Dealing with eczema flares

I hate winter.

And not because of the dreariness or the drab or the weather. I hate winter because of this:

IMG_1244
I hate winter because of eczema. My daughter’s skin gets dry. It gets itchy. To hear it from the dermatologist, it’s an itch unlike any you or I have encountered. It’s relentless. Imagine the worst itch you ever had, then multiply it by 1,000 times. That’s what it’s like to have eczema. So its no wonder that my daughter wakes up with trails of blood across her chest and back from scratching. And to make matters worse, once they scratch or rub, the skin develops a rash. The skin puffs up, turns red and blotchy. It itches more. And then the skin breaks. I’m not talking simple scratches. The skin shreds. Pulls apart. Like tissue paper.

IMG_1246Her hands are usually the worst. But this year, she had a full-body flare.

IMG_1247This is the area where her pants and underwear touch her body.  The splotches continued both up and down her torso. Her shoulders and upper back were gouged by nail marks and puffy skin.

IMG_1249And for the first time, her face was affected: One eye puffed up, her cheeks got blotchy, and her upper lip was bright red and scaly.

We went to the dermatologist the next morning. I pulled out my entire arsenal of tricks to battle this flare:

Wet wrapping: What you need: water, 100% cotton fabric, and tube socks and/or ACE bandages.
What to do: Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and submerge the fabric until they’re soaked. (I use old onesies that I’ve cut into strips.) Pull the strips out of the water and squeeze until they are still very wet but not dripping. Wrap the affected area loosely with the fabric and secure with tube socks (for hands or feet) or with the ACE bandages for other areas, such as the torso. Leave on for 20-40 minutes. When you remove the bandages, do one area at a time, for example: unwrap a hand, apply medicines, apply lotion, and finally apply an emollient such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. For hands, then apply a clean 100% cotton glove or another dry tube sock and leave on overnight.

Therapy baths:
What you need: Option 1: 1 package Aveeno oatmeal bath; option 2: 2 cups milk and 1/2 cup mineral oil; option 3: 1 cup olive oil; option 4: 1/4 cup baking powder.
What to do: Fill a tub halfway with warm water and add one of the four options. Soak for 10 minutes, then lightly pat the skin until it is mostly dry, then apply medicines, lotion, and an emollient.

Burn pads:
You can find these in the first-aid section of your local drug store. Essentially, they’re gel pads soaked in sterile water. I usually put these on her wrists during the day and wrap them in rolled gauze to secure. Leave them on for 30-40 minutes, then remove and apply medicines, lotion, and emollient to the affected area. Don’t use on open cuts, just on areas that are incredibly dry and need some serious hydration.

A metric ton of prescriptions:See your doctor or dermatologist. For this flare, we received a higher-dose of ProTopic (0.3%), and were told to use our steroid ointment for 2 weeks straight, 2x a day, and then wean her off of it. We continued to give her 1 tsp of Zyrtec daily and 1 tsp of Benadryl at night to help her sleep. We also tried  CeraVe cream (blue colored label/tub) and it seems to be helping a lot.

IMG_1252She’s doing better, but is still itchy. Keep that skin hydrated!

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Learning To Function With One Hand

(Apologies in advance if there are any typos in this post. I’m typing with one hand. )

Confession: I am not a good sick/injured person. I don’t like being cooped up in the house. And I really don’t like not having the use of my right arm.

I had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in early August and while I know its not forever, cabin fever has definitely set in. Right now, my movements are very restricted: The only approved way of moving my shoulder is to be standing, bend at the waist, and let my arm slowly hang away from my body. That’s it. And now you know how I get dressed every day: Put sleeve on bad arm, bend, pull it up, pull over my head, insert good hand, and SLOWLY adjust said shirt.

Bras?  The only ones I can wear are strapless or bandeau tops. Although my favorite so far is the tank top with a shelf bra. So. Much. Easier.

My sling is gigantic. It even has its own pillow to keep my arm away from my body. I also can’t drive for another week, and when I do, it can only be for short trips and I have to use my left hand for everything. (Translation: I’ve been cooped up in my house for nearly six weeks! And most of that time was spent alone. HELP ME.)

So … life has been very small recently. And slow.

Of Cavities And Picky Eaters

The boy is the picky eater in our house. “I want macaroni and cheese for dinner!” he’ll proclaim, but when it is placed in front of him in all its day-glow orange glory, he’ll take one bite (maybe) then say “I’m done.”

