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A person points at a cloud in the sky, suggesting that it's an elephant, while their friend angrily declines the suggestion.

The Challenge of Everyone’s Opinions

No one likes being told what to do or what you’re doing is wrong. But I find it really hard when others tell me what I should be doing for my son’s skin. Especially when they have no idea what they are talking about. It’s often the people who have no medical expertise or personal experience who think they are wiser than Harry’s doctor, dermatologist, and immunologist.

Unwanted advice is burdensome

I know they think they are helping, but I find they are more of a burden than anything. It actually makes me cross, and I have to battle internally not to say what I really want to say. I just smile and say ‘thank you for your suggestion’ and try to change the topic of the conversation.

Why is his skin a topic of conversation?

We can’t even go to the hospital (not relating to atopic dermatitis) without being asked about his skin. I know the doctors and nurses are caring and making sure Harry is OK, but it would be nice not to have to talk and explain to everyone why Harry looks the way he does. They all tell me what I should be doing for him, and of course, not one of the options would actually help him as he either reacts to the product or needs something stronger, etc. I just wish I could go to the emergency department and not have to be asked about his skin.

A stockpile of unusable products

You’d be surprised with the size of the bag I have that is full of creams, lotions, oil, salt, and many other items people have given to me to try on Harry’s skin. Not a single one of them can be used on his skin as he is either allergic or reacts to it.

Everyone thinks they can relate

Then there is the other end of the table. Some people have the opinion that Harry’s skin situation is just like what they had one time. When they say ‘my child had eczema as a baby’ or ‘I get a rash on my … I know exactly what he’s going through.’ It makes my blood boil as what they are referring to is nothing like what Harry experiences every single day. The poor little guy has had severe atopic dermatitis for over 2.5 years and has not had one day of a break. Not only that, it’s not just on certain parts of his body. It’s on his whole body.

His diet doesn't change his skin

People tell me it’s all to do with his diet. ‘Has he tried eating this?’ or ‘Don’t let him eat that.’ The thing with Harry is that no matter what he does or doesn’t eat, his skin remains the same. It doesn’t get worse or better. But to get people off my back for a couple of months, we completely cut dairy and gluten out of his diet – no change.

Harry's first atopic dermatitis flare

Harry first got atopic dermatitis when he was six months old. To figure out what was causing his flare-up, we didn’t start him on solid food, and he was exclusively breastfed, and I went on a strict diet – no change. He tried formula for a bit, again – no change. So definitely, in this instance, food wasn’t a cause, as he wasn’t eating it. It turns out what started his first flare-up was dogs.

Environmental and contact triggers

Harry’s dermatologist and immunologist have both said that food isn’t a trigger for Harry and that it’s dust mites, what his skin touches, and environmental. But when people are told this, they are never too shy to tell me they’re wrong. It’s his gut.

Just say "I'm sorry"

I’m going to sound like a broken record now. I know people are trying to help. But rather than advice, it’d be nice to hear, “This sucks. I’m sorry Harry and your family are going through this.”

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