"Why is his head so flaky all the time? Why don't you shampoo everyday?""You know what cured me? Coconut oil!"
"You should cut out dairy/soy/gluten/meat."
"I have this great new lotion you should get..."
When you have a disease on the outside like atopic dermatitis, you may be literally wearing your symptoms on your sleeve. It's hard to have a condition that can be observed so publicly. And people love to give comments and advice. Whether it's on your body or your child's, they are ready to tell you what to do.
Handling unhelpful advice
This advice can feel so unhelpful. The message seems to be, "I see that you have this problem that you are ignoring, and why don't you do this simple thing to correct it?" It's frustrating because you did not cause this problem, you are trying to manage it, and it is not as simple as they perceive.
Time out! When these hurtful suggestions come at you, take a deep breath and strategize.
- Blow it off. Is this a random person at the grocery store, at a child's birthday party, or a person at your gym that you really don't interact with much? Don't invest your time or emotional energy. Just like the barista who misspells and mispronounces your name at Starbucks, just smile, say thanks, and move on.
- Take time to Educate. Is this person a close friend or meddling family member? Go ahead and explain to them the complexity of atopic dermatitis. It's not a simple disease with one cause. Coconut oil is great for cooking, but many people have reactions to it on their skin. Lotions with fragrance can exacerbate dermatitis. Maybe you already did an elimination diet; share your experience. Many people don't understand how a disease can be chronic, need constant treatment, and can wax and wane. Help them see how different your experience or your child's experience is.
- Remember their motivation. Instead of getting defensive, consider this: they may think that they are being really helpful. They want to help you with their experience, limited as it is compared with yours and this condition.
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?