Day 69. Histamines

In October 2012 on October 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I’m on a steep learning curve about excema, with my third child having suffered with it from the age of 2.

Excema is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory condition in which the skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly. It can be exacerbated by dietary factors, heat and emotional turmoil.  When present in a very feisty 3-year old prone to tantrums, that spells difficulties.

Earlier this year we had a major intervention after a visit to the dermatologist, which comprised a ‘boot-camp’ period of:

  • Minimal bathing – water causes the skin to swell and lose water, hence creating dry, itchy skin;
  • Application of thick, vasoline-like ointments – to prevent water loss and sooth any existing dryness;
  • Antibiotics – to treat low grade infection in pockets of persistently inflamed and damaged skin, which fuels the excema; and
  • Steroid creams – to break the cycle of inflammation by preventing the activities of immune cells and their signalling systems.

It worked, for a while.

In recent months however, there’s been a slow creep back to a generalised level of skin irritation that’s been wreaking havoc on the sleeping patterns and mental states of not only the kid in question, but the entire family. Concerned about this and the fact that I was smothering the poor wee lad in steroid cream at every opportunity, I booked in for a general chat with a very experienced general practitioner at our family clinic.

The guy is pure gold. He was sensible, moderate and informative. After talking me through some great basic information about excema and how to treat it, he asked rather casually,

“Have you been giving him antihistamines?”

Guiltily, I said that in desperation I had given the excema child a dose of the drowsy kind the night before ’cause I needed some sleep. And anyway, I asked,

“Do histamines have a role in excema?”

Do they what?! Use your sharpest fingernail to scratch a line along your inner arm. The near-immediate red, raised area which forms is a result of the local release of histamines, which cause redness, itchiness and pain. Now imagine what fierce scratching of an area already inflamed by excema results in – increased local inflammation, an increased desire to scratch and more local damage. An amplification of the cycle that is already in place.

With the doctor’s advice, we’re now on OPERATION ANTIHISTAMINE and it’s had an impact straight away. The excema is still there, but it’s definitely improved. Less itchiness, better sleeping, happier family.

Why I had never thought it this, and indeed why the dermatologist hadn’t mentioned it, is beyond me.

  1. Gotta love allergies. Great article!

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