Take holistic approach in managing kids with eczema

SINGAPORE - As the mother of a 10-year-old child who suffers from serious eczema, I can empathise with the parents of the children in the report ("Camp hopes to scratch out stigma from eczema"; June 30).

Though the condition is not life-threatening, it greatly reduces the quality of life for many sufferers.

Many of these children not only suffer intense discomfort due to the constant itching, but are also victims of bullies due to their appearance.

I have heard of eczema sufferers who became socially withdrawn due to discrimination. Therefore, I urge doctors and parents to pay close attention to their children's emotional and psychological well-being.

Because the condition is almost for life, it is important to ensure that children with serious eczema grow up as confident adults.

I am glad that KK Women's and Children's Hospital is taking the lead and incorporating a day-long camp as part of its treatment programme.

With more education and awareness programmes, there can be better understanding of the condition and greater acceptance of eczema patients.

Hospitals should take a more holistic approach and work with schools.

Air-conditioning for such patients is not a luxury but a necessity in Singapore's warm and humid weather.

On several occasions, my son has come home from school with bleeding and infected skin even though his teachers ensure that he sits under the fans at all times.

In France, patients with acute flare-up eczema conditions are prescribed a three-week therapeutic spa treatment programme in places like La Roche-Posay and Avene. The children are also educated on their condition and on how they should look after themselves. The cost of the treatment is heavily subsidised under the national health-care programme.

Caring for children with eczema is costly. Besides medication, they need special body products, clothing and even special bedding to reduce their symptoms. There are no subsidies for these costs and they cannot be claimed under the current insurance system.

It is time for the Ministry of Health to review the chronic disease subsidy scheme to include eczema as a claimable condition.

Shirlena Soh Wee Ling (Dr)

This article was first published on July 8, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.