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Managing Atopic Dermatitis

How Atopic Dermatitis Affects My Work

Serena G. | Office Manager

Actual Eczema Sufferer

Annoyance, distraction, loss of focus from projects: These are all things I dealt with when working during an eczema flare-up. There was also the frustration of wanting to scratch all the time but being at the front desk at work. I tried to be mindful as people were walking by because I didn’t want them to think something was wrong with me.

My nerves were always at their peak when I was tidying up at work, even if I was using gloves. My hands would get red and itchy after I washed them, and the soap would sometimes cause a rash. I would hate to moisturize my hands knowing I’d eventually have to wash them again after more tidying up. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. The physical symptoms of my atopic dermatitis were bad enough. I didn’t want to keep hiding things from my coworkers. So, I decided enough was enough.

I remember having to leave early one day from work when I was having a flare-up. It was highly distracting, and I couldn’t get anything done anymore. It wasn’t so bad having to leave a bit early, but I still I had more work to finish. I mentioned to my colleague, who also happened to be our HR rep, that I had eczema and was going through a flare which was inhibiting me from being in the right frame of mind to finish my work. Luckily, she seemed to be understanding and let me leave early, but I still felt uncomfortable.

Eventually, I had a similar conversation with my manager. It was a cold, winter day, and we had a quick one-on-one conversation in his office. I saw that he had a huge bottle of lotion on his desk. We somehow started talking about the dry, cold weather leading to skin irritations, and he mentioned that he kept that bottle close by for his own dry skin issues.

When I mentioned that I have eczema, he didn’t react any differently. He just acknowledged it, and we moved on. That made me feel relieved. It was tough to talk about, but in the end, I’m so glad I had the courage to bring it up. It makes my work life so much more manageable.

These interactions may seem small, but to me, they were huge. For so long I had been hiding a part of myself because I feared being judged. As it turned out, a couple simple conversations were all it took for me to be able to come out of hiding.

What I’ve learned since being diagnosed with eczema is that you cannot let the condition take you down.

Atopic dermatitis will fight and continue to fight with you both emotionally and physically. You need to stay confident in yourself no matter what. I have discovered some tips that help me feel comfortable while at work:

  • I always keep some lotion at my desk.
  • I host weekly meditations with my peers that help alleviate stress and also diminish my eczema.
  • If I notice that a flare-up may be occurring, I take all actions to alleviate the pain, including realizing that it needs to “run its course”—kind of like if you get sick with a cold.
  • I drink lots of water at work. It’s great that we have flavored, still, and sparkling at the office. With the dry air in New England, staying hydrated is a must.

Feeling comfortable and confident at work makes me a better employee. Coming home from a long day at the office knowing that I’ve been an asset to my coworkers feels great. When I stick to my tips I can triumph over my eczema and have more productive workdays.

Caregiver and patient stories reflect personal stories. Individual experiences may vary.