Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stop being saintly

One of the other reasons I didn't blog much for a while is that the Saturday after catching that cold I woke up with another attack of hand eczema. This time I did not wake up with bleeding palms. I woke up itching severely, but not actually bleeding. That was a relief. Perhaps my sleeping brain had remembered the horror story two friends told me separately a few weeks ago, after reading it in the New Yorker. (I just discovered the story is online, here, but I still have not read it. I know enough, from what my friends told me.)

In this story there is something about a woman whose head was so itchy, and she scratched so much (STOP READING THIS PARAGRAPH NOW IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH) she scratched her way all the way through her skull and to her brain.

Can you imagine being that itchy?

I can, unfortunately. This hand eczema thing is, I hope, the nearest I'll get to that, and wasn't that bad but still, it was quite bad enough. When I woke up I was afraid to look. I thought I might find that I had scratched through to bone. And then THROUGH bone. "Look Ma! No hands!" took on a whole new meaning, suddenly, and I wished my friends had not told me about that article.

My hands were still intact, however. They were just itchy. And when I say 'just' itchy, I mean 'REALLY, REALLY ITCHY, I-AM-GOING-INSANE ITCHY, SOMEBODY-PLEASE-CUT-OFF-MY-HANDS ITCHY.'

Like I said, it was a Saturday, and I could not go to the doctor. I suppose I could have gone to an emergency hospital, and if I was in NZ I might have, but red tape is always harder in another language and I didn't think I could cope with red tape and itchy hands both at once. It was taking all my will power already not to scratch. Actually, it was taking all my will power and a pair of cotton gloves.

In fact, that was all I ended up treating it with. Greasy, non-smelly hand cream, and cotton gloves, as I learned last time. I did the hand cream/cotton gloves thing and itched for three days, then the itching went away magically while I was sitting in the skin doctor's waiting room on Monday evening. My hands still did not look good, and the doctor prescribed steroid cream, but I only used it twice. I do not like using steroid cream on my hands anyway. I am afraid I will forget and accidentally get some on my face, or in my eyes.

So my advice to anybody who got here looking for remedies for hand eczema is to use greasy, non-smelly hand cream, avoid soaps and detergents – and indeed, water – as much as you possibly can, and wear cotton gloves at night but also during the day when you can. It is fantastically inconvenient, especially for a chronic hand-washer like me, and it makes typing a little difficult and clumsy, but it can be done. Both times I have had this problem the itch has stopped sometime in the third day. The marks take a little longer to go away, but even those have mostly gone now, too.

Actually, when I was thinking about the bleeding palms thing, I realized that it is highly likely that I did not have hand eczema at all. I had stigmata, caused by being too saintly.

So here is my other remedy, which I also used. Follow the advice above, just in case. But also, swear and shout at your hands. Curse them loudly. Irritate everybody around you by complaining about the itch all the time. Wave your hands in the air and scream blasphemously.

Stop being saintly, in other words.

That's what I did, and it worked for me.


kenju said...

OUCH! That sounds like how badly I itched when I was stung by a yellow jacket this past summer. I could have easily scratched through my hands.

Hope that never comes back to you!

Keera Ann Fox said...

I understand the need to scratch, scratch, scratch. I had a funny itch on my throat. Still comes and goes. I went through every cream and oil I had in the house (my foot cream with nettle finally did the trick), and wishing for those paper collars the hair dresser has. Weird what the body will do, and localized it does it.