The mother of a young Queensland girl with an agonising and poorly understood skin condition says she first thought her daughter had a bad sunburn.
Summah Williams, 11, was recently hospitalised in Brisbane with a painful rash.
“Her skin was so inflamed, there were dry cracks everywhere,” her mother Karyn Zimny, 47, said.
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“She was shivering when it was hot, and itching all night.
“When we went to hospital, she had a staph infection and when she was on antibiotics, her whole face and body shed like a snake from head to toe, the bath would be full of skin.
Summah Williams’s skin shed ‘like a snake’ when she went to hospital for treatment. Credit: SuppliedSummah Williams’s mother says some of the worst areas are her neck and back. Credit: Supplied
“People look at Summah when we go to the shops, and during this flare, everywhere we went, people thought she was sunburned.”
At hospital, Summah was diagnosed with an extreme case of eczema, as well an allergy to her own tears and sweat.
An award-winning dancer, she is currently trialling a new injection treatment, but is still experiencing painful facial flares.
“(Summah’s) allergic to her own tears, and when she’s cries, she comes out in a rash and gets what we call ‘Panda eyes’,” Zimny said.
“She’s also allergic to her sweat, which is heartbreaking as she loves dancing.
“When she looks at all her other dance friends, she gets upset and asks, ‘Why can’t I have skin like them?’ It’s heartbreaking.”
Australian children have one of the highest incidences of eczema in the world, according to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, with erratic weather attributed to painful flareups.
Summah Williams and her mum, Karyn Zimny. Credit: SuppliedAn award-winning dancer, she is currently trialling a new injection treatment, but is still experiencing painful facial flares. Credit: Supplied
Melody Livingstone, CEO of Australian skincare brand MooGoo, says extreme heat, mixed with rain, can be brutal for people with sensitive skin or skin issues like eczema and psoriasis.
“We can hardly keep up with demand,” Livingstone said.
“Our Irritable Skin Balm eczema cream has seen over 70 per cent sales growth since last year, and orders are double what they were this time last year.”
The Eczema Association of Australia says eczema is a common and chronic skin disease impacting up to 30 per cent of children and 10 per cent of adults to varying degrees, with many attributing weather as a main cause for flareups.
“We’re selling an eczema cream every two minutes,” Livingstone said.
“Despite eczema becoming more common, there’s still surprisingly little understanding about how to manage it.
Livingstone says the skin is a protective barrier, and can be susceptible to infection if that barrier is cracked or broken.
“The impact on quality of life is significant and largely underestimated, and the suffering takes a huge toll. It impacts people physically, financially, socially and psychologically,” she said.
“As there is no proven cure for eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, education and keeping the symptoms under control is critical.”