinking that I'd like to take a bath in the stuff and just soak for a while.

My mom eventually discovered that Eucerin was available over-the-counter, and we started buying it in a bulk pack. She still got the medicated Eucerin for my brother of course, but all of us kids (even the ones with perfectly fine skin) began to receive large slathers of cream rubbed into our hands or feet whenever my mother decided we were looking a little dry. Back then, I thought it was embarrassing to be tugged aside so that she could rub cream into my hands, but when I think back now, I miss my mom (she's a thousand miles away!) and I think how lovingly she always looked out for me.

If you are an allergy sufferer and have skin breaking out in patches, I highly recommend that you seek the opinion of a dermatologist to find out what is causing your allergies if you haven't already. After that, keeping your skin clear is as simple as practicing everyday care:

Get your skin wet (bath or a shower) at least once a day. This will put some of the moisture back in. Make sure you don't get the water too hot since it will dry you out more than cold water will. Pat yourself completely dry and then rub a thick cream-type lotion all over into your skin. I like to use the Eucerin because it seals in the moisture incredibly well. Finally, make sure to avoid unnecessary skin risks, like getting too much sun, using chemical cleaners with your bare hands, or repeatedly washing dishes by hand. If you have to go outside, keep your skin moist with an SPF lotion, and if you wash dishes or clean with chemicals, make sure to wear gloves or ask someone else to help you.

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