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“His cot was covered in blood.” The reality of having a child with severe eczema.

A lot of people think of eczema as just a dry patch of skin. But for parents of children with severe eczema, the reality is very different.

Kate is a Queensland mum whose son Brock has suffered from eczema since he was a baby. He’s now six. Although he’s learnt to resist the urge to scratch his unbearably itchy skin during the day, it’s a different matter at night.

“He wakes up in the middle of the night scratching,” Kate tells Mamamia. “He scratches that much that he bleeds. He’s got no idea he’s even doing it. He just tears strips off himself. His sheets are usually full of blood and flaky skin.”

severe eczema
Kate with her son, Brock, who suffers from severe eczema. Image: Supplied.

“I walked in plenty of times when he was a baby and his cot was covered in blood. Before I knew a lot about it, I used to put socks on his hands, but he’d rub himself that hard it would end up being blisters.”

Brock was nine months old when Kate first noticed some areas of dry skin on him.

“They turned red, then it spread, and it eventually covered him,” she remembers. “He actually looked like he had meningococcal. I felt sick to my stomach. When we took him to the hospital they said it was infected eczema that led to a staph infection. I thought, ‘Oh my God, how can eczema be that bad?’”

It was the first of many staph infections for Brock. Because of the open sores on his body, he’s very susceptible. He can get a staph infection as often as once every six weeks.

“Once the infection gets into his body, he has to be in hospital pretty fast,” Kate explains. “It’s agonising. It’s very upsetting.”

severe eczema
Photos of Brock's severe eczema. Images: Supplied.
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After one infection that left Brock looking “really lifeless”, Kate decided to go with the doctors’ suggestion of regular bleach baths. She had originally though that the idea sounded “cruel and nasty”, but she found that putting Brock in a bath with “very, very watered-down” bleach helped him a lot.

“It kills all the bacteria on his skin,” Kate says. “Brock actually finds them very soothing.”

As well as the physical pain that comes with eczema, there are the hurtful comments that are directed towards Brock.

“We get a lot of stares,” Kate explains. “I have a lot of rude people come up and say, ‘What’s wrong with your child?’ On his first playdate, the parents asked if he was contagious.

“He’s such a little trooper with it. People ask what’s wrong with him and he’ll say, ‘I’ve got eczema. But do you want to know the good thing about eczema? Mozzies hate my skin.’ He always looks for the good side of everything. He’s such a happy little boy.”

Watch: Kate explains the reality of living with Brock's eczema. Post continues after video.

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As well as giving Brock bleach baths, moisturising him and wrapping him in wet and dry wraps, Kate tries to keep him away from anything that might make his eczema worse, including animals.

“That’s really hard because he wants a pet.”

She thought she would have to home-school Brock, but when she spoke to the staff at the local school, she found them to be very supportive of all Brock’s needs.

“The teacher actually made him his own little cotton mat to sit on, instead of on the carpet. I’m very thankful for that.”

severe eczema
“The teacher actually made him his own little cotton mat to sit on, instead of on the carpet." Image: Supplied.

Kate also connects with other parents in a similar situation to hers through Eczema Support Australia.

The organisation was founded by Melanie Funk, the mother of twin boys with severe eczema. Funk says the first five years of the twins’ lives were “horrendous”, and she survived on “maybe a total of four hours of broken sleep a night”.

“My family did have good support through some good specialists, but we were still struggling, day-to-day and long-term, psychologically, emotionally and physically,” Funk tells Mamamia. “That’s why we started Eczema Support Australia.”

Kate says it’s been a big help to her.

“You don’t have to be alone,” she explains. “There are people out there that understand and know what you’re going through. Brock met other kids like him. He said, ‘Mum, they’ve all got skin the same as me!’”

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