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Thread: EastEnders actress Nadia Sawalha's eczema drove her to take desperate measures

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    Default EastEnders actress Nadia Sawalha's eczema drove her to take desperate measures

    EastEnders actress Nadia Sawalha's eczema drove her to take desperate measures - but then she decided to put aside her prejudices and try homeopathy

    By Richard Barber

    Last updated at 10:01 PM on 29th May 2010

    Not everyone has a pet name for their eczema, but actress and TV presenter Nadia Sawalha called hers 'my John rash' after a mild attack was triggered as a 17-year-old after she broke up with her boyfriend.

    And as mysteriously as the skin condition arrived, it disappeared. But then, in 2002, at the age of 39 and six months after the birth of her first daughter Maddie with TV producer Mark Adderley, Nadia noticed tiny bumps on the little finger of her left hand.

    Known as vesiculation, these bumps are a classic symptom of eczema, as is the erythema or redness that next appeared.

    'The bumps began to itch before splitting open and weeping,' she says. 'They quickly spread to the rest of the hand and then to the other one, too. They were red raw. I looked like something from a horror film.'

    Won over: Nadia with daughters Kiki and Maddie who now all have regular visits to a homeopath - 'I see it as a pre-emptive strike,' she says

    Nadia, 46, is best known for playing Annie Palmer in EastEnders, while her younger sister Julia, 41, found fame as Saffy in BBC hit comedy Ab Fab and Dorcas Lane in Lark Rise To Candleford.

    The stress of being a new mum was playing a huge part in exacerbating Nadia's problem.

    'I was on location in Ibiza filming the TV series Living In The Sun, working 13-hour days, while Maddie was staying in a villa with my mum and dad and her nanny,' she says. 'I was hating the job and being away from my baby. They were fine. I was the problem.

    'I saw the eczema as a sign that I wasn't coping. My twisted logic was to brush away any enquiry about my hands - which by now had no skin on them at all. It got so bad that the cameraman had to shoot around them.'

    Eventually, Nadia was persuaded to buy over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, a mild steroid drug that reduces inflammation, which worked temporarily.

    However, when filming later moved to mainland Spain, her hands became infected and the itching was so bad that her hands bled. In desperation she went to the A&E department of the nearest hospital.
    Homeo Treat.jpg

    Doctors were shocked that she had let her skin deteriorate to such an extent and prescribed a course of antibiotics to stop the infection.

    A few months later, in October 2003, Nadia was presenting City Hospital, a live TV programme every weekday morning on BBC1, when the eczema returned on her hands with a vengeance.

    'I'd visit the skin ward and immediately identify with patients, but I thought how on earth can I moan when their conditions are far worse than mine?'

    Believing her condition was not that bad, Nadia did not seek medical help but was clearly driven to distraction by the terrible itching.

    'Whenever I could, I'd hold my hands above my head to relieve the pain. To get to sleep at night, I'd tie them to the bedstead. If I let them hang down, the pain was intolerable. It felt like lead flowing into my hands.

    'By Maddie's first birthday that Christmas, I was no longer able to pick her up. I couldn't cook, something I love to do. And yet, I was still in denial. I'd go up to my bedroom, cry my eyes out and then come down and pretend everything was fine.'

    Finally, in desperation, Mark, 39, made his wife an appointment with her homeopath, Rachel Packer.

    'I first went to see Rachel when I was about 20,' says Nadia. 'I was having headaches every afternoon, and my GP advised me to drink more water and prescribed pills, but it did not get rid of them.'

    Then her younger sister Julia told Nadia how she had bumped into an old classmate who had suffered badly from acne. And yet, here was this girl now with perfectly clear skin. When Julia asked how she had managed to get rid of the acne, the girl said it was due to homeopathy.

    'At the time it sounded pretty wacky and I was very sceptical but, on the grounds I had nothing to lose, I made an appointment with Rachel who had a practice in New Cross, near to where we live in South London.'

