When providing care to someone living with a skin condition like eczema, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly what they need, especially if you don’t fully understand the condition yourself.
We’ve put together a guide to help you support your loved one with eczema. We know it can be tough. That’s why we´re here to help.
We’ll talk you through everything you need to know about living with eczema. Your support is invaluable to your loved one, but we know you’ll need a little help sometimes too.
Supporting a loved one with eczema
We understand that the burden of explaining eczema to the people around you can feel unwanted and heavy. You’ve likely got enough going on as it is. Responding to questions, correcting misconceptions, and relaying the severity of the condition can feel invasive and take up valuable energy – especially if you or a loved one are dealing with an eczema flare-up.
From dealing with physical pain and sleepless nights to having body confidence issues, people living with eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) often have a lot going on. But so can the people who live with them.
Eczema caregivers share their loved ones’ highs and help them through their lows. Caregivers also experience the worry, fret, and panic that comes with the condition. We understand that the effects of eczema are not limited to those that live with it.
As an eczema caregiver, it’s totally okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes.
Supporting a loved one with eczema is difficult. It’s okay if you’re struggling with it.
When my loved one developed really severe eczema, his whole body was covered in weeping welts which he would constantly rub and scratch. His eczema was so bad people would stare at him and ask what had happened to him. Sometimes we were actually avoided by people, and people would stand at a distance if we were in a queue. This broke my heart as people were making judgments about him without even asking what was wrong. This made me incredibly angry and sad. He was exactly the same as everybody else; he just had really sore skin.
Many people who support someone with eczema ask themselves: How can I support my loved one who has a condition I haven’t experienced?
To help answer this question, we’ll talk you through eczema symptoms and triggers and the best ways to help your loved one deal with them.
Holding the hand of your loved one with eczema can really make a difference to their overall quality of life.
So, where to start? The first and most important thing to be aware of is the importance of a healthy and consistent skincare routine.
Help your loved one stay on top of things like:
- Moisturizing their skin twice a day, even when it looks and feels good! (This is easier said than done, so your support will be needed)
- Taking shorter showers or baths to avoid skin drying out
- Patting skin dry rather than rubbing with a towel
- Avoiding irritants that are known triggers for a flare-up
Then, make sure you’re aware of the many different symptoms – both physical and emotional – that people with eczema might face.
Know the symptoms
Did you know that people who have eczema are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety? It can also be more challenging for people with eczema to focus on their social life, which can lead to problems with friends and family members.
Some people with eczema may have body confidence issues that can prevent them from taking part in certain activities, or the symptoms of their eczema might impact their mood and mental wellbeing.
These are just some of the broader symptoms people with eczema face that might not be immediately obvious. It’s important to remember that everyone’s eczema is unique. Different things affect different people in different ways, and triggers vary from person to person.
Some of the most common symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry and/or itchy skin, which can sometimes appear as red rashes
- Bumps on the skin
- Crusty or flakey skin
- Skin pain
- Oozing skin
- Bleeding skin
If your loved one finds themself giving in to the itch, they may end up stuck in an itch-scratch cycle. This can often lead to:
- Problems sleeping – people with eczema can experience disturbed sleep because of nighttime itching, which can also have knock-on health effects
- Lack of energy – generally feeling more tired – it takes a lot of energy for someone’s skin to constantly have to regenerate
- Lack of productivity at work/school
- Low self-esteem
Not all eczema is visible, and you might not know how much discomfort a person is in. Some people feel embarrassed to talk about their eczema and how it affects them, so make sure you’re delicate when broaching the subject. Always make an effort to be kind and supportive.
Empathy is an essential part of supporting a loved one with eczema. Listen to what they have to say and try to give them as much emotional support as possible.
One way to show someone that you understand what they’re going through is by rephrasing what they’ve said back to them. For example, when your loved one says, “my eczema is really bad at the moment,” try responding with something like, “I’m really sorry to hear that. I can imagine it’s difficult. Let me know what I can do to help.”
You could also try offering them help with day-to-day tasks to make their lives a little easier.
A simple act like this can make your loved one feel heard and seen. Also, make an active effort to check on their overall wellbeing – asking them questions shows that you care.
Help identify triggers
Eczema is a chronic condition that can’t be cured entirely. Scientists also aren’t sure exactly what causes it because so many factors are at play. However, it is known that genetics play a big role.
There are many things that people living with eczema can do to manage their symptoms better. Working with your loved one to identify their eczema triggers will be vital throughout their healthcare journey.
A trigger refers to something that causes eczema to flare up. Sometimes, it can be tricky to identify what triggers or causes eczema, while sometimes, the cause is more obvious. For example, some people are allergic to dust or feathers, and other people are not.
