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War Surgery and Medicine

Eczema and Dermatitis

Eczema and Dermatitis

Climatic dermatitis was always present in New Zealand general hospitals, especially in Egypt. Most common was a chronic sweat dermatitis, in which a patient seemed to develop a hypersensitivity to his own sweat. Also common in 2 NZEF were seborrhoeic infections, and when these became eczematised they formed another large group of incapacitating skin eruptions. There were also miscellaneous other dermatoses of lower incidence in which heat was an aggravating factor. Under military conditions in the Middle East the feet were the commonest sites affected by skin diseases. Many men were incapacitated in the summer by sweat dermatitis of the feet alone.

Heat-sensitive cases responded well to hospital treatment, and could be cleared up rapidly with X-rays, but no treatment would prevent relapses on return to the former environment. Cases of sweat dermatitis were benefited by the frequent removal of perspiration by showers and baths, but the more severe cases were best protected from soap and water. This could be prevented by anointing these areas with soft paraffin before a shower.

Some of the victims of dermatitis could possibly have been recognised before they were sent to a tropical climate—for instance, a man with a mild patch or two of scaly dermatitis on the feet, which has always been worse in hot weather; the man who gets sweat intertrigo in his flexures every summer; the man with chronic severe dandruff and recurrent eruptions on the ears. Such soldiers should not be posted to tropical localities.