    Far from being wacky, the NHS spends 4 million a year on homeopathy and there are four dedicated hospitals that have treated 55,000 patients a year since the formation of the health service in 1948.

    An estimated 400 GPs use homeopathy in their everyday practice and treat 200,000 patients annually, according to the British Homeopathic Association.

    'From my first consultation with Rachel I felt that here was someone interested in all of me,' says Nadia. 'Homeopathy is based on a holistic approach.

    For an hour, she asked me every question under the sun about my physical and emotional wellbeing, the stresses in my life, my likes and dislikes, the food I craved.

    'In time, we moved from discussing daily recurrent headaches to terrible period pains. Rachel prescribed a remedy in pill form. I've no idea what it contained but then, like most people, I suspect, I have no idea what's been in any antibiotics I've been prescribed.

    'I took one each day for two weeks and the headaches gradually faded and then disappeared for ever. I was grateful although, if I'm honest, part of me still thought it was all a bit of a fluke.'

    Nadia began to wonder if other ailments could also be tackled with homeopathy. 'I was in a play at the Edinburgh Festival and began suffering from a severe urinary tract infection - although I was convinced I'd caught some hideous disease. My insides felt as if they were being wrung out.'

    Her GP prescribed antibiotics which cleared up the bladder infection but, as is common with antibiotics, triggered a yeast infection. 'So I saw Rachel and she gave me one remedy - a single pill - and it cleared up. When I got another flareup a couple of months later, I remember thinking, "Here we go again!"

    'But it lasted only about six hours. That happened twice more down the months and then never again.'

    All of which makes it hard to understand why Nadia did not seek homeopathic advice as she battled her crippling attacks of eczema.

    'What can I say? Maybe I was suffering a form of postnatal depression but I got it into my head that this was something I had to deal with on my own.'

    For her eczema, Rachel prescribed mezereum, a Eurasian shrub extract traditionally used to heal skin complaints. 'The effect,' says Nadia, 'was what I can only describe as biblical. Over the next 48 hours, I watched as my skin renewed itself.

    'On one occasion, I had gone to casualty when my hands had become reinfected. I'd been told that there was little that could be done as there was no cure for eczema. The expectation was that I'd have to visit my GP twice a week to have my hands dressed.

    And yet, now I was cured. It was little short of a miracle.

    'To this day, if I'm stressed or frightened about something, my little finger will occasionally itch, but no more than that.'

    As she became won over by the effectiveness of homeopathic cures for her own ailments, Nadia turned her attention to Mark, who helps run their TV production company.

    'He's an asthma sufferer who used his nebuliser every day. I made him see Rachel and after a detailed discussion, she gave him a two-week course of pills and now he uses his inhaler once every fourth day at most.'

    Nadia says her daughters Maddie, now seven, and Kiki, two, have never seen a GP and not had any childhood vaccinations. Rather, they consult the homeopath every few weeks.

    'I see it as an MOT, if you like, or a pre-emptive strike. Rachel will prescribe a remedy to strengthen my immune system, for instance, so if I do get a cough or cold, it clears up quickly.'

    But Nadia also acknowledges homeopathy will not solve everybody's problems. 'People used to get angry when I sang its praises, especially when I couldn't say what was in a remedy. So I've stopped being so evangelical.

    'I'm not anti conventional medicine - and nor is Rachel. When Maddie had a chest infection, Rachel listened to her breathing down the phone and told me to go to hospital without delay. She was given a nebuliser, put on Calpol and it cleared up.

    'Homeopathy might not be for everyone, but it works for me.'

    Read more: EastEnders actress Nadia Sawalha's eczema drove her to take desperate measures - but then she decided to put aside her prejudices and try homeopathy | Mail Online

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    Interesting article. It is really nice to hear from fellow eczema sufferers on their experience in their combat with this skin condition. It gives me a lot of hope.

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