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A Tricky Case of Eczema - or 'If at First You Don't Succeed...'

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 66 - July 2001

Richard had never been an easy child – and from the age of six months, particularly so. At that fateful time, he developed a patch of eczema in the bend of his right elbow – a classical spot for infantile eczema, and things were never the same again. The eczema spread, quite rapidly, down his limbs to his wrists and onto his legs, and also onto his face and behind the ears. Fairly rapidly, he looked a terrible mess, the affected areas running with clear weeping fluid and crusting horribly. He would scratch off the crusts, causing bleeding, especially at night or whenever the rash was uncovered, allowing access to probing fingers. The worst thing of all was that Richard was too young to understand that he should not scratch, and his parents could do little other than to try to distract him.

Sometimes they spent hours, especially through the night, simply holding both of his hands firmly, in the hope of preventing him from harming himself by scratching. Warm nights seemed particularly tiresome, but this may have been because it was difficult to keep him in an all-in-one babygro when the temperature was high. Bathing seemed to help the skin and ease its appearance and itchiness somewhat. Otherwise, the only thing that eased the situation was steroid cream. His mother used 2.5% hydrocortisone on the body and 1% hydrocortisone on the face. There was a considerable concern here as a baby's skin is extremely sensitive, and long-term applications of steroid cream, even at low doses like 0.5% or 1%, can cause permanent changes in the skin such as thinning or prominent thread veins.

Clearly, something fundamental needed to be done to influence this child's eczema if damage to the skin by the steroids was to be avoided. I felt that I needed to use a deep-acting remedy matching his whole personality and constitution, if at all possible, in order to get this kind of response. So I set about trying to assess Richard's character. By the time he was brought to me, he was eighteen months old, with a strong personality. He was very outgoing and busy, not shy at all and with no sense of danger. He would throw tantrums on occasion, during which he would kick and scream. He had also been known to bite his older sister and was quite hard-faced if told off. Once, when his mother had had to slap him for being very dangerous and refusing to listen to her warnings, he was completely defiant and did not show any signs of upset at all.

Restlessness was a big theme, both by day, when he was on the move continuously, and at night, when he slept fitfully after a long period in the evening when he refused to go to sleep. He perspired a lot at night, although less now than when a small baby. His appetite was excellent but he did not gain much weight, tending to be very skinny. He was also very thirsty, preferring cold drinks, and was quite keen on milk.

In this kind of 'hyperactive' child, thin although ravenous and with a tendency to a bit of a mean streak, one thinks of the remedy Tuberculinum bovum. The decision to give this remedy is backed up if there is a past history in the family of tuberculosis and, indeed, Richard's maternal great-grandmother had had TB. So I prescribed a single dose of Tuberculinum bovum 30c and waited to see the effect.

One month later, Richard returned with his mother. His eczema had flared up tremendously the week after the remedy and spread to a new area on the trunk, which had not previously been affected. Behind the ears, which had been particularly nasty, however, the eczema had improved. His behaviour was unaltered and he had not had any intercurrent illnesses.

I felt that Richard had probably experienced what homeopaths call 'an aggravation' i.e. his condition had responded to the remedy, but with an initial worsening. In homeopathic theory, this worsening is classically followed by an improvement, so the correct thing to do at this stage is to wait and see if the improvement evolves. So this is what we did. I gave no other remedy and simply asked his mother to continue to bathe and moisturize as before and to apply steroid if absolutely necessary.

After a further two months, no major improvement had materialized. Richard was still scratching until he bled. The eczema had completely gone from behind the ear, but there was a new small crack under the earlobe. The skin of the trunk was now back to normal but there was an overall change in the texture of his skin generally. It seemed very much drier than before and had taken a marked step for the worse since a recent turn in the weather to frosty coldness. He was now worse for bathing and had deep cracks on the skin over his finger joints. He was also less thirsty than before but just as determined and naughty. It seemed that on a physical, if not on a psychological, level Richard had changed. The distribution of his rash and its appearance were different to the initial presentation and this could not be accounted for by a change in the way his conventional treatments were being applied. The picture of cracked eczema, worse for cold weather, combined with intensely dry skin generally suggested the remedy Petroleum. Given Richard's aggravation with the previous remedy at a 30c potency, I decided to try a lower potency – 12c.

To everyone's delight, Richard responded almost straight away to the Petroleum 12c. After just a single dose, his eczema cleared beautifully, and he did not have a recurrence for about six weeks. This recurrence was treated again in the same way, again with success. I would like to tell you that his behaviour improved as well – in fact, I felt that he was calmer and more focused and well behaved in subsequent consultations. However, his mother was not so sure – and he has continued to be a handful to date. We will continue to treat him with Petroleum 12c as required and will only change the remedy if the Petroleum stops working or if the eczema changes again in character.

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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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