Cold hands?

It seems that everyone I know must have cold hands, which would explain the number of requests I’ve had to knit gloves / mittens / armwarmers recently. I’m always happy to knit somebody else is paying for the yarn (and new needles) and the first two pairs kept my fingers occupied while I was sitting by the Jam’s bed in the hospital.

blackmagic.jpg1. Black Magic Gauntlets for our FFF. She asked for these to keep her hands and arms warm under a coat with ¾ length sleeves. The (terrible, taken at the hospital) photo doesn’t show it because of the colour, but they are the same pattern as my Raspberry Gauntlets. (Click here for the Ravelry pattern page.)

silvercupcake.jpg2. Silver Cupcake Mitts. Made these for a friend of SiL’s. It’s a lovely little pattern and when she wore them I immediately got a request for a second pair for her friend’s daughter. (Ravelry page.)

armwarmer.jpg3. Spring Green Armwarmers for SiL. These are my WiP at the moment. I’ve finished one and am about to cast on the second. They’re part of her Christmas present and she found the pattern (which was actually called Snow on the Laurel) on Pinterest, but luckily it was linked to a Ravelry page.

4. Purple Cable Mittens #2 for another friend of SiL’s. I’ve already made one pair of these but the pattern is good TV knitting and I need to keep practising the thumbs! (Ravelry page.)

Once I’ve finished these I plan to move on to feet – baby booties and socks!

Dream Cream

It lives up to the name!
It lives up to the name!

Anyone who’s been following this blog for a while might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned my battle with hand eczema for some time. No news is good news in this case; it’s been under control, excepting the odd patch of dry skin. I’m still very careful about detergents and or the last few months I’ve been using this wonderful cream from Lush:

Unlike most moisturisers, this actually calms my skin and if I use it while any irritation is mild, it seems to stop the downward spiral. It’s a bit more expensive than creams such as Nivea or E45, but a lot cheaper (and more effective) than some premium brands.

Wool, glorious wool…

I’m knitting again. This may not sound like a big thing, but it represents two significant developments in my life. The first is that the Jam is sleeping better and settling down more quickly by himself at night. This, combined with a recently-discovered ability to play by himself for short periods during the day, means I actually have time to do more in an evening than just eat, load the washing machine and dash off a quick blog post. Knitting means I have time to relax. It’s also something I can do while talking do DH, which is a bonus…

wool

The second development is that I’m physically capable of knitting. For a long time after the Jam was born, the eczema on my hands was so bad that the wool would snag on the dry patches. (That was a good day, on bad days the cracks and splits made holding the needles painful.) There are quite a few posts in the archives about my battle with eczema but I haven’t mentioned it for a while – it seemed to be much better so I didn’t want to tempt fate! The skin on my hands is still dry and I have had a few (relatively mld) flare-ups but at least my fingers are fully functional!

Beautiful shawl Mum knitted when we found out I was pregnant. Sadly she never got to see the Jam in it.
Beautiful shawl Mum knitted when we found out I was pregnant. Sadly she never got to see the Jam in it.

My Mum taught me to knit as a child and again when I was about 30. She’d retired and rediscovered her old hobby, along with a lot of lovely new yarns and designers. I’ll never be as good as she was, particularly as she’s no longer here to sort out my mistakes and teach me new tricks, but knitting always makes me feel close to her. I have a few little projects in mind to get me started – hopefully there will be photos here soon.

Managing hand eczema – my tips

Since I last posted about my eczema, my hands have continued to be in a better state than they have been since it all flared up about ten months ago. I’ve used the ubercream (Protopic) twice in that time when the bubbles started to reappear and it seemed to calm the skin overnight. I still have dry patches and the occasional split, but I would say that the eczema is currently under control. I’ve managed finger-painting, rubbing in the fat for crumble topping and even about half of the Jam’s baths. For anyone suffering with a similar condition, here is what I’d suggest doing to manage it:

  1. Use lots of moisturiser – I’m single-handedly (bad pun – sorry) keeping the company that makes E45 in business, as well as using the prescription emollient that my local pharmacist now sells to me for less than the prescription charge.
  2. Take an oil of evening primrose capsule daily – my doctor suggested it and as it coincided with a marked improvement, I’m going to continue taking them.
  3. Wear rubber gloves EVERY time you do they washing-up, even if it’s just a couple of mugs.
  4. Try to eat well and keep hydrated – I don’t know if it’s related but I’ve switched to wholewheat pasta etc and cut down on alcohol and dairy products. I also drink vast amounts of water (and tea).
  5. Consider a different brand of baby wipes – the Jam’s never had a problem but I find even the unscented / sensitive ones very drying. Ocado stock these, which seem gentler, though you do have to use more and they aren’t cheap!
  6. Avoid commercial soaps, especially heavily scented or solid ones – I find my hands react to many brands and even those that don’t cause a specific reaction are very drying. You can buy good alternatives from a pharmacist, or use the E45 hand wash. (I’m not on commission, honestly!)
  7. Avoid baby shampoo, though Boots own brand isn’t too bad – this is weird as my shampoo is doesn’t cause me any problems. The Jam now has his hair washed on the days DH does the bath.
  8. Stay away from the hydrocortisone!