Excuse me? Baking powder? A sphincter says what?!

It’s not like I’m putting overcooked brussels sprouts and canned ham in front of the kid. This is macaroni and cheese. The stuff of childhood. And I have to buy the blue box, because he refuses to eat the “natural” kind.

The orange stuff.

The orange stuff.

Meanwhile, the girl child has polished off her portion, has mowed through her sliced fruit, her sugar snap peas with hummus (one of her favorite snacks), and is munching on a slice of turkey breast.

“I eating Mama,” she’ll say. “I listening!”

“I know baby,” I’ll say, then turn back to the stone-faced 4-year-old. “You have to eat FIVE bites of macaroni and cheese. BIG ONES. And all your fruit.”

For those keeping score, five big bites is to compensate for him specifically requesting said macaroni and cheese. The fruit is to keep ze bowels moving. Because lordy, if he gets stopped up that’s a good THREE days of mineral oil and eventually stool softener to get things moving again.

TMI? Sorry. Welcome to my world.

So dinner is basically a Mexican standoff. A gunfight at noon. Whathaveyou. We sit and stare at each other until he eats. It is SO much fun. Oh, and he STILL doesn’t eat meat. It baffles the mind.

"You will eat your dinner!"

“You will eat your dinner!”

Meanwhile, his sister has cleaned her plate and gets to hop down and watch a movie of her choice. Even if it’s his turn to pick. And if he gets upset, usually she’ll say something along the lines of: “Just eat, Sean. You taking too long.”

But why the long, drawn-out process? Why not just say “fine” and let him be done? Well, Internet, I’ve tried that too. What happens then is that when its time to get into pajamas and get ready for bed: He’s starving. SO HUNGRY. But now my food is cold! I want cereal! With milk! But I’m still hungry! I don’t want to go to bed! and  WAAAAAAAAAAH.

So we struggle. Daily. And I fantasize about scientists creating a pill that gets him all his nutritional needs and fills his belly. But then I’d have to figure out a way to get him to eat it daily. (Back to square one.)

Meanwhile …

The shortcake has cavities. Yes, plural.  On her back molars. The dentist says part of it is because her mouth is so little and that her teeth are very close together.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, its because of the fruit snacks, raisins, and goldfish — all of which she loves — and all of which stick to the teeth and spread their sticky, sweet, cavity-inducing selves all over the enamel. As a result, I have hidden the rest of our fruit snacks and they won’t be making any more appearances. (Also? I got tired of the picky eater trying to fill himself up with these. Fruit snacks do not a meal make.)

Sugar-filled cavity bombs!

Mmmmm … sugar-filled cavity bombs!

I’ve replaced the kid-height snacks with Z bars, granola bars, boxes of raisins (they’re healthy, we just need to be more cognizant of how many she eats), applesauce packets, and snack-size bags of popcorn and “better” crackers. In the fridge, I’m going to make small bags of carrot sticks and sugar snap peas. So far, the girl is loving it. She ate 2 bags of popcorn (about 1/4 cup popped per bag) and a bag of crackers yesterday. The boy? Not so much. He survived on blueberry shredded wheat. Which is fine by me, because hell0 — FIBER.

We took her to the pediatric dentist on Friday for her fillings. Yes, we. Because of the medication they give the kids, two adults are required to be there to ensure nothing bad happens to the kid on the drive home. Like falling asleep and flopping forward and cutting off their air supply and dying. Seriously. So … I wasn’t worried AT ALL.

First off, the girl handled the whole thing like a pro. The only time she cried was after the procedure was over and the dentist turned her movie off before the song was over. That caused sobbing. But aside from that? She was a boss.

And I’ve got the slideshow to prove it.

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And a video. To show just how loopy she was. (BTW, she didn’t lose her footing. She straight up almost fell over.)

Quarantined. Again.

Last week Allie had pink eye. And then she gave it to me.

This is something they never tell you when you’re pregnant or childless. You will use all of your sick time for people other than yourself. It is ridiculous how much. And really, those “sick” drop-in centers? You can send your kid when they have a cold. Not with the flu. Not with biohazard-level pink eye. So essentially USELESS.

But I digress.

Allie’s pink eye was “normal”, and after 48 hours of medication, she was looking and feeling completely fine and was officially no longer contagious. My version of pink eye was/is in a league of its own. It is nothing I had ever experienced as a kid. My eye turned bright red. The whites of my eyes swelled, at one point, it looked like I had a pus sack on my eyeball. (Hungry anyone? No? Me neither.)

