(image from Old School Paul on Flickr)
One of the things that I really miss about the UK is Germolene. It is usually the answer to all my minor skin complaints, including (but not limited to) the many stupid injuries I inflict on myself in the garden and kitchen, and the occasional bout of eczema. It does the job, it smells fantastic and, most importantly, it’s PINK. What more could one ask?
After a week or so in Italy of wearing no make-up or jewellery and feeling dreadful about myself, I decide to pull myself together and start making an effort. This includes putting on earrings before I leave the house. However, due to being a bit run-down, after only a few days I have a cracking case of contact dermatitis on my earlobes. Attractive. I search in the local shops for Germolene or, at a push, Savlon, but apparently such things don’t exist here. Hydrochloric acid and razor blades freely available for children to play with on the bottom shelf of any supermarket near you, but antiseptic cream? Perish the thought! Beginning to get a bit desperate, I call into a farmacia that I haven’t yet tried. On the shelves are typically overpriced homeopathic remedies and face creams, but nothing of any use to me.
After a few minutes of me looking lost, the man behind the counter approaches and asks if I need help. At least, that’s what I assume he says – I actually have no idea. I apologise for not speaking Italian, and attempt to describe what I need. The word ‘antiseptic’ clearly isn’t universal, however, and he looks mystified. I dither around for a little while longer, and then decide to try the direct approach. I pull back my hair and gesture towards my ear, while making an ouchy, disgusted face. Ah yes – that does the trick instantly. The man recoils visibly and scurries away behind the counter to pull open a drawer filled with various medications. With a flourish, he produces a tube of cream, explaining that it is crema antibiotico. This sounds promising, and the packaging certainly looks like the right kind of thing, so I nod enthusiastically. ‘Nove euro‘, he tells me. Gasping at the exorbitant price, I hand over the money and drop the cream into my bag.
When I arrive home I decide to check out what the cream contains, before actually putting it onto my skin and potentially making the situation worse. The name on the tube is Gentamicina, so I type this into Gearch and start reading. Imagine my surprise to discover that it is often used to treat leprosy and staph infections after surgery. I hadn’t thought my dermatitis looked THAT bad, but maybe I’d been deluding myself. I’m reminded of Monty Python’s Life of Brian: ‘Look. I’m not saying that being a leper was a bowl of cherries. But it was a living. I mean, you try waving muscular suntanned limbs in people’s faces demanding compassion. It’s a bloody disaster.’ A little further investigation, however, shows that the cream I’ve been given is singularly low dosage. Particularly effective if the wound is weeping, apparently. Lovely. I decide to brave it, and apply the cream. Thankfully, a few days later, the dermatitis is gone.
Germolene would have done it overnight, though.