Firework pictures

Last night, following hunting  trip to Sainsbury’s and Tesco, DH did an impromptu garden firework display for the Jam. It was lovely so the Jam and I decided to express our gratitude through art. (We tried the medium of dance but we didn’t think DH would fully appreciate our firework impressions to the Katy Perry song.)

First ever attempt at fingerpainting
Amazing what you can do with sweet wrappers and glittery eye-shadow

The activity revealed both good and bad news. The bad news – the fingerpaints I bought nearly a year ago are a bit rubbish. The good news – my hands are healthy enough to do fingerpainting with the rubbish paints I bought nearly a year ago!

A new theory

So the bubbles did indeed return and a few days later my hands were as bad as they’d ever been, but I decided to follow the doctor’s plan for a few more days until my appointment. I cut down the hydrocortisone cream to every other day and then every third day , and the strangest thing happened – the skin started to look a little better. Cue House M.D. epiphany moment…could my hands be reacting to the cream that was meant to be stopping the reaction to some still unidentified substance?

Dad, who has a PhD in chemistry, did a little research and decided it was definitely possible that I could have developed a sensitivity to hydrocortisone (though it wasn’t the original cause of the eczema and it did make it better initially). This theory also explains why the eczema has gradually spread from finger to finger, as the cream on each inflamed patch caused a reaction on the skin that touched it.

The doctor agreed that it was a possibility and prescribed an alternative steroid cream to treat any new flare ups, but for the last few days I’ve used nothing but vast quantities of emollient and the improvement has continued. I can now cross my fingers again – so I am doing!

The bubbles are back – boo!

Looks like I spoke too soon in my last post about my hands. Woke up this morning to find the bubbles are back with a vengeance, and the fingers on my right hand are quite stiff and sore. Typing this wearing cotton gloves over lots of moisturiser, but I don’t think I’m going to win this time. Back to the doctor on Monday – hope she has a plan B!

Hands update – so far so good!

A week after the final application of Protopic, I can report that my hands are still more or less in one piece. As instructed by the doctor, I’ve been applying hydrocortisone cream daily, but as of yesterday that’s reduced to every other day. My skin is still dry and my fingers are tight when I get up in the morning but no splits or significant redness. Over the last week I’ve noticed patches of tiny bubbles under the surface of the skin that in the past have heralded a flare up of eczema, but so far they seem to have subsided with lots of emollient.   Fingers still crossed…

Protopic

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been battling with eczema on my hands for several months now. You might think that the stress of having a baby with a serious heart defect, combined with the constant hand-washing any newborn demands could be the cause, but it didn’t start until February 2012, when the Jam was 16 months old. (Having said that, the skin on my hands has been dry and often cracked since he was born, so maybe they are contributory factors.)

After several visits to the doctor who repeatedly prescribed emollients and steroid creams, saying there wasn’t anything else that could be done, I demanded either a second opinion from his colleague or a referral to a dermatologist. Diva-esque I admit, but when the thought of bathing your child fills you with horror, you can’t do finger-painting or baking (or hold a toothbrush on a bad day) and even baby wipes sting, enough is enough!

The second doctor was much more understanding of the impact on my life, and the Jam’s. She decided to take the offensive with a relatively new treatment (for skin conditions) known as Protopic. It’s pretty serious stuff, made from tacrolimus, an immuno-suppressent used for transplant patients and linked (though not conclusively) to lymphoma, amongst other unpleasant side-effects. Short-term use is considered safe – fingers crossed!

The good news is that after using it for two weeks (twice a day for the first week, then once a day) I can now actually cross my fingers! My hands are better than they have been for months – not quite ‘normal’ but much much better. I have been instructed to use a simple over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for the next week or so (initially daily, then on alternate days and so on) and hope the my skin remains in a reasonable state. Again, while I still can, fingers crossed! The idea is to break the cycle – eczema causes stress causes eczema causes stress – and get to a manageable situation rather than a miracle cure.

I’l let you know how it goes in few weeks…