Agonising sunburn terrorises 10-year-old boy

HELL OF AN ITCH: Dr James Ware says prevention is better than cure, urging people to take precautions before going in the sun after hearing about 10-year-old Zac’s harrowing ordeal.
HELL OF AN ITCH: Dr James Ware says prevention is better than cure, urging people to take precautions before going in the sun after hearing about 10-year-old Zac’s harrowing ordeal. Simarik

SUNBURN is never a pleasant experience but for one 10-year-old boy the experience was one of absolute agony.

Zac Noyes was camping with his grandparents when his sunburnt skin suddenly became excruciatingly itchy.

Zac's grandmother, Mt Colliery woman Vicki Walker, believes he suffered from hell's itch, a severe reaction to sunburn that can last up to three days.

Sufferers have reported the itch to be unlike anything else, with some saying it was like "having a circus of fire ants hatch under (their) skin" or being stabbed by a thousand knives.

"It's an allergic reaction that occurs 48 hours after the initial sunburn. It is sometimes triggered by cool water, and creams tend to make it worse," Vicki said. "He was in severe distress and agony."

When the group headed off camping, they had no idea what the day would bring.

"On Sunday, while with his dad, Zac got his shoulders and back very sunburnt," she said.

"The area was very red, hot and painful - all normal sunburn reactions.

"We went off bush-camping as planned and kept him well hydrated, sunscreened, moisturised, covered up and out of the midday sun."

Vicki said all her experience as a parent and pharmacist did not prepare her for the sudden and extreme reaction Zac experienced.

"Suddenly, mid Tuesday afternoon, the burn became intensely itchy," she said.

"Zac said he was going insane and was extremely distressed."

Vicki gave Zac an antihistamine while they prepared to head to the hospital.

"Creams and cool water did not help and we were out of phone range," she said.

Vicki, a pharmacist for 28 years, had never seen anything like it.

"It was awful, trying to put the pharmacist hat on to try to think what else could be done," she said.

"It was a shock I can tell you."

After a second antihistamine Zac's agony began to subside.

"After seeing what he went through, I'd recommend anyone with severe sunburn to take an antihistamine for three days," Vicki said.

Dr James Ware from the Condamine Medical Centre said there was very little information on the condition.

Dr Ware said patient accounts indicated antihistamines may relieve symptoms although this had not been medically researched and documented.

"Prevention is better than cure, so I'd recommend if you are going out in the sun, make sure you're protected with sunscreen, glasses, a hat and appropriate clothing," he said.

Topics:  hell sunburn warwick

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