Last year my dermatologist referred me to a skin clinic to have a patch test done. I had stubborn eczema that wouldn't go away, even with cortisone cream. The eczema started off as two small patches on my neck that later spread to my whole neck, my face, my chest and my right arm. He wanted me to get tested so that I could avoid whatever it was that was triggering the eczema. I opted to go through the public system, which meant a longer wait but it also meant that it wouldn't cost me anything.
In January I had the initial consultation with the doctor who would be reading my patch test. She told me to bring in all the products I used daily and explained to me what a patch test was, exactly. I knew that sticking things on my back was part of it, but I didn't know that it would be done over the course of 6 days and that I wouldn't be able to get my back wet or sweaty at all for 5 days! Eek.
In February, on Wednesday the 29th I had my "patches on" appointment. I took in the products I had been using prior to my eczema appearing (moisturiser and face/body wash, perfumes, my shampoo and conditioner, etc). Before I went in, I had my final proper shower and washed my hair for the last time that week. When I arrived, the nurse had my patches made up, then applied them to my back.
The non-showering began from this point on. I didn't think I would be able to not have a proper shower for 5 days, but I managed pretty well. I simply adjusted my shower head so that it was at waist height and showered my bottom half normally. With my chest, neck, right arm and underarms I just wet a washcloth and washed myself with it. I suppose it was kind of like giving myself a sponge bath. I felt clean enough afterwards, but couldn't get over my back not being clean like the rest of me. So I still felt "dirty", in a way.
|The pre-made patches with 80 of the most common allergens.|
|The patches applied to my back.|
|The "bag of goodies" I took in with me to my "patches on" appointment.|
|The photo patch on my arm (covered with tape).|
On Friday, March the 2nd I had another appointment. The nurse took my patches off and labelled it with sticky tape, then got me to put my left arm with the photo patch (which was a perfume) into a UV booth for five minutes. This was to see if there was a change after exposure to ultra violet light from the sun (as is the case with photosensitivity). After 20 minutes of having had my back aired out, an initial reading was done. The nurse had a look and feel of my back to see if I had reacted to anything.
Sure enough, I had a positive result for nickel, and a possible reaction to my shampoo and moisturiser (noooo)! I was sent home and warned not to scratch my back, even if it got itchy (which it sure did)! It actually got so bad that my left shoulder and upper back got rather red and inflamed. I was told to take Clarintyn and Nurofen and to apply a cold compress to the area. After two hours it settled down and I was able to sleep.
|The UV booth I had to stick my left arm in for 5 minutes.|
|Today, before I was seen by the doctor.|
Needless to say, my weekend was uneventful. I mostly stayed home watching videos and reading. Even though I was doing my half shower, half sponge bathing routine twice daily, I was started to feel really gross and my hair was in desperate need of a wash. I very nearly went to a hair salon to have it washed, but laziness and lack of money stopped me.
Today was the day that I finally saw my doctor again, who would do the final reading and tell me the results. It was a strong positive for nickel, and while I had an initial reaction with the shampoo and moisturiser, it had died down over the weekend (the Clarintyn played a part in that)! I was given information on how to avoid nickel and advised to switch shampoo and moisturiser because they were both organic and contained essential oils, which may have been the problem. Nooo!
So that was my patch test experience. Definately not something I would want to go through again, as the no showering thing really sucked. But it was a wealth of knowledge and I'm now on the hunt for some decent non-nickel containing jewellery, a new shampoo, conditioner and a new moisturiser. If you have eczema and want to know what the cause of it is, a patch test may be able to help you avoid a flare up in the future!