“When you have an eczema flare-up you forget about your pretty face and great personality, as all you can think about is your skin. In those bad times your eczema defines you and that’s how you see yourself.”
As anyone with eczema will know, atopic dermatitis can impact your desire to socialise. This can be due to feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness, or anxiety caused by being in a situation where you are unable to tend to your skin in the event of a flare-up. As a result, you might avoid social situations, and could feel isolated from family and friends.
of those interviewed say they actively avoided going on holiday because of their atopic dermatitis
of patients felt that their atopic dermatitis affected the type of physical activities they participate in
of those surveyed felt that having atopic dermatitis impacted their ability to manage their weight
of patients noted that their social life was impacted due to atopic dermatitis
of atopic dermatitis felt that their appearance affected their lives
An important way to keep on top of our physical and mental well-being is to partake in sports activities. This however can be trickier with AD. Check out the article below for some tips that may help make playing sport a little easier for you or your child.
The ability to play sport is something that can easily be taken for granted however, if you or your son or daughter suffers with eczema, playing a sport you love may, at times seem more like a chore than a hobby. Eczema foundation found that just 78% of children with atopic dermatitis (AD) played sport, compared to 92% of their class mates2. There may be something preventing you or your child from participating in sport and so we have complied some tips below which may help you or your child carry on playing the sport you love, whilst taking care of your/their skin.
The clothes you decide to wear are important as clothing is known to be a trigger for eczema. Wear loose fitting, cotton clothes and ensure that all new clothes have been washed using a fragrance and dye free detergent3. Avoid synthetics such as polyester and spandex around tight areas as these materials are poorly breathable4.
You may find that the seam of clothes is an irritant for your or your child’s skin. If this is the case, have you considered covering the seam in a material such as silk? Finally, if possible, dry your clothes in a drier, rather than a clothesline as the clothes will be softer, reducing the risk of irritation3.
It is advised to moisturise an hour before exercise with a light applicant ointment as this will protect your skin4. Whilst you may reach for the deodorant before you exercise, it is important to note that it is recommended to only apply fragrance free deodorant after you exercise as deodorant can interact with sweat and result in irritation2.
If you suffer from an intense itch during exercise, you are all too familiar with the sensation, but do you know why it happens?
The answer can be due to multiple reasons! Two of the main culprits are heat and sweat. Sudden changes in body temperature have been shown to cause a flare-up and lead to an itch. To try and combat extreme changes in temperature, our body sweats. Sweat contains sodium which when comes in to contact with skin, will dehydrate it, causing stinging and itching. This is significantly worse for those with eczema2.
Tips to reduce itch include; avoiding exercise in direct sunlight to avoid over-heating, training progressively so your body can build-up to a higher intensity, opt for exercises where the sweat can evaporate properly and have a towel that you can gently wipe away any sweat carefully2,4. Another very important tip is to stay hydrated. You should drink plenty of cold water to replace the water lost when sweating and ensure you take regular breaks to re-hydrate4. Reduce the intensity when you feel yourself over-heating and avoid high-intensity exercise during a flare2,3.
If you feel like you’ve over-heated, a cool compression wrap may be good to cool your body down and calm the itch4. You should also aim to shower as soon as possible after exercise to remove the sweat from your/your child’s skin. Opt for a warm (not hot) shower and use a cleanser that you know works for your skin. Once out the shower, gently pat (avoid rubbing) yourself/your child dry with a clean, dry towel and moisturise immediately afterwards3.
It is widely acknowledged that exercise is a great stress-reliever and therefore, whether you or your child is noticeably stressed or not, being able to exercise is a great way to combat these feelings. There is no one way to exercise if you suffer with AD. You may find some sports work well for others but not for yourself, or even what you can and can’t participate may vary depending on if you’re having a flare up4. What is important is you find the right sport for you or your child because why should your AD stop you from doing something you love?
You deserve to enjoy a fulfilling social life - surround yourself with understanding family and friends and take practical steps such as writing a checklist to help you focus on something other than your skin.
Finally, remember to revisit your doctor to ensure your treatment suits your lifestyle and habits.
Three adults in their 20s, Amara, Aramide and Zainab, were interviewed to give their experiences of living with eczema.Read more
“What other people see isn’t necessarily reflective of how bad my skin is. No one can visibly see how unattractive or sore I feel.”
Amara, Aramide and Zainab said that at some point in their lives, eczema had negatively impacted their social life and that they had struggled to communicate this to friends.
Amara, Aramide and Zainab also sympathised with those whose fear of their skin being sore or bleeding made them hesitant towards socialising with friends or intimacy with their partner. Zainab described herself as being a “hermit” during her final year at university when a flare-up was particularly bad.
She recalled that her skin used to stop her enjoying warm weather, saying:
“I used to hate summer because of my allergies, and all the heat and sweating really aggravated my skin. Once during a visit to Hyde Park my back was burning with itchiness in the sun so much that I ended up scratching up all of my back.”
Although socialising can be hard during a flare-up, Amara, Zainab and Aramide stressed that changing your mind-set is really important, and self-confidence is the key to accepting something you cannot change. Whilst everyone deals with their eczema in a different way, make sure you are taking steps to boost your overall confidence. This can be as simple as exercising or getting your hair done, or looking at yourself and remembering all your good qualities.
Traveling. Something many of us love to experience and can provide much-needed relief from day-to-day life. Whilst it can be a challenge for many of us, travelling with atopic dermatitis (AD) can be even harder! It is important you do your own research which is more tailored to the trip you’re taking however, keep reading to discover some general tips that may be helpful to you.
Whether you’re taking a trip during the summer holidays or are escaping the cold winters, holidays in the sun are a popular choice. The sun can have different effects depending on the person. For some, the sun will improve their skin whilst for others, the humidity will make it worse5. Remember, you need to protect your skin all year round. Equally, if you’re visiting a country close to the equator, the UV radiation will be higher and therefore, even if it is cloudy, you must protect your skin with sunscreen6.
Sunscreen however may come with its own challenges if you or your child suffers with AD. Sunscreen comes in two broad types: chemical absorbers and mineral based reflectors. Mineral based reflectors tend to be less irritating for most people with eczema although it is important to note that what works for most may not work well for you. Therefore, it is important to patch test any new product or one you haven’t used for a year6. Also, aim to choose a fragrance-free product to reduce irritation further5.
If you like to participate in a lot of sports while on holiday, why not check out our sports article here for some top tips on how to lessen the irritation caused by sport, allowing you to discover your adventurous side whilst on holiday.
If, however you fancy relaxing by the pool, there are still some precautions you can take as swimming can lead to skin dryness. The two main reasons for skin dryness are a build up of calcium or the pH of the pool being above pH7. Some tips for in and around the swimming pool include:
For many, cold weather with negatively affect their skin8, with an increased risk of flares in cold and dry weather9. This means that winter holidays may come with additional challenges however, this doesn’t have to stop you. Some tips include aiming to keep the room temperature at the normal temperature you are used to and not sitting too close to the heat source. Although tempting to keep them closed, open the windows at certain periods to allow for ventilation. Consider switching to an emollient (like an ointment) that is better for harsher conditions and pay attention to the skin that is exposed8. Finally, if you are surrounded by snow, sunscreen is essential as the snow is a strong sun reflector6.
For more information, check out the National Eczema Society website which contains many hints and tips to help you travel with confidence!