Explaining psoriasis to children

Explaining psoriasis to children

Writing around the topic of psoriasis and children brings up so many thoughts and feelings of mine. Having had psoriasis since the age of 7 and now writing at the age of 23, I have been on a complete rollercoaster. There have been times that have been very dark and lonely and other times that have been positive, where I have had the opportunity to take part in so many incredible projects that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have psoriasis. 

Throughout my childhood I can’t really remember much more with regards to my psoriasis other than being desperate to have clear skin and be like every other child at school. This included being able to sit in a school assembly and not need to scratch until my heart was content, covering the child next to me in my ‘flaky’ skin, or going a day where I didn’t have to be completely bandaged from head to toe. Although I had these difficulties, it never stopped me taking part in what I wanted to do and I guess, looking back, I just had to develop into a brave child rather quickly! 

Jess as a child

My psoriasis appeared very quickly and was very severe. I clearly remember the day I was diagnosed with psoriasis and the length of my hospital stay. 

But what I remember most of all about being a child newly diagnosed with psoriasis was that it was a skin condition that I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know why it was there or what had caused it.

Looking back now, as a child I actually dealt with my psoriasis very well. I got on with everyday life, enjoyed my holidays at the beach and I think (my parents may disagree!) that I moaned very little. 

Having now grown up and gained a good understanding of my psoriasis, my triggers, what causes it and my best ways to treat it, I have lots of sympathy for parents. I truly believe it can take a long time to conquer how to deal with living with psoriasis. The main thing from my journey, which I know my parents struggled to deal with, was how to explain to a 7-year-old child exactly what was happening and what support was out there. 

My dad worked tirelessly to find out information and ways he could explain my psoriasis to me and the best thing he could find was a children’s book, which to this day I have kept in case it can be of any help to somebody else. The book is a very basic version of what may happen if you have psoriasis as a child and what you may see on your skin. It has some cartoon pictures and although this is a very basic explanation I can imagine it can help raise the subject for discussion and gives you an opportunity when explaining to show the pictures and expand on the information. However, other than a little book, my dad and mum found little else of much help. 

Jess as a child with psoriasis

In contrast, I now find psoriasis is a much more widely discussed topic and there are many different sources of helpful information and advice for both children and parents, which is great to see! Having been both a child with psoriasis and also an employee of a school, I have seen how little things can make life with psoriasis much easier. My main tips for either being a child and living with psoriasis or being a parent to someone with psoriasis are: 

  1. Be open – the more you talk about psoriasis and the more familiar it becomes the less embarrassment it is likely to cause. Also being open about it means if your child is upset or worried they will be able to talk about it. 

  2. Always educate others – luckily for me when I was at school my head teacher gave an assembly to the children in my class about what to expect and how not to treat me any differently. If staff and carers are told how to deal with the situation and what to look out for it can help you ease back into pre-school, nursery, school etc. 

  3. Have a routine for treatment – when I was younger I always had a bath in the evening, followed by my treatment, then ready for bed. As I did this every night I got use to the routine and it prevented me forgetting to treat my psoriasis. 

  4. Make doctors/consultant visits positive – as a child after my stay in hospital I hated every appointment I had with a health professional. This was because my treatments never really changed so my psoriasis never improved, we never asked any questions because I always wanted the appointment to be over and there was never a bravery sticker at the end! Simple things like creating a sticker book or a smiley face chart can encourage children to want to do something to enable them to have the reward. 

Thankfully things have changed in relation to support and advice sources however, dealing with psoriasis is something that can take time to adjust to, both as a child and an adult.

This content is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.

UK/IE 2013b/00060l. Date of Prep: February 2016

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