A-Z

Laura

Age at interview: 22
Brief Outline: Laura was 7 months old when diagnosed with atopic eczema. There are many triggers for her eczema, allergies and asthma including some foods and lanolin/wool. The main part of her body that her eczema currently affects is her hands.
Background: Laura is 22 and a freelance interpreter. She is single and lives in rented accommodation. Her ethnicity is White British.

More about me...

Laura was diagnosed at 7 months old with atopic eczema when her parents took her to see their GP after she had started on solid food. Her eczema is linked to her allergies and asthma; these conditions were significant parts of her childhood, preventing her from doing a number of the things that other children she knew could do. Many of the triggers for her eczema were discovered by “trial and error”, including reactions when she ate fruits like apples and peaches or came into contact with horse hair and lanolin/wool. 

During her teenage years, Laura’s eczema mostly cleared up and it now only tends to affect her hands. She took up taekwondo as a teenager – a sport which required her to show and use her hands a great deal, and this helped build her confidence. However, she continues to find this to be a difficult part of the body to have eczema on owing to their frequent use (such as when shaking hands at work) and increased likelihood of infections.

Studying at university with eczema presented both benefits and downsides for Laura. She became friends with a course peer during university who also had eczema and this provided an opportunity to share experiences. She also lived abroad for some of her time at university and found that hot-dry climates significantly improved her eczema; however, she was not able to see a doctor or get access to prescribed medicated treatments whilst there. When she was a student in the UK, moving accommodation within her university city made it difficult to get access to the same GP and dermatologist. She also shared accommodation with other students who did not always understand that triggers, such as dust, meant that it was important to keep the house clean.

Laura has seen a dermatologist and a number of GPs over the years who have given her various treatments for her eczema. She now primarily uses a soap substitute and Aveeno cream, sometimes wearing cotton gloves at night to help the moisturisers absorb. As a young adult now, Laura is interested in learning more about the medical side of eczema which she was too young to understand when diagnosed as a young child. One recent experience that she found particularly helpful was when a GP explained the structure and layers of the skin because this aided her understanding of what eczema is and how different treatments work.
 

Laura talks about the feel of eczema when the skin is broken.

Laura talks about the feel of eczema when the skin is broken.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
What makes me laugh is when people get cuts, like friends, they have a cut on their hand and they're like, and they’ll moan about it and they’ll be like, "Oh my cut," and then keep bringing it up and like, "Oh I hurt my cut," and like, "Look." I have cuts on my hands all the time; [laughs] obviously I don’t say it but inside you're just thinking, 'I have cuts on my hands all the time but I don’t', just get on with it. Yeh, they flare up a lot when I have cuts and it is quite annoying that, because it's like, well you still have to use your hands but you’ve equally got to be aware of the cut because if you get anything into it, it won't just affect the cut but it will affect the sort of surrounding area of your hands.

Like sometimes they're just very, the worse, when they're really bad they’ll have cuts - sores almost - very, very inflamed, like very red. Like even like an extra sort of layer of skin cos it's so like so, they swell. And then also you get like…, you know like when people have spots, like pus-y spots – you get those as well. 
 

Laura grew up with allergies and asthma, which link to her eczema.

Laura grew up with allergies and asthma, which link to her eczema.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
As I've been growing up I have begun to sort of see what I am allergic to. And it's not just eczema that like I have allergies with. Like, it brings…it worsens my eczema but it, also I have allergies like mouth reactions and things like that with other food types. So, things like, anything related to sheep – so lanolin, wool and things like that - I know to avoid. And so it's one of those things as a kid you just get told, "Don’t sort of stroke any animals; don’t stroke sheep especially; don’t wear things that are wool; don’t eat lamb," things like that. And also food groups such as like tomatoes and oranges I wouldn’t eat. Dairy, so when I was younger you sort of just know not to, and I guess also your… my Mum was sort of checking whether I was eating things. 
 

It took many years of living with eczema before Laura learnt about why her skin was that way.

It took many years of living with eczema before Laura learnt about why her skin was that way.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Do you recall when you were younger what you knew about eczema, the sort of causes of it and what it actually was?

I think that my Mum probably told me about a bit about it. But I never really understood the science behind it I don’t think until, one of my, this local doctor here, when I was late teens, explained like why it was  cracked skin an d like what was happening with the different layers of your skin [gestures with hand to layers]. And how, if you do one thing how it will affect it. For example, using the actual soaps that you buy, you know normal soaps. And how, if you try and moisturise and protect it and things like that, how it will improve and sort of, and that was good because it puts into like, you're like, "Oh OK that kind of explains it," rather than it being a sort of off, this subject that you're not really sure about. 
 

Laura has looked online for more information about eczema causes and recently came across some research into the balance of bacteria.

