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Never too old to get eczema

I have always been aware of chemicals causing health problems but never realised just how they can creep up on you and cause a problem which seemingly doesn't have an easy answer.

At 52 I started a part time job which involved farm work and relief milking of a dairy herd every second weekend. For the first couple of months everything was fine then I started to notice red raw areas starting on my face below my nose and each side of my mouth. I put this down to being exposed to cold drying wind and rubbed cream into them from the chemist. 

At first there was a some relief but then the problem became worse. In desperation I saw the local doctor and he gave me steroid cream to clear it up which worked very well and the problem appeared to disappear. Then two weeks later it was back again and another cycle of steroid cream was started again. I hate having to use drugs that just treat the symptoms so started to carefully appraise my exposure to chemicals and what may have been the cause of the problem.

I had been told by a friend that eczema was often associated with exposure to sodium hydroxide so I had a careful look at the chemicals in the dairy which were used for cleaning the equipment. Sure enough sodium hydroxide. Although I wore protective gloves and clothing, steam coming off the hot water was obviously causing an allergic reaction with my skin hence the eczema. I had also been warned by my friend that sodium hydroxide was found in common personal care products too and once sensitised to this chemical there would be an ongoing problem no matter where the contact came from.

To my horror I found I was brushing my teeth with a toothpaste which listed sodium hydroxide as one of the chemicals about halfway down the list of ingredients. Then I found it listed in the shampoo I was using as well and it was in common soap. To further compound the problem both the toothpaste and the shampoo contained sodium lauryl sulphate which I now know is just as much a culprit as sodium hydroxide in causing eczema and skin problems.

Well to cut a long story short within two weeks of stopping the use of the products with both the above chemicals in them, the flaking scalp I used to experience and the eczema on my face completely cleared and as long as I am careful in the dairy and leave the room immediately when the steam in is heavy I don't have any problem at all with ongoing eczema.

Bill Humphries Cornwall