Just like we said, everyone’s eczema is unique.
By helping your loved one identify what triggers their eczema, you can help them manage their symptoms.
Common eczema triggers may include:
- Irritants such as soap, perfume, or cosmetic products
- Environmental factors – for example, cold or dry weather; dampness; pets; pollens, dust mites, molds, and cigarette smoke
- Stress and stressors
- Sleep deprivation
- Confirmed allergies
- Materials – such as wool, synthetic fabrics, and certain metals- including chromium cobalt, chloride, copper, nickel
- Skin infections
It’s important to remember that even though these things are common reasons for eczema, there are many factors that doctors may be unaware of.
Helping your loved one track their symptoms to try and figure out what’s causing an eczema flare-up can be an important preventative measure that can lead to a better quality of life.
Be cautious of telling your loved one that they have eczema because of their habits: don’t try and blame someone for the state of their skin – even if you think they’re doing something wrong. Remember that empathy is key to success. Listen to their problems and show them you understand.
Sidekick’s Eczema Program can help your loved one identify their eczema triggers and empower them to break the itch-scratch cycle.
Make changes around the house
According to Dr. Natasha Harper, “lifestyle factors can strongly influence atopic dermatitis.” Therefore, “the optimal care of atopic dermatitis is holistic in nature.” This means that lifestyle factors heavily influence eczema and how it affects the body.
Making some simple changes around the house can have a huge impact on reducing the symptoms of eczema. Here are some things you can do that might help your loved one manage their eczema symptoms on a day-to-day basis:
Reduce dust levels by replacing carpets and keeping the house clean
In the case of a dust mite allergy, removing carpets can majorly reduce the symptoms of atopic eczema. Carpets gather a lot of dust which can be a major trigger for eczema. If you can’t remove the carpet for any reason, make sure you clean it regularly to reduce exposure to dust.
Dust levels can also be reduced by regularly vacuuming or washing any other fabrics which might get dusty, like drapes, the couch, and sheets.
Maintain good indoor air quality
Improving inside air quality is also important when living with eczema. Some people find that their skin can be irritated by hot and dry air (especially when combined with dust).
There’s a lot that can be done to adjust the quality of air indoors, such as keeping good ventilation around the house by regularly opening the windows and letting in the fresh air.
We know this can be difficult, but pets – especially those with fur and feathers – can be triggers for people who live with eczema. This is because pet dander (or flakes of dead skin cells) are a common flare-up trigger for people with eczema.
Change laundry detergent
If your loved one is dealing with irritation due to detergents, make sure you use a dermatologically proven detergent when doing laundry. Generally speaking, avoid anything fragranced. The chemicals used to make fragrances often irritate the skin and can lead to eczema flare-ups.
Be mindful of the products you use
If you share a bed with someone who has eczema, the products you use to wash your hair and body can affect their skin. Many shampoos contain a chemical called Cocamidopropyl betaine, a known skin irritant for people with eczema.
Try changing the products you apply to your hair. Many articles are available online to help you find the best eczema-friendly shampoos.
Living with an incurable itch and chronic condition is difficult. Naturally, there will be times when your loved one’s eczema will have a big impact on their mood. There may be days when they feel frustrated, down, or anxious. People in a relationship need to accept that their loved one with eczema might – at times – be struggling to find their zen.
One of the best ways that you can help is by showing empathy. Talk with them and try to show them that you understand and care. Remind them that they should not be ashamed of their condition or the mood it brings them.
Provide support at check-ups
People with eczema, especially if they are stressed or depressed, might be reluctant to visit a doctor. But a doctor can prescribe steroid creams which can be a great short-term solution for an eczema flare-up.
Some people living with eczema might be too embarrassed or scared to go and see their doctor. That’s where you come in. It’s great for someone with eczema to have a loved one holding their hand, reminding them that asking for help is the right thing to do.
Join online support groups
There are lots of existing online support groups on social media for people who live with eczema: like this eczema support Facebook Group. People share their stories, experiences, and tips to help with day-to-day life, including new treatments and medicines. Sometimes, it’s good to know that there are others like you who can turn to for help and advice.
If you need a Sidekick on your caregiver journey, encourage your loved one to check out the Atopic Dermatitis program from Sidekick Health. The program features educational material to help people living with eczema understand their condition and identify their triggers. It also encourages daily mindfulness practices and medication reminders to help your loved one take back control of their health.
Supporting a loved one with eczema can be a challenge, and it’s okay if you sometimes find it hard, stressful, or overwhelming. Your Sidekick is here to help. Read our brochure on the Sidekick Health website or get the app now.