Family

Real life: My son was bullied for his extreme eczema

''Strangers will pretty much telling me I’m a hopeless mum, I get that a lot.''

By Alex Lilly
When her son Ryder was just four months old, mum Michelle Taylor noticed something was up with her son's skin.
"I went to get him out of his cot one day and his whole body was covered in what I thought was a rash," she says. "Then we went to several doctors and they were saying it was roseola and told us not to worry about it and then obviously we realised it wasn't that because it was staying there."
After numerous visits to various GPs who prescribed nothing but creams, Michelle soon realised this wasn't your typical eczema.
"Ryder was quite irritable and we used to put socks on his hands to stop him from scratching," she explains.
"Everybody's eczema is different and it's caused by different things so it just varies. Ryder could go to bed with no eczema on his body and just wake up with it all over his body. If we had a week a year with no eczema on his body, we'd be doing pretty good."
When Ryder started school though, things went from bad to worse when he became the subject of bullying.
"Some kids at school were calling him a monkey because he scratches so much and then other kids said 'You can't come and sit and play with us,'" Michelle reveals.
Ryder has been dealing with chronic eczema from the age of just four months. (Image: Supplied)
And it wasn't just Ryder who copped his fair share of hate.
"A lot of people in the streets will stop us and say 'What have you done to yourself? What's wrong with you?'" Michelle confesses.
"I've had people say to me, 'What kind of mother are you bringing a child out in public with chicken pox and infecting everybody else?'"
"We had a bit of a bad situation at a theme park where a person asked Ryder why was he so silly for not putting on sunscreen and doing that to himself and then they said 'You're not a very good mother for letting him go in the sun without sunscreen, he needs medical attention and you're not doing it.' Pretty much telling me I'm a hopeless mum, I get that a lot."
And while most teachers and staff at Ryder's school have been supportive and understanding of his condition, one teacher told him to 'man up.'
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To treat his eczema, Ryder, now 10, has been on a few different treatments ranging from five different creams that have to be applied to his body and even bathing him in bleach.
Michelle also revealed that he is frequently wet-wrapped to alleviate the symptoms.
"You put cream all over their body and then you get bandages and you cut them out to measure on their arms legs and body and then you put them in warm water and put them on top of the cream and you tie them together and then you cover his whole body again in dry bandages on top and then put their clothes on top of that and you have to change them every eight hours," Michelle explained of the laborious process.
On top of that, Ryder used to go to hospital for about a week a month and go on an IV and antibiotics.
"Missing school was pretty good but the annoying part was having the IV in my arm and not being able to see my friends," he admits.
Ryder used to go to hospital for about a week a month and was often hooked to an IV and given antibiotics. (Image: Supplied)
But despite the bullying, Michelle and Ryder have grown resilient and realised that a lot of the comments stem from a lack of awareness about the disease.
"That's why we're trying to help the Eczema Foundation make people aware that it's not contagious, he hasn't done anything to himself and unfortunately that's his skin that he's just got to deal with," Michelle says.
In honour of Eczema Awareness Week which started on May 13th, the Eczema Association are hosting a series of free eczema clinics around the country to provide people with the facts and help reduce the bullying that it can attract.
"As kids start to get to Ryder's age and above, that's when it gets really challenging because questions come up like 'Why am I different? Why me? Why do I have it?' and we're entering that phase now."
Ever since he started school, Ryder has been bullied for his eczema condition. (Image: Supplied)
For any parents and children out there, Michelle and Ryder have some top tips:
"Definitely find a dermatologist that understands the mental health effects of it as well as the actual disease and treating it," Michelle says. "Our dermatologist is always trying new things on Ryder to help him so it's all about never giving up."
"To parents, it's a little bit of tough love but learn how to do wet wrapping and how to put creams on properly. A lot of people won't do it at home but we do a lot to stay out of hospital. Also the allergy shops can sell wet wraps in suits so it's much easier to do."
He may have to wear wet wraps, but Ryder still enjoys rugby and other activities like any other schoolkid. (Image: Supplied)
As for the mental health and bullying side, Michelle encourages parents to try to talk to the teachers so that they can help educate children about how serious eczema can be.
"We don't put Ryder in a bubble, if we did it would probably help his eczema a lot but we want him to be able to do things so we try and make wearing wet wraps normal, setting a routine when they're young helps teachers know no different."
"If talking helps other people and kids getting bullied over their skin, that would be fantastic."