How to Get Through an Eczema Flare-Up at Work

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Your “cope ahead kit” should contain some other soothing things, too, like an ice pack you pop in the office freezer when you get in and apply for relief if you need it. (If your workplace doesn’t have a kitchen, consider bringing along a mini-cooler.) Justyna keeps sunscreen, lip balm, and moisturizer in her bag. If she feels irritation coming on, she takes a break from whatever she’s doing, goes to the restroom, washes the area, and applies moisturizer. Of course, it’s not always practical—or even allowed—to drop everything and go to the bathroom, Dr. Lio notes. That’s why it’s important to slather on a long-lasting cream—with ingredients that pull water into the skin like propylene glycol, lactic acid, urea, and glycerin—before heading in, per the National Eczema Society (NES).

3. Tweak what you can in your environment.

When you work from home, you sometimes have control of the heat and humidity of your space. But in an office, warehouse, restaurant, or other space, you might “have less control of [your] immediate environment,” Dr. Lio says. This includes places with dry air (a.k.a. low humidity) and high temps, which can often make symptoms worse, he says.

If your place of employment is outdoors or notoriously frigid (and you need to cover yourself with something), make sure the fabric is skin-friendly. For example, you might trade a rough, scratchy, synthetic hat, scarf, or sweater for a soft 100% cotton version, per the NES. You could also bring a hand towel from home so you don’t have to use the dryers in the work restroom, which tend to leave skin parched. If paper towels aren’t available, Justyna gently taps a wad of toilet paper on her wet hands, as rubbing with any material can make things worse. She also always wears gloves so her current work in a warehouse doesn’t cause extra irritation.

If you’re in a role that requires constant handwashing—say, you’re a health care provider—there are some steps you can take to avoid making things worse. Occasionally switch it up by using an alcohol foam instead of water and soap (which can dry things out even more) and let your hands breathe as much as possible between tasks if you wear gloves. Back home, opt for a heavy-duty overnight cream to help soothe them while you sleep.

It’s important to note that you have rights in the workplace if you have eczema or other skin conditions. If you feel like it’s affecting your ability to do your job, you may be entitled to certain accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to the National Eczema Association (NEA). This might include, for example, finding a desk out of the sun (or any spot that won’t trigger you), or wearing an alternate uniform if the one currently assigned to you is made from a synthetic fabric.2 If you’re not sure whether you’d qualify, reach out to the Job Accommodation Network, which is a US government–funded assistance center that can help.

4. Consider being open with your coworkers.

You might feel (understandably!) hesitant to share the details of your condition with colleagues. On the one hand, you might be met with surprising compassion (and even extra help or understanding) from fellow staff, Dr. Lio says—which is true for a lot of the people he treats with eczema. That said, if the idea of talking about personal stuff on the job makes you cringe, know that you don’t owe anyone an explanation. “If it feels like something you want to keep private and it doesn’t need to be named, own that decision,” Schwartz says. (Just know, however, that you won’t be able to get accommodations through the ADA if you don’t bring it up.)

5. Make time for your mental health.

You might feel embarrassed or ashamed if you’re scratching yourself constantly at work. Though it might seem like you’re going through those emotions solo, Schwartz points out that she treats tons of people in a similar boat all the time.


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