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My 13-month-old daughter’s skin burned off after a tiny bite – and nurses thought I did it

WHEN mum Casey Parkin spotted a little mark on daughter Huntar's forehead she thought it was nothing more than a mosquito bite.

Even when medics suspected hand, foot and mouth disease - a common childhood illness which causes a sore throat, rash and ulcers - they said it would clear up in days.

 Casey, pictured with her daughter Huntar
Casey, pictured with her daughter HuntarCredit: Medavia

But within 24 hours Huntar's skin had erupted into blisters and she deteriorated rapidly.

When a nurse accused Casey of burning her little girl she was devastated - especially as it emerged she had an ultra rare illness.

Huntar suffered from staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, when toxins enter the skin through a wound and spread throughout the body.

Casey doesn't think her girl ever had hand, foot and mouth.

Now Casey, 36, from Sydney, is urging other mums to trust their instincts:

 Little Huntar was bandaged from head to toe
Little Huntar was bandaged from head to toeCredit: Medavia

Plonking myself down, I was looking forward to unwinding after a hectic few days.

My husband Ezekiel and I had been babysitting my brother Heath’s two girls, Bronte, six, and Dakota, four.

We also had our own, Huntar, 13 months.

It had been non-stop with the girls playing tea parties and fancy dress.

Then Health called. It was bad news.

Dakota had hand, foot and mouth disease.

He was worried Huntar might have caught the infection, but she seemed fine.

Later, when I put her to bed, I noticed a small mosquito bite on her forehead.

I didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but the next day, the bite looked like a graze and was the size of a 20p piece.

 Huntar saw her skin peel off
Huntar saw her skin peel offCredit: Medavia

At the doctor, when I explained she’d been in contact with hand, foot and mouth disease, he diagnosed her with that and prescribed an antibiotic cream.

But the next morning, it seemed worse. The graze had turned into a blister and more had cropped up on her neck.

Rushing back to the doctor, I was told again that it was just hand, foot and mouth.

But I wasn’t convinced.

Having worked in childcare, I’d seen plenty of cases of it.

Usually it looked like a rash, but Huntar’s was more like inflamed blisters.

For three weeks, Huntar’s skin would peel from top to toe, as if she was shedding like a snake.

Casey Parkin

Around an hour later, I suddenly heard my girl screaming out. Running to her room, my heart dropped when I caught sight of her.

Huntar was covered in red, raw blisters all over her arms, face and neck.

It looked like she’d been scalded by boiling water.

Huntar was only wearing a nappy, and not wanting to make the sore wounds worse with clothes, I draped a thin blanket over her as I took her to hospital.

At the hospital, a nurse took one look at Huntar.

"She’s been burnt, you need to tell me what happened," she said.

 Huntar, critically ill in hospital
Huntar, critically ill in hospitalCredit: Medavia

"She hasn’t," I insisted.

Huntar had tests, and while we waited for the results, she sat on my lap screaming in pain.

It was heartbreaking.

And when the doctor picked her up, pieces of red skin dropped from her back on to my lap.

What was happening to my little girl?

Nurses hooked Huntar up to a drip and bundled her body in bandages.

"We think she has impetigo," a doctor said. "It’s so contagious that she’ll have to stay in isolation."

Ezekiel had left work and rushed over to be with us.

"It’s going to be OK love," he said as I wept.

What is staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome?

According to the British Association of Dermatologists, staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) is a painful, blistering skin condition which may cover a wide area of skin, caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. 

"This produces a toxin that damages the outer layer of the skin causing it to blister and peel." the association said.

"The affected skin initially looks red, resembling a scald or burn and is very tender to touch."

It's caused by bacteria and can be triggered by:

  • impetigo
  • boils and abscesses
  • styes and conjunctivitis
  • infections in grazes and wounds
  • infections in skin conditions such as eczema

We weren’t allowed to cuddle our girl, which was tough. All I wanted to do was comfort her.

The next day, Huntar was moved to the burns unit.

"We’re giving her antibiotics for the infection, but her body needs to fight the toxins. It’s going to get worse before it gets better," the doctor warned us.

More blisters had cropped up and it had even spread to her mouth.

Medics kept checking in and monitoring, but nothing changed. And after another restless night, I was crushed to see her condition had deteriorated again.

The blisters had split open and were oozing. Swollen and sore, she couldn’t even open her eyes.

 Huntar, pictured with her dad Ezekiel
Huntar, pictured with her dad EzekielCredit: Medavia

But we finally had some answers.

"She’s got staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome," a skin specialist explained.

Known as SSSS, it’s so rare that none of the nurses had seen a case of it before.

It’s caused by a certain strain of the staphylococcal bacteria which is commonly found on the skin with no ill effects. Problems occur when the bacteria enters the skin through a crack and damages the ability of the skin to hold together.

The toxin can also enter the bloodstream causing a reaction all over the body.

We still don’t know if the graze on her head was a mosquito bite or hand, foot and mouth. But doctors believe that’s the way the infection got into her body.

They gave Huntar stronger medication and redressed her bandages. Finally able to hold my little girl, I sobbed as I hugged her.

 A small make on her face rapidly spread across her body
A small make on her face rapidly spread across her bodyCredit: Medavia

Huntar continued to recover and a few days later, we finally got to take her home.

For three weeks, Huntar’s skin would peel from top to toe, as if she was shedding like a snake.

I regularly applied antibiotic cream to soothe it, and she was soon back to her bubbly, outgoing self.

Now three, she hasn’t got any scars from the infection and is a doting big sister to her baby brother, Cruze, one.

My gut feeling was that Huntar didn’t have hand, foot and mouth, and I wish I’d listened to my instincts sooner.

I’m speaking out to remind other parents to go with their gut and push for the right diagnosis.

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