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An inflamed hand on a subway

A Taste of Life with Atopic Dermatitis

It was a cold wintery January morning in Toronto, Canada. At 7:00 AM the sound of the alarm when off. Typically, I like to hit the snooze button (a couple times) I am sure you’ve been in that situation too? This morning I went straight for the “stop” button. I knew I needed more rest. This morning or rather night had been a sleepless night. Let me tell you how it all started.

How did the cold impact my morning?

Yesterday morning was a freezing cold day. While the sun was shining brightly, it was well below zero, -13 degrees and I’m talking Celsius. Before I left home, I made sure to pack my hat and gloves. On my drive to the subway station, I realized that I needed to minimize whatever exposure my skin would have to the cold temperatures. Typically, I pay for parking using the mobile app while walking from my car to the subway station, as it was a 5-10 min walk. This morning however, I made sure to sit in my car and pay before I got out. I then proceeded to put on my gloves and hat while sitting in the car. I figured I was now ready to embrace the cold. I walked as quickly as I could. While most of my body was covered, I could feel the cold air seeping in through my jacket, hat, gloves and boots. It didn’t take long before I wasn’t able to feel anything.

What did my hands look like?

When I got into the subway building, I took my gloves off and while I couldn’t feel my hands, the sight of them caught me by surprise. They were bright red, with white lines all over them – appearing like roads on a map!

Eczema flare on a hand

As my hands thawed out, I began to feel again, and I noticed a burning sensation. The burning lasted most of the day.

How was my flare up throughout the day?

Throughout the day, I found myself reaching for my bottle of Cerave lotion that sits at my desk. As evening rolled around, I noticed my hands were puffy and bending them was becoming challenging. When my 9-year-old son asked me to give him a massage, I realized how bad my hands were. Regretfully I told him I was unable to do it, and I would tomorrow night, hoping that my hands would recover.

How did my hand eczema impact my night?

I showered and moisturized as I do every night. This night I made sure to apply some extra medicated creams on my hands. I was tired. I got into bed thinking I’ll be asleep soon. The burning sensation was still there, and then - the itch began! I meditated as I do nightly. Falling asleep was proving to be challenging. I lay awake in bed dealing with intense itchiness and burning and tried to soothe and distract myself by attempting to meditate again, to try take my mind off the pain. I moisturize countless times as well as put ice on my hands. At around 3 am I finally got out of bed, just to change the scenery – advice I have been given by sleep experts and had something to eat. I got back into bed, and resumed icing, moisturizing, and meditation. Finally, sometime around 4 am I finally crashed and fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. So, when the alarm when off at 7, I was not ready to get up yet. My body was still feeling exhausted.

What does it feel like?

Have you ever had a papercut (or perhaps a bigger injury) and it becomes a challenge to complete mundane tasks, or the pain makes it challenging to focus and be present? Ever been jet lagged, or cared for a newborn and had sleepless nights? Have you ever been in a very difficult situation, with what may appear to have no light at the end of the tunnel? Have you ever been in any or all of those, what about ALL AT THEM AT SAME TIME?

Welcome to a taste of what it’s like living with atopic dermatitis – from my personal experience.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AtopicDermatitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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