When he was two years old, Eva Speakman’s son Hunter would wake his mother in the night to say he couldn’t sleep because there were crumbs in his bed.
In truth, the toddler wasn’t being disturbed due to late-night snacking, but something far more upsetting.
“The bed would be full of flakes of his skin, which was shedding because he was scratching his eczema so much,” explains Eva, This Morning’s resident behaviour expert.
She regularly appears on the ITV show alongside her husband Nik, 58.
They offer life coaching and advice on everything from anxiety disorders to phobias, but nothing could help their own problem.
Atopic eczema is very common, affecting one in every five children in the UK at some stage.
Hunter, now 14, first developed the condition when he was six months old, and by his first birthday his whole body was covered.
“It started on his hands, then moved into the creases of his elbows, backs of his knees, his face, legs, tummy,” recalls Eva, 50, from Littleborough in Greater Manchester.
“It was really hard to watch. He always had very disturbed sleep and was so consumed with itching and scratching that it had an impact on his social skills. He sat there not really interacting with the world because he was so distracted. He became introverted and his language development was definitely delayed by it.”
The Speakmans, who also have a daughter, Olivia, 22, tried everything, from prescription hydrocortisone to homeopathy treatments.
“As parents, we endeavoured to do everything and anything we could,” says Eva. “We covered him in creams, balms and bandages. I was bathing him in porridge oats. People would stop me in the street and suggest remedies because you could see it on his little face.
“We took him off cheese and yoghurts, as dairy definitely made things worse. If ice cream touched his lips he’d get a big ring around his mouth. While he could eat oranges, if the juice dropped on his skin, it was like it had burned him.”
With the family at their wits’ end, their GP referred Hunter to a paediatrician specialising in dermatology.
“I held out so much hope and really believed that finally we were going to cure him,” says Eva. “But I left the hospital in tears. The doctor had a look at Hunter, asked what we were doing, and after I described our routine he said, ‘Yep, you’re doing everything you can’. I couldn’t believe it. He simply said we could hope Hunter grew out of it.
“Then out of the blue a friend called to say she had seen a doctor on TV who said he could help kids get over eczema.”
It was July 2008 and the Speakmans were about to go on a cruise from Southampton to New York, so Eva resolved to look up the doctor once they returned. “While we were on the ship a man saw Hunter’s skin and said, ‘Your son has eczema, hasn’t he? I could help him. Call me when you get home’,” says Eva. “It was only the same doctor my friend had seen on This Morning, Dr Richard Aron!
“It was the biggest coincidence. At that point, we had no idea he was going to change Hunter’s life.”
Dr Aron bases his treatment on the theory that in most cases, eczema and dermatitis is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus.
Eva explains: “He gave us fucibet, an antibiotic cream I had to put on angry areas eight times a day for two days, then seven times over two days, then six – counting down until we were just using it twice a day.
“Dr Aron also provided a lotion which uses the same steroids, antibiotics and moisturising creams as other doctors had prescribed, but he mixed them into one lotion, so we were using it in diluted quantities for longer periods.
“Within a week we saw a massive improvement and within a fortnight Hunter’s eczema was gone completely. He would occasionally get small patches in the crease of his elbow, but we would use the cream and it would be gone again.
“Now he’s a strapping, outgoing 14-year-old – you’d never know what he went through. Dr Aron’s my hero.”
Eva and Nik Speakman will be part of This Morning Live events in May, including An Evening with The Speakmans on May 16 at NEC Birmingham. thismorninglive.co.uk
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