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[Please be informed that this is a personal account of my baby's experience with pityriasis alba and the post does not provide expert advice.]
It breaks our heart when our child is suffering from a condition that we can do little about. It started when we noticed faint white, roughly circular patches on our baby's face. One patch was on the lower side of his cheek, whereas the other was on the side of his right eye. He also had faint patches in the corners of both eyes.
I ignored them at first because I thought it was just another harmless skin eruption that would resolve on its own. But the patches grew and in 2-3 weeks, became prominent. The surface was rough to the touch.
I am guilty of googling symptoms to try to figure out what the problem is and I tried searching for white patches too. I came up with the usual bewildering set of conditions that made me quite confused. It must be a fungus of some sort, I concluded.
Some people in my family have suffered from vitiligo during their childhood. So, we feared that our baby had got it as well. Plenty of frantic phone calls later, I decided to visit the doctor.
We had a scheduled vaccination, so we combined that visit with this query. Our pediatrician said that it was probably due to sweat and dirt and advised us to use Sebamed facial cream for a week.
I must have looked unconvinced, because she then said that we could consult a pediatric dermatologist if the patches did not fade after a week of applying the cream.
Sure enough, the cream had no effect on the patches. They remained as white as ever, with no signs of subsiding.
So, I booked an appointment with the specialist. One look at my baby and she diagnosed him with pityriasis alba. In common terms, my baby had a dry skin disorder. It is a sort of cousin of eczema.
When we told her about the vitiligo in our family medical history, she said that it was doubtful but she would place our baby on watch for pre-vitiligo.
She informed us that if either of the parents has asthma, the baby is prone to this condition. My husband has asthma.
Then she drew up an overwhelming treatment regime. For starters, she asked us to change his shampoo, soap, and body lotion/cream. We were using a combo of Himalaya and Mee Mee earlier.
She asked us to stop using soap altogether, and apply only Episoft cleansing lotion during bathtime. She recommended Spoo shampoo as well. Three times a day, we were to apply Moisturex Soft cream on the entire body. For the white patches, we were to apply Picon cream twice a day for the first 10 days, and then start tapering it down to once a day, and then alternate days.
It takes 6-8 weeks to see results, she told us. But she was quite confident that our baby would be fine. She also asked us to use coconut oil twice a week, AFTER a bath. This was meant to seal in the moisture of the skin.
I was happy to see results after 3-4 weeks of this regime. By 8 weeks, the patches had completely disappeared. In that time, we had visited the specialist two more times for follow ups.
What I learned is that we could expect similar flare ups in the future because of this skin condition. I clearly remember the doctor saying, "Picon cream is your friend. It is not a steroid."
We also learned that he would most probably grow out of this condition only after the age of 5. So,until then, we would have to use the special bath lotion, shampoo, and cream.
Only we know the pain of pinning down a screaming, squirming baby to apply cream thrice a day. Oh well, at least the condition is manageable!