When the doctor at the urgent care clinic leaned in to examine my eye on Sunday afternoon (just more than 3 hours after I started exhibiting symptoms), he recoiled. As in, cringing, backing away, making the sign of the cross, and draping garlands of garlic around his neck. He told me he had only seen cases as bad as mine “in books.” Then he washed his hands about four times before he left, despite never coming near me without gloves.

I called in sick on Monday because the eye was constantly streaming liquid/tears/mucous and my vision was cloudy to the point that I couldn’t drive. I essentially had no peripheral vision on my right side. I spent half the day on the couch somewhere between a doze and a coma.

One day later, it had spread to my left eye. Because while I slept, my right eye leaked so much that the snail trail got into my left eye. (Are you disgusted yet?) So here I am, day 5 of medication. My left eye is mostly normal. My right eye feels normal, except for the occasional itching, but it still looks like a freak show.  Two more days to go, and if my right eye isn’t normal, I get to go back for a re-check. I’ve spared my coworkers from the plague — I’ve worked from home all week.

Which brings me back to Wednesday, when the Hubbs woke me up to this endearment: “I $%*!-ing hate you.”

“What’d I do? I just woke up.”

After I put my glasses on, I saw. Pink eye. Its the gift that keeps on giving.

But Hubbs’ pink eye didn’t get better after getting eye drops from the doctor. It got worse. So today (Friday) I got to take him back to the urgent care clinic — because his eye is so bad he can barely see — and then to an optometrist, who said his case is viral. You see — Hubbs has a cold. And  the mucous in his nasal passages got into his eyes. So we treat the symptoms. He gets a light steroid eye drop, artificial tears, and a lot of rest.

I won’t go into the details of how bad his eye looks today except to say that:

  1. From across the room, it looks like someone punched him in the eye — its red, swollen, and angry-looking;
  2. Its WAY worse than mine.
  3. It kinda looks like a zombie eye. And its totally creepy.

In other news, we’re keeping the instant hand sanitizer companies in business.

Update: 1 dose of new medication down and he no longer looks like he got punched in the eye. Progress!

p.s.

The pictures of pink eye on Google were highly disappointing. My eye was way grosser than anything I saw.

 

Three Magic Words

Just a quickie today, loves. It’s all I have time for.

But I was at my annual OB appointment this morning (the joy!), and as my doctor and I were catching up — any new medications, how’s the birth control pills doing, you feeling less crazy on these ones, super! — she asked how the kids and Hubbs were doing. So I launched into my (what feels like) standard diatribe about us all sharing plague since mid-January and how I feel like my head is literally going to explode from all the pressure in my sinuses right now, and when I stopped for breath — with most likely a wild, crazed glean to my eyes — she smiled.

“It gets easier. I just want you to know that.”

She went on to say that the younger years with kids are just … terrifically wonderful and amazingly difficult at the same time. Especially with two little ones. She’s been there. Her kids are in high school now. And while parenting is never easy. Its easier physically and emotionally when the kids are a little bit older, because they’re more independent and they don’t need you for EVERY.SINGLE.LITTLE.THING.

And then she shared a really good smoothie recipe with me.

But seriously folks. There will be ups and downs, and horrific cold and flu seasons, and kids keeping you up all night for no other reason than that they want YOU near them.

It gets easier. It gets easier.

Just saying it makes me feel better.

Quarantine

Taking care of one sick kid is hard. Taking care of two sick kids is exhausting. Throw in a sick Hubbs — just for kicks — and what do you get? Nuclear meltdown. CDC quarantine. Hazmat suits and instant hand sanitizer. And me. The last one standing.

For now.

First Sean got sick. Just your standard, run-of-the-mill cold. Paired with the typical “I don’t feel good so I’m going to freak out about EVERYTHING” toddler behavior. (Yes, he freaks out about EVERY. LITTLE. THING. Nose running? Freak Out! No more juice in your cup? Freak Out! Sister sit next to you and take your dinosaur? Nuclear Explosion!)

Then Allie got sick. At first, I didn’t even realize she was sick. She had a very slight runny nose (she’s teething, so nothing alarming there) and was cuddly and quiet Monday morning when I dropped her off at day care. Later that day, I got a call from our provider: Allie had no energy. She was very quiet. And she had a “barking” cough. And our day-care provider? She was worried.

I hung up, did a reality check with Hubbs, made an appointment with the doctor for both kids, then let work know.

