Laura and Jack's Story

Jack’s now 21 months old and a very active little boy. He’s always on the go, even in his sleep. He doesn’t have any siblings, but has a pet dog called Oscar who he adores. He attends nursery three days a week and absolutely loves being there.

We noticed Jack started to get very dry patchy skin around four weeks old. I started to use a child friendly, fragrance-free moisturiser, which didn’t really help. When Jack had his first round of immunisations, the nurse noticed his dry skin and commented that it looked “crispy”. She advised me to use a popular brand of emollient and it seemed to really help, so I continued to use this.

Jack had colic from about three weeks old, so I spoke to the health visitor. They gave no advice and simply said he would eventually grow out of it. They suggested to try colic relief drops, which we were using. I spoke with several friends who also had babies with colic, and following their experience, I made the decision to switch Jack from normal formula to comfort milk. This helped with the colic and I also noticed a change in his skin.When he turned one, I gradually switched him over to cow’s milk, which immediately flared up his eczema and he kept being sick in the evenings. So at this point, I suspected he may have an allergy to cow’s milk protein.

Over the course of his first year, I booked various doctor appointments plus two or three trips to Urgent Care due to illness. His eczema also flares up when he gets ill. They told me to stick with the emollient I was using if it was working. No further advice was given. I asked about any foods that may cause him to flare, but they had no advice.

By December 2022, Jack was 13 months old, and I felt like I had got nowhere with the GP. I was feeling frustrated that nothing was really helping. Jack was still regularly getting flares of eczema and scratching all day and night, and we didn’t know what was causing it. It was impacting his sleep. I would notice him scratching in bed and he would wake multiple times over the course of the night. I was maybe getting about five hours sleep myself and this was still happening when I went back to work. This made returning to work incredibly difficult – it’s really hard to get motivated for a full days work on only five hours sleep.

By this point, having had numerous doctor appointments and not getting anywhere, a friend suggested to call the Allergy UK Helpline. She was very friendly and helpful and had a lot of knowledge. It was agreed that I stop giving Jack cow’s milk and return to the comfort milk until his skin cleared up, and to try again with cow’s milk at a later stage. She advised to keep using the brand of emollient recommended by the nurse until we had a dermatologist appointment, and to use an antihistamine to help with the itch. This made a huge difference because Jack would scratch so much until he was red raw in places. I received a referral letter from Allergy UK to give to our GP for a dermatologist appointment and a telephone appointment with the GP was booked to discuss the referral. The GP seemed reluctant to refer Jack but following the telephone appointment, a dermatology appointment was made, which took place in July 2023.

By the time of this appointment his skin was pretty clear, he just had small patches of eczema on his torso and his legs were very dry. I explained Jack’s history of eczema flare ups and the impact of his persistent scratching, and he prescribed hydrocortisone cream (sic) and an emollient ointment to treat Jack’s eczema. He also didn’t think that Jack had a cow’s milk allergy. The hydrocortisone was to be used every day, twice a day, for three weeks. Then I needed to gradually reduce this to not using, unless Jack has a flare up. The emollient ointment was to be used every day continuously. It has really helped and we still use this now. After trying various different creams, emollients etc. I will continue to use the hydrocortisone when Jack has a flare up, and will continually use the emollient ointment. Before Jack received a prescription for his treatment, it was very costly trying to manage his eczema with off the shelf products. I would be buying a tub of cream every three to four weeks, plus one for nursery to keep.

I feel like I was not listened to by our GP. I’d had several appointments with them and got no answers or even a referral. Jack is almost two now and we are only just seeing a difference in his skin. It shouldn’t have taken this long to get a result, but I’m grateful to Allergy UK for listening to me and understanding Jack’s case, and progressing this further so that we were seen by a dermatologist.

I would say to anyone to keep on at GPs to be heard and ask for a referral if your child is really suffering. It shouldn’t have taken almost two years for us to finally be in a place where we can manage Jack’s eczema.

Editor’s note:
Please note that hydrocortisone cream is a steroid based cream.
The prescribed treatment named in this story should only be used under the consultation and recommendation of a healthcare professional.