Laura has looked online for more information about eczema causes and recently came across some research into the balance of bacteria.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Well I read about recently and so, like I might be wrong, but I think I've read about this recently that there's a certain type of bacteria on your hands, like you know there's so many bacteria and things on your hands, and germs, and there's something like one in ten thousand people have this certain bacteria, whereas every atopic asthma, sorry eczema sufferer has. So, everyone who has eczema has a certain type of bacteria a lot more, it's a lot more common. And then things like itching moves it around so it spreads it. Although, when I read that I then thought, 'Well so does moisturising,' [laughs] so it's like,  what can you do? So yeh I read that recently and I think… but then you can't really, you have to use your hands so.
 

Laura has heard about using ‘food diaries’ to help identify diet triggers but doesn’t plan to try one at the moment.

Laura has heard about using ‘food diaries’ to help identify diet triggers but doesn’t plan to try one at the moment.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
See I don’t, sometimes when it comes, flares up, I wonder whether it's something I've eaten. But it's one of those things that I literally have to, I'd have to have a diary and a food diary, and I'd have to monitor everything I did and the extent that is just on my hands and the fact that I know when it flares up I can put creams and stuff on it. For me personally, I'm not going to bother, at the moment anyway. It's not worth it to spend all that time like recording everything I do and thinking about everything and, cos otherwise your life you'd be like, 'Oh should I do this, should I do that,' and you just go, like get on with it. So, I think more recently, probably there are things that might still be a problem but not that big a problem that I, it affects me too much.
 

Animal fur and some kinds of foods are triggers for both Laura’s eczema and asthma.

Animal fur and some kinds of foods are triggers for both Laura’s eczema and asthma.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So like, basically I avoid a lot of things like just, just like basic things like, you know, if people are stroking horses or animals or cats or dogs, I just don’t do that because I just know it's not really worth it cos I'll get asthmatic or I’ll get really bad bumpy skin. So, like when it's, generally day to day with the eczema, it's either dry or if it's infected it will be like red and broken skin. But then, when it gets allergies it comes like bumps, like kind of like it… yeh just bumpy and like kind of white or sort of lighter skin of bumps and really itchy, yeh really itchy. And so I just avoid situations like that and actually to the point where lots of people, lots of my friends, sometimes when I've known them for a few years, they actually don’t know that I've got asthma or too many allergies because I don’t make a big thing of it, you just avoid those situations, like you just don’t touch animals. Or, for example, food types, I just don’t eat apples or unless they're cooked. It's a very strange, like plums, apples, peaches, nectarines – loads of fruit I can eat it when it's cooked. Cherries, I can eat them when they're cooked but not when they're raw.

And so it just comes up in a, and also I get like asthmatic and, yeh. And the mouth – I looked it up recently what it is; it's to do with pollen and it's very much around the mouth, like the mouth becomes really inflamed and like really tight here [gestures to throat]. And so it's just, that’s not worth it. And also, sometimes the thing that, as I was growing up, that was quite something that I sort of always had to be prepared for, was taking the antihistamines and inhaler with me to all my friends' houses because they, if they had dogs, cats or even if a cat or a dog had been in the house, I would become, especially at sleepovers there would – I've had quite a lot of sleepovers where I haven’t slept cos I've been wheezing all night and not being able to and being itchy and things like that. So, you just have to always sort of be prepared for an outbreak.
 

Laura uses hot water to stop itching, but she’s aware this might make her eczema more irritated in the long run.

Laura uses hot water to stop itching, but she’s aware this might make her eczema more irritated in the long run.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I got into quite a bad cycle for quite a few years actually, of when it was really itching me. I'd go to the toilet, or go to the sink in the kitchen and run it under hot water cos it like soothes it and relieves it. But obviously it's not very good cos that’s like taking any moisture out of it really. And then I'd moisturise it again. Because basically I think that if it, sometimes when it's really itchy or irritated I think it's because it's just like got something irritated, that’s irritated on it. So I've touched something or, you know, food or anything. So I just like ran it under hot water and everything which, sometimes relieved and stuff and it would help cos it would dry it out completely and take anything off and then you'd put the moisturiser on. 

But it's probably not the best thing. And also like if it had been a food thing, putting hot water would continue cooking the thing on your skin rather than, cold water would probably be better. But, because it was just like, you want instant relief so, that’s what I used to do which is probably not good practice.
 

Laura says it’s repetitive seeing GPs about her eczema and moving a lot (such as between home and university) makes it harder to get a dermatology referral.

Laura says it’s repetitive seeing GPs about her eczema and moving a lot (such as between home and university) makes it harder to get a dermatology referral.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And remembering to go to the doctor, get checked up and I think, unfortunately, the doctors, GPs aren't always as like don’t know as much about it as you'd like because they often say things and you're like, "Yeh I know I've had it for all my life [laughs] I know all that, you're telling me the same thing over and over." And they're also, because they can give you things like steroids and moisturising creams and sort of send you on their way and say, "Come back to us in a few months." So they don’t refer you straight away if you know what I mean.

Which is sometimes you're like, "Can you just refer me because I've done this appointment like hundreds of times. I know what's going to happen; I'm going to come back and then you're going to give me more creams and then I'm going to go away."

