Ask the Advocate: Coping with Flares
This article is part of an “Ask the Advocate” series. Our amazing group of atopic dermatitis advocates answered a few questions to share their thoughts and tips with the community.
How do you cope when you get an atopic eczema flare?
Take a shower, apply medicine and remember - it's only temporary
Jeff: This can be a challenging topic. As all AD patients know, there are days where it is easier to cope with our eczema issues than others. It’s the times that we take a stand—even when we don’t want to—that really define our control over our skin and the secondary health issues that come with our condition.
On my bad days I find that it can be extremely easy to just stay in, lay around, and ignore my skin, but that’s not particularly proactive. Instead, I hop right out of bed and get in the shower. I find that bathing is the first step towards feeling more comfortable in my skin. I’m able to get all the sweat and bacteria off my body from the night before and start the day off on the right (or left?) foot. Afterward, I make sure to apply my medicine and an ample amount of cream to lock all the nourishment in.
More than my eczema
By that point, I’m already feeling better about my flare. If I’m not, I just tell myself that it’s only temporary and that I’ll get through it. Occasionally, my mind will fight back and say, “What about all the people that are going to stare and judge you for your skin?” To that, I respond, “Brain, shut your cerebral cortex! No one will even notice the redness, and if they do, I’ll just make a funny joke about it—people love jokes! They’ll forget about my skin and focus on the real me.” More often than not, I’m right.
Identify the type of flare and its trigger
Common and different types of flares (prioritized by ability to control):
- Exercise-induced. You flare up, get red, as you exercise. You scratch fiercely right after a workout.
- Dietary. You notice you flare up due to eating a particular item (e.g. kiwi).
- Stress. An upcoming exam or a hectic deadline or week causes you to flare up.
- Habitual. We tend to subconsciously touch the skin more. This tends to make us scratch. Try to avoid consciously take your mind away by focusing on other activities when you feel like itching.
- Environmental (surroundings). Like animal dander, pollen, dust mites. Identify if these trigger you via the elimination method.
- Hormonal. Ladies may experience menstrual cycle-based itch triggers.
- Time-based. It might seem pointless because we itch any time but we have different major itch times. Anticipate them. I used to itch regularly before I sleep.
- Weather (humidity). Experiment with dehumidifier.
- Weather (temperature). Stay indoors if necessary.
- Random. Well...
The main goal is this: Every time you have a flare, reflect and identify potential triggers, so you can avoid them by anticipating the occasion, and prepare in advance. Once you have developed this habit of tracking and anticipating flares, devise the best strategy to avoid them. That’s the two-step process.
Example: If it is time-based, then anticipate those hours and move important items from your schedule away from those slots. If it is an environment like perfume, put it on your clothing instead of skin. If it exercise-induced, work out near where you shower and go for the coldest shower immediately after.
Take a deep breath and don't judge yourself
Terry: The first thing I have tried myself to do over the past 14 years of experimenting with Holistic Health and Eastern philosophies into my lifestyle and healing journey that I’ve found to be effective is deep breathing exercises. Oftentimes I find out that is all I need to calm down and avoid having a huge itch-fest.
The second thing is to not judge myself or have any kind of negative self-talk, if any. If I am in a place where I am not able to give myself positive self-coaching in the moment because I'm in so much pain, I find that no internal dialogue is better than having negative internal dialogue. Like Planet Fitness, my life with eczema is a judgement-free zone!
How often do you downplay your eczema to other people?