08/08/2012 08:43 am ET Updated Oct 08, 2012

The Case of The Mysterious Eye Rash

It started in April. An itchy, burning little rash at the corner of each eye. I thought it would pass. It didn't.

My first instinct was to apply Neosporin, which I did for one day. And then I asked a nurse and she recommended a cortisone cream. So I bought some. It still didn't go away. I called the dermatologist and was told the earliest I could get an appointment with a real doctor was July--THREE MONTHS away! So I made an appointment with a physician's assistant.

He looked at it and asked me questions like, "Do you use things like Glade Air Freshener?" And I wanted to say, "Don't you know who I am???" I mean, I've written books about not using things like Glad Air freshener.  But instead, I just said "no." So he gave me an even stronger cortisone cream and told me to come back in six weeks.

In six weeks, it was still there. I had stopped using all of everything--no makeup, no moisturizers. I had switched laundry detergent and even stopped using deodorant! (Sorry!) The physician's assistant took one look at it and said, "Stop using the cortisone." Then he looked away quickly in a classic "tell." I asked him why. And he said it could cause things like glaucoma. And then he said he didn't know what it was, but I should just keep trying to deal with it and good luck, thank you very much.

I had gone online, of course, and found suggestions like using vinegar, which I tried. It didn't work. My babysitter told me she got a rash when she was "around that age," in other words, going through "the change." I even asked an Ayurvedic doctor doctor about it, whom I was seeing just out of curiosity. Of course he told me it was a pitta imbalance. I would have to give up hot peppers! (Like hell!)

Then, a friend got me an appointment with a "real dermatologist" in New York City. Upper East Side! She was efficient: I was out of the office before my official appointment began, laden with three different prescriptions and two coupons for rebates. "I don't really know what it is, but let's treat it as if it's rosacea, even though I don't think that's what it is. And oh, stop touching your face!" I started to think maybe I had MRSA, but then, wouldn't I be hospitalized by now?

I took my time filling the prescriptions. After all, I am a busy woman. One day, I had lunch with a friend who has developed a super nontoxic line of skin care for women who have cancer and have super-sensitive skin from the effects of chemotherapy (and even those who don't!). Her name is Lindy Snider, and her line is called Lindi Skin. She is not a doctor, but I complained about my rash to her, anyway. I had now had the rash for three months. To me, it was like a neon sign, although most people's first reaction was, "I don't see anything."

"That looks like impetigo to me," she said while squinting at it closely. Impetigo? The common rash kids get from some contagious dirtiness? Totally possible, I thought, although it didn't have the telltale crust. My babysitter said if it were impetigo, I would start getting it on the side of my mouth. Lo and behold, the next day I started getting it on the side of my mouth.

What do you use to treat impetigo? Neosporin. Three days later I was rash free. Impetigo. Go figure.

On reflection, I realized that this little story is exactly why Rodale exists and is still totally relevant to our times. Whether it's the first big book we published, called The Health Finder, or our huge best-seller, The Doctors Book of Home Remedies, or the perennial favorite (for 50 years), Prevention magazine column called Mailbag, a forum where readers shared their home remedies, we've helped readers find help.

Of course, you should talk to your doctor first if you have medical questions. But most common ailments--and even some major ones--are NOT cured by doctors or pharmaceutical companies (although, whichever one makes Neosporin I would like to thank very much); most are cured and healed by small changes and common remedies, whether it's taking an aspirin, changing one's diet, eliminating toxins, or avoiding of allergens.... And this is not where most doctors really are at their best. They don't have that "residency" in medical school because they are focused on fixing the big stuff.

Anyway, I'm thrilled I no longer have my rash. Thanks, Lindy! And I'm grateful that I was reminded once again that we have to take responsibility for our own health--and that it helps to have friends whose experiences can help us figure things out.

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