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Summer Fun for Kids With a Painful Disease

Children with eczema get support at a one-of-a-kind summer camp

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July 12, 2010 | by Erin White
CHICAGO --- For children with eczema, teasing on the playground can be as painful as the constant itching and lack of sleep that often comes with the skin disorder.

Children who suffer from physical and emotional effects of eczema will gather in Chicago for a summer camp sponsored by the National Eczema Association and Northwestern Medicine, Aug. 5-8.

The camp is part the 6th National Eczema Association Patient and Family Conference. This weekend event brings together leading medical experts in the treatment of the disease with patients and caregivers. This is the first time the conference, held every two years, will be in the Chicago area. All families affected by eczema are invited to attend.

Ezcema causes itchy red and dry areas primarily on arms and legs, but can affect the entire body, said Amy S. Paller, M.D., chair of the department of dermatology at Northwestern Medicine.

"Imagine when you get a mosquito bite, and you just want to dig it up," Paller said. "Now imagine that kind of itch was all over your body or even a significant portion of your body. That is what eczema can feel like."

The scratching can be so intense that many people with eczema constantly fidget, and they can't sleep at night, said Paller, also a physical at Children's Memorial Hospital.

"The children must cope with a lack of understanding from other children, unfounded fear of contagion on the part of children and adults, teasing and isolation," said Julie Block, president of the National Eczema Association. "Being called ‘alligator skin' is nothing short of heartbreak."

At the conference, parents of children with eczema and adult patients will attend workshops and seminars on medical treatments, skin care, support activities and research on the disease. At the camp, children swim and play games with kids like themselves.

"For some children, it is the first time they have met anyone else with the disease," Block said. "They come to understand they are not alone, and that other kids have the same challenges and often times harder challenges than they do. They see other kids scratching and itching and can talk together about their experiences trying to ‘calm the beast'."

Area doctors are also invited to attend the Continuing Medical Education full-day educational seminar led by national leaders on eczema and allergic disorders on the Saturday of the conference. The seminar will cover topics such as practical approaches to atopic dermatitis, food allergies, asthma, skin infections and the latest in research and evolving treatments. Healthcare personnel can register online at http://www.northwesternevents.com/profile/form/index.cfm?PKformID=0x591015c5.

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