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How I Calmed Down a Flare in Less Than ONE Hour!

I feel like most, if not all, of my fellow eczema warriors have experienced eczema around their mouth one point or another along their atopic dermatitis journey. The most common type being the “eczema-stache” above the lip that always seems to flare up before the rest of the body.

Staph infection and eczema

Ever since I had a staph infection in November of 2019, I’ve experienced eczema around my mouth more frequently than ever. My theory on this is that due to all of the antiviral medications I was applying around that area during the staph infection, the skin is still sensitive and still healing on its own.

As a result, I’ve been experiencing some random, impulsive, high intensity, itching attacks in that area. Not fun at all.

My last itching attack

The last attack I had was in late February of 2020. I don’t quite remember what sparked the itchiness to occur,  but what I do remember is the immediate sensation I got. You know, that feeling where you get hot, your breathing becomes restricted, your body tenses up and your mind goes, “Oh sh*t, here we go.” Yes, that feeling.

Calming my flare-up

But what I remember even more vividly was the process I took to calm it down immediately. Why? Because I timed myself. I wanted to see how long it would take to calm down my flare using different physical and mental techniques I’ve been practicing.

Neurotic, but so effective.

Aware of actions that feed an eczema flare-up

As someone who is trying to limit the time she spends on getting over flares, I have automatically become more present and conscious of actions that would prolong my eczema symptoms. This includes scratching, not breathing properly, going into panic mode, thinking the worst, etc. Knowing what actions would prolong my eczema flare, helps me identify actions that would cut them short.

What I did during my last itching attack

In this particular attack, here’s what I did as soon as I felt the itchiness around my mouth. And I emphasize “as soon as” - which is the gap between when my body goes into reactive mode, and when I say, “Oh sh*t, here we go.” That gap between when my body reacts and when I CHOOSE to respond.

As soon as my mind began to say, “Oh sh*t, here we go,” this is what I did step-by-step.

Clenched my fist and started breathing

Altering my breathing is the FIRST thing I go to when I am experiencing a flare or intense itchiness. It’s what helps me stay conscious and alert so I can choose to respond accordingly.

Deep breaths in the first moments of an eczema flare is crucial. It is the deciding factor of whether or not you’ll overcome this episode quickly or whether you’re about to go down the never-ending-itching cycle.

Talked to myself

Whether it happened out loud in a low whisper to myself or in my head, I’m unsure. What I do know is that I said something like, “Don’t you dare scratch, Ashley! MOVE! Move your body, NOW!” (Imagine a mini Tony Robbins or a David Goggins in your head.)

This is the moment where you start self-coaching. It’s You versus You. At this point, you’ll have two options:

  1. Choose from a list of techniques that you know will support the flare-up
  2. Go into panic mode

Wet a paper towel with cold water

I chose option 1 and chose a technique that I knew has worked in the past to relieve my itchiness quickly. In this case, it was wetting a piece of paper towel with cold water and immediately placing it over my mouth. During this, I am still practicing steps 1 and 2: breathing and self-coaching. This keeps me calm and confident that what I’m doing IS working and WILL bring relief.

Got under the sheets and called my boyfriend

My partner knows how to calm me down even though we are currently long-distancin’ it. I trust him with my emotions and usually go to him to seek relief in moments of my eczema flares. As soon as I called him, he emphasized steps 1 and 2. “Just breathe, babe. You’re okay.”

Closed my eyes and continued breathing and self-coaching

This eventually knocked me out into a deep sleep. I don’t know about you, but every time I go through an intense flare-up, I end up falling asleep. It's like mind and body becomes so exhausted from fighting what it thinks to be a foreigner attacking the skin.

And then, I woke up as if nothing had happened.

In case you were wondering, the total time was 30 minutes for steps 1 through 5. Good job, Ash!

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