And then when they do refer you it takes a while and, you know, your life when, especially as a young person you're often like flitting about, going to different houses, different areas, so keeping up with the same GP is difficult. And so they don’t really follow your story and it is like when you have a skin condition – it is like a story, it's not like, 'Here's some antibiotics, it will go in three days,' or, you know things like that. So you kind of need one professional or, you know a few sort of a regular, someone who knows what's happening.
 

Laura talks about the different steroid types and strengths in creams that she has had.

Text only
Read below

Laura talks about the different steroid types and strengths in creams that she has had.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So I've had like hydrocortisone most of the time and it's been like one percent. And then at one point, they gave me a two percent one when it was really bad. And then now, and that’s Betamethasone, I think they called it, and that clears it up in three days. So I know now that that works and they’ve given me that now. But you know you can't use it too much cos otherwise it really damages your skin. So those are the main two I use yeh.
 

Laura saw homeopaths when she was younger. She’s keen to try homeopathy again and wants to talk to her doctor about this.

Laura saw homeopaths when she was younger. She’s keen to try homeopathy again and wants to talk to her doctor about this.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I mean I have been recently to the GP about it just to get some more steroid creams, but I didn’t actually ask at this point because, what I was going to ask was about alternative treatments. I'm interested to see what GPs have, their opinions on homeopaths obviously, and also there's lots of, obviously there's lots of research out there about eczema and, but it's not made it to mainstream medicine yet so, the I was just going to ask them about different treatments but I wasn’t, when I went there, I wasn’t quite I like to research it myself first so I know what we're talking about more. So I need to do that before I went again. Because there are other medicines out there or there is even other techniques. But it's a good idea to get medical professional sort of to, their advice on things.
 

Laura has eczema on her hands and found that doing taekwondo has made her more confident about using them.

Text only
Read below

Laura has eczema on her hands and found that doing taekwondo has made her more confident about using them.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
From the whole way through my teens, the whole way through secondary school, I did taekwondo, and that’s indoor, but it's a lot of like movement with your hand and things so, I think you just overcome it; like any discomfort or any embarrassment or anything you just gradually overcome it by, you know, being, doing sport and things like that. So, it's probably quite a good thing for, you know, encouraging and making people more confident with the condition.

So I think like, well I guess with taekwondo, for example, it's a, taekwondo like it is about obviously kicking, but also punching a lot and using your hands a lot. So you sort of… without realising, it probably like really helped me because, obviously I can't just like not use my hands in a sport, in the classes. So, I think it sort of confronts it in a way; like you have to use it, like, you know you're putting your hand to people's faces; a lot of contact. Whereas, you know some people, it could have easily been the other way round – I could have like, over my teens, just become sort of very like, you know covered up, not wanting people to touch me, my hands and things like that. Whereas, like the taekwondo with the tactile side to it makes it a lot more just like, becomes the norm I think. 
 

Children at Laura’s nursery and school could do things she couldn’t with atopic eczema.

Children at Laura’s nursery and school could do things she couldn’t with atopic eczema.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
The first time I sort of noticed was when I sort of went to school, well nursery, and all. When you start to realise, become aware of others and what they do and what they can eat. I do remember things like going to the zoo or going to farms with my friends and family friends and they were allowed to do things like go and ride horses and things like that or, you know, I did actually used to ride horses until probably about five but then they found out I was like really allergic to them. So, but things like that…so just, you know, things that you couldn’t do just because of allergies and eczema and things like that, or things that you couldn’t eat because of it. As you get older you become more aware of that I guess. 
 

It was helpful when Laura met other people with eczema at university.

It was helpful when Laura met other people with eczema at university.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Growing up I didn’t really know anyone with eczema, which it probably would be beneficial to know someone with a similar condition I think if because then, at least you can talk about it, whereas I didn’t really ever, there was not really, apart from my Dad and my brother, who have very minor, I didn’t really know anyone that had it. So, I think at Uni, one of my friends, she has it on her hands as well; it was interesting to hear her side of things. And obviously she, obviously sort of mentioned it, we both talked about. I think I might have talked about it first. Whereas other people often just say either "Are your hands OK?" or, "Does that hurt?" or they’ll say, "What's that?" and some people say, which my friend at Uni and I always, are just so like, "Ergh yes we know." Basically people often say, "You need to put some moisturiser on that." It's like, "Yes I know” [laughs] obviously.
 

Laura has started researching more about eczema recently.

Laura has started researching more about eczema recently.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
When it's a condition that you're used to, then it becomes the norm and you forget about, you forget [laughs] that it's like a thing. And then, more recently I was like, "Oh I might potentially be able to like…" Cos I'm getting to an age where lots of people, it sort of disappears for a lot of people, I thought that maybe I should do some research and really get on top of it because it is a thing you have to sort of make an effort to do. And so I think this year I've like been trying to, that’s why I came across this because I was on the website and I sort of was looking into different treatments and things. But, again a lot of it is that you already know. It's interesting when you read things though that you already know – like symptoms that you're like “oh yeh” that actually other people have that and I think that’s why these sort of interviews are really good cos it just links everyday common things that you experience to… that other people experience as well, so it kind of all makes more sense.
Previous Page
Next Page