Analysis

Understanding the effects of eczema

Emotional and practical support is crucial for the families of children with eczema. This was the main feedback from a workshop organised by the charity Eczema Outreach Scotland for first-year nursing students at the University of Edinburgh

Emotional and practical support is crucial for the families of children with eczema. This was the main feedback from a workshop organised by the charity Eczema Outreach Scotland for first-year nursing students at the University of Edinburgh.

It is estimated that 1.7 million children in the UK have eczema. Atopic eczema affects between 10% and 20% of children, and the number of asthma diagnoses is on the rise, making it increasingly likely that nurses will come into contact with children who have eczema.

Magali Redding, whose nine-year-old daughter has eczema, started Eczema Outreach Scotland in 2011, having struggled to get help dealing with what she describes as an ‘isolating condition’.

Range of services

Today, the charity runs a range of services, from one-to-one practical advice and support sessions to learn-and-share outings, for the families of children with eczema.

Nursing students from the university volunteered to help at one of these outings, and the idea that the organisation should conduct a one-hour workshop for students was discussed.

The aim of the workshop was to provide students with a realistic and honest account of the psychosocial effects of eczema on children and families.

Self-confidence

The students learned about how living with the condition affects their self-esteem, self-confidence and potential in life. They also heard that families should encourage children with eczema to take part in the same activities as other children, but that many families avoid taking them swimming, for example, because ensuring that their children are completely dry before applying emollients can be too stressful.

‘The students had not realised how much emotional support and encouragement families need, and that these are things nurses can deliver,’ says Ms Redding.

Undergraduate programme director of nursing studies Jennifer Tocher said that the students gained a great deal from the outings and workshop.

Realisation

‘It has made them think a lot more. They all said that they knew people who had eczema, but did not realise how debilitating it can be or the amount of stress it can put on the family unit,’ she says.

‘Their first-year placement is a community one and it fits in with what they are learning. They have done infection control and handwashing, but when they are faced with a condition where washing your hands can cause problems they have to look at it from a different perspective.’

Dr Tocher says that the students’ involvement with Eczema Outreach Scotland has helped them to understand the condition better. ‘When they are in practice they will be able to draw on some of the practical advice to help patients,’ she says.

Ms Redding says there is a potential for further workshops. ‘It is, hopefully, the start of a fruitful relationship with the university in general,’ she adds.

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