My Child has Psoriasis

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Psoriasis usually appears between the ages of 10 and 30, but it can occur at any age - even in babies and children.

Heredity seems to play a part. About one third of people with psoriasis are able to identify a relative, living or dead, with psoriasis. If one parent has the disease, there is about a 15% chance of developing the disease, and that risk increases to 75% if both parents are affected.

Having said that, two in three people with psoriasis are not aware of any previous family history of the condition.

Symptoms only develop if they are triggered by a certain event. In children, psoriasis is often triggered by a bacterial sore throat due to a streptococcal infection. This is known as guttate psoriasis.

What is guttate psoriasis?

Guttate psoriasis mainly affects children aged 8 to 16 years. Symptoms usually appear within 10-14 days of a sore throat. Lots of small, red, scaly patches appear and quickly cover a wide area of the body. Symptoms usually get better within 2-4 months, but sometimes the patches enlarge to form plaque psoriasis. It is important that in families with a history of psoriasis, any child developing a sore throat is seen by a GP who may prescribe antibiotics to try and reduce the risk of the child going on to develop chronic plaque psoriasis.

What treatments are available for children with psoriasis?

The treatments for children are the same as those available for adults. Briefly, there are three categories of psoriasis treatments:

Topical treatments – creams and ointments containing medicines such as steroids, vitamin D derivatives, coal tar, dithranol and emollients

Light treatments – ultra violet light therapies known as PUVAand UVB

Systemic treatments – powerful drugs such as methotrexate and ciclosporin.

In general, doctors try to control psoriasis in children with topical treatments because they are the safest. Occasionally they have to resort to UV light or systemic treatments.

The therapeutic needs of each individual, child or adult, are different. Your doctor is in the best position to decide the best treatment for you or your child. He or she will always come to that decision by weighing up the relative risks and benefits involved in each possible treatment. Once you and your child have agreed a treatment plan with your doctor it is important to follow it through even though it can be hard work and frustrating. Medicines can only be effective if they are used according to instructions.

What can I do to help?

Psoriasis can affect you emotionally as well as physically, and this is especially true of children. It may influence their social life, performance in school, and leisure activities.

You can help your child to cope with psoriasis by explaining that:

  • It is not catching
  • it is a common skin problem and they are not alone
  • you love them just as much with psoriasis as you did before - it is their personality that is important, not their physical appearance
  • it is not anyone’s fault
  • it is not due to lack of cleanliness
  • it is important to persevere with treatments because they can control the disease
  • if possible, let them talk or write to another child who also has psoriasis

Visit the school with your child and make sure their teacher knows the essential facts about psoriasis. Take leaflets and fact sheets with you to leave behind. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking about psoriasis with you and the teacher, so they will bring any problems to your attention.

As your child gets older consider encouraging him or her with the following advice:

  • Don’t stop doing the things you enjoy, like sport. Be positive
  • Reach out to people and life - don’t withdraw and try to hide
  • Aim to keep learning new skills and broadening your horizons
  • Try not to take rejections personally. If others discriminate against you, it is through their lack of knowledge - and fear
  • Camouflage cream can help to damp down the redness of psoriasis so it is less noticeable. Many creams are available on prescription. For information and help, contact the Cosmetic Camouflage volunteer of your local British Red Cross - their number is in the phonebook. This service is available for men and women
  • Learn more about your condition.