I was honestly worried that I was being paranoid. That she was really fine and that I’d feel silly for taking her in for a normal cold. Then I saw her: Tired, barely-open eyes, noisy/wheezy breathing, and that barking cough. When I held her in my arms, she slumped against me and put her cheek against my chest. She tried to talk to me, but only a hoarse croaking came out. She had lost her voice.

Something was most definitely wrong.

A long wait at the doctor’s office later (note to everyone: ALWAYS have food with you when you’ve got kids at an appointment. I had to scrounge through both my purse and diaper bag to come up with 2 boxes of raisins and a bag of cookies) and the verdict was: normal cold for Sean, croup for Allie. And just what is that? (Aside from whatever Diana’s sister had in “Anne of Green Gables”?):

Croup: Viral croup; Laryngotracheobronchitis – acute; Spasmodic croup

Croup is breathing difficulty accompanied by a “barking” cough. Croup, which is swelling around the vocal cords, is common in infants and children and can have a variety of causes.

According to the NIH (PubMed Health), symptoms include:

A cough that sounds like a seal barking. Most children have what appears to be a mild cold for several days before the barking cough becomes evident. As the cough gets more frequent, the child may have labored breathing or stridor (a harsh, crowing noise made during inspiration).

Croup is typically much worse at night. It often lasts 5 or 6 nights, but the first night or two are usually the most severe. Rarely, croup can last for weeks. Croup that lasts longer than a week or recurs frequently should be discussed with your doctor to determine the cause.

If you’ve never seen or heard a child with stridor, you’re lucky. It sounds like this rattly-wheezing coming from their chest, and their little stomachs suck in so far you’re amazed that you can’t see their backbone from the front. Sean had it as a baby, and its terrifying as a parent to know that your kid is struggling to breathe.

The doctor prescribed her a corticosteroid (which she started in the office) to help reduce the swelling in her upper airway and ordered us to keep our humidifiers (yes, PLURAL) going 24-7, to raise the head of her crib, and to take her into a steamy shower if she needed it.

And yes, that’s really all you can do: Be vigilant, pay attention, and if it gets worse/she has more problems: call the doctor and get to the ER. We also needed to keep Sean home until Wednesday to make sure he didn’t come down with it, and Allie needed to stay home until Thursday.

I slept in fits that night, waking up every time I heard a sound coming from her room. The next day, my mom came up to help with them. Honestly, a life-saving move. Allie couldn’t stand to be more than 2 inches away from me at all times. Sean also wanted constant attention. The fact that Grandma was there to sit with him, stroke his hair, give him 100% of her attention? Made him SO HAPPY. Despite the cold.

And then at exactly 3 p.m., Hubbs walked through the door.

He looked at me, said “I feel sick”, and went into our room and closed the door.

I left the kids with my mom and followed him: He felt nauseous, felt cold, his skin was clammy, yet he had a fever. The man had the flu.

And that is when I looked up at the sky and screamed.

Well, in my fantasy, that’s what I did. In reality, I went and got him a cup of Emergen-C with a straw and 3 Advils before closing the door and washing my hands and shooing my mother out of the house for her own safety.

I won’t bore you with details about that night and the next day except to say that I’ve slept on the couch for the past couple of nights in an attempt to stay healthy and that its exhausting to take care of 3 sick people  at the same time. Especially when 2/3 of them are under 3 years old.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get another cup of coffee.

Huzzah!

The demon contraption as my OBGYN called it, is out! Hooray!

And can I just say that I love that woman? She is so freaking fantastic. As in, listening to what I’ve been going through and saying: Really? Well. You want the evil, demon contraption out then, yes? 

I love people who make me snicker.

Also, it was out in like 10 seconds. I appreciate efficiency like that, cause I hate the cold duck-bill thing. I didn’t even have time to answer her question about how the kids are doing and she’s snapping off the gloves and throwing her hands up like she just finished roping a calf in the rodeo. All done!

So now I get to be on the Pill again. And hopefully back to normal. Also, all the crazy periods/gushing craziness may mean that I’m slightly anemic right now.

So I’m on a Pill that is good for that type of thing, apparently. I’m also supposed to eat iron-rich foods (note to self: look up iron-rich foods), and “double up” on my pills for 4 months, which means no periods for 4 months! Yay! Why did the doctor tell me to double up? Because no bleeding = no losing iron.

And right now, I am ALL about not losing iron.