Friday, June 30, 2006

Children and Contact Dermatitis

By Christina VanGinkel

It was an itchy day at my daughter's house yesterday, and it looks to be for the next couple of days. She phoned me in the morning and asked if I could take a run over and look at my young grandson. By the time I arrived about a half an hour after her original call, she had made the decision to go to the emergency room. He was covered in a bright red rash that was very prominent on his chest, arms, and legs. His face seemed to be spared for the most part, with just some of the rash seeming to creep up his neck just a bit.

She had first called their family doctor, but found that the office was closed. With the rash so red and covering so much of his body, she felt that the emergency room was required. As mornings such as this go, she could not find her car keys, and as I was there by this time, she just bundled him into my vehicle.

By the time the doctor came down the hall to see him, about twenty minutes after arriving, my grandson had already been checked out by the nurse, and his temperature and other vitals all seemed to be normal. He is a typical two year old though, and in order for the nurse to check him, he first made her do everything to his uncle (my thirteen year old) who was with us.

My grandson's other grandmother happens to work at the hospital and my daughter let her know that they were there. She came down to the emergency room and brought him a pack of coloring pages and a small pack of crayons. She also brought him a large chocolate chip cookie because by this time he was exclaiming that he was hungry. Through this all, he was scratching and my daughter was trying to do anything to keep him occupied so he would not scratch.

The diagnosis was quickly made, contact dermatitis, which translates into him being directly exposed to some type of irritant or allergy causing material. He had been fishing with his father the evening before, so the likelihood that it was something along the lines of poison ivy or some type of grass or itch weed that he was sensitive to seemed to be the most likely culprit. The doctor also questioned that if she had changed laundry soaps or lotions, this might also be the cause. He has very sensitive skin to begin with, and she has used the same products for as long as she can remember to help avoid situations such as this, so she knew it was not from a new product that she used on him, and it must have been something he touched.

He was prescribed two over the counter medications including a lotion to help soothe on contact the offending rash and a liquid anti histamine to also help with the itching and redness. Treatment can vary from patient to patient and because the rash was caused from something, he was most likely allergic to, it was important that she had followed through with a visit to see a doctor, as his breathing could have been compromised. As obvious as his rash was, as the doctor said, it is not something you want to try and self-diagnosis, as there is many other illnesses that can cause a rash that need immediate medical attention, as his did.

When I talked to my daughter late last evening to see how he was doing, she said that he was currently sucking his thumb, something he had not done in months. They were dealing with the situation, as best as they could, and he appeared itchy but ok. She had picked up some soothing oatmeal bath to let him soak in the tub with, had followed a course of mostly popsicles throughout the day, along with a light lunch and supper, and was more or less just trying to keep him occupied and free of scratching. The doctor had said that he would most likely be red and itchy for a couple of days, and that if she could narrow down what he were exposed to, to avoid it in the future. No kidding!

Summertime is prime time for kids, and adults for that matter, to come into contact with irritants such as those we suspect he was exposed too. Poison ivy or oak, various grasses, itch weed, and such. If you are fishing, hiking, camping, or spending any time outdoors in places that you normally do not, avoid tall grasses and other overgrown areas. Stay on trails, and do not let kids touch plants that you do not know what they are. Actually, my grandson and his dad were fishing in a spot they always do, but he had stepped off the trail. Apparently, this was all it took.

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