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Cat

Age at interview: 24
Brief Outline: (Audio or text only clips) Cat first had eczema as a child before it cleared up. Her eczema returned during her time at university. Having eczema sometimes affected Cat’s social life at university but she says that it is now easier to manage her skin with the routine of employment.
Background: Cat is 24 years old and an engineer. She is single and lives in rented accommodation with housemates. Her ethnicity is White English.

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Cat had quite mild eczema when she was a child. Her eczema cleared for many years but then returned towards the end of her first year at university. She’s not sure why her eczema came back at this time. Cat says that it was a particularly “inconvenient” because university is a time when young people are establishing their independence and making new friends. It was difficult learning to cope with eczema again and having to change her routines and lifestyle. At first, she was concerned about going out if she was having a flare up as she didn’t want this to be other peoples’ first impressions of her and nightclub environments could make her skin worse. Other triggers for her eczema include perfumes, some kinds of washing powder and dairy foods. Her eczema tends to affect different parts of her body, especially on her back and around her neck.

Cat was initially reluctant to go to the GPs when her eczema came back and she tried shop-bought products first. She has since been prescribed emollients, antihistamines and steroid creams of different strengths. Her GP referred her to a dermatologist for a two month course of steroid tablets and six months of UVB treatment. The UVB treatment was very time consuming with travel to the hospital and appointments would often overrun. Cat saw a second dermatologist when she left university in a new city. Cat didn’t continue UVB treatment and took a course of steroid cream instead. She recently began taking immunosupressants which she finds is less hassle than the light therapy but it does mean that she has to avoid drinking alcohol. She says this has made a difference to her lifestyle – with some positives, such as saving money and avoiding hangovers.

Being in full-time work helps Cat manage her eczema as she has more of a routine. Her manager understands about flexible working hours for medical appointments. Cat also says that she has a better work-life balance, so she can limit stress triggering her eczema whereas it had been difficult to detach from her studies whilst at university. Cat says that her workplace environment is also good because she doesn’t feel pressure about her appearance or worry about how eczema might affect this. Cat says that eczema impacts her more physically and in terms of lifestyle, rather than emotionally. She is determined now not to let her eczema stop her from doing things she enjoys, such as playing sports.
 

Cat talks about the widely-held belief that children “grow out” of eczema.

Cat talks about the widely-held belief that children “grow out” of eczema.

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It's more common in sort of younger people, so everyone just thinks you grow out of it, which I thought I had [laughs]. Like, “Arr, you should, you'll just grow out of it”, which I think that’s what a lot of people do think. But you don’t, so I think yeah, I don’t know, I think a lot of people probably associate it with sort of little kids and stuff like that. So, I think yeah that’s sort of quite difficult but, when you’re sort of, especially when you had that period without it and then suddenly it sort of comes back, it's quite difficult, almost like if you'd grown up with it, almost be easier to sort of cope with. But  yeah I think everyone's sort of perception is that everyone, you just grow out of it, and a lot of people do but at the same time – it can just sort of come back so.

 

Cat says that her eczema is unrelated to asthma and hay fever, but there are some triggers (like perfumed bath products) which make her skin flare up.

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Cat says that her eczema is unrelated to asthma and hay fever, but there are some triggers (like perfumed bath products) which make her skin flare up.

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Are there any other health conditions that you have which interact with eczema at all?

No, so I think they were convinced I should have like asthma and hayfever, or… someone in my family should, but no-one does so, sort of the lucky one, or the unlucky one that got it. So, yeah that’s always one of the first questions they… ask as well, sort of hereditary; and yeah I don’t know how you know if you’ve got asthma, but I don’t think I have so, I'm sure I would have found out by now. But yeah so… none of the other ones that normally go with it.
 

Dermatology nurses helped Cat understand how best to use emollients (moisturisers).

Dermatology nurses helped Cat understand how best to use emollients (moisturisers).

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So the nurses are quite good, they’ve obviously got a bit more time so they sort of talk to you if you’ve got any sort of worries or issues, but I wouldn’t say I've sort of overly sort of had like many in-depth conversations with them, but they're sort of quite good at just sort of giving you a bit more sort of information and sort of stuff that may be sort of dermatologists sort of look over, and GPs, so they're quite a good sort of knowledge hub.

What sort of things have nurses spoken to you about that GPs and dermatologists have skimmed over?

Some of it's just like technique, like techniques, like ways to sort of apply creams and things like that that you don’t really, you're like ‘well you put it on, how difficult can it be?’ [laughs] “Arr no, well if you do it like this and this and this, then it's actually sort of better” – things like that, that they don’t, like dermatologists don’t really have the time; well they probably wouldn’t think to sort of do or how like what's the best order to do stuff in, and things like that.

Could you say a bit more about what the nurses have said about techniques for applying creams?

Yeah so things like you follow like the hairline down, rather than up against, that was one of the key things. And like putting on the shower gel before you get in the shower, which I'd never thought to do [laughs] before, which I don’t always do cos I don’t have the time to sort of sit there for five minutes and do that. But yeah, so you sort of put it on and then it absorbs into your skin or something, and then you sort of get in and wash it off rather than just sort of putting it straight on and it coming straight off again. So things like that that I hadn’t really thought about.
 

Cat found it quite easy to get a dermatology referral from her GP, after her mum encouraged her to ask.

Cat found it quite easy to get a dermatology referral from her GP, after her mum encouraged her to ask.

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And do you recall the first time that the dermatologist was mentioned when you went back to the GP in university?

Not really no. I think I might have asked. I think, well I think my mum told me to ask [laughs]. I think that was the sort of the first thing, and they're like, they're like, "Well come back in like two weeks or something, and if it's still not fine and sort of refer you then," sort of type thing. But yeah I think it was, yeah my mum who was like just go and ask to be referred, which it was actually quite easy, I thought it would be more difficult than it was, but they were sort of like, "Yeah sure," so.

What was it you'd anticipated might be difficult about getting a dermatology referral?

I just thought that GPs just wouldn’t refer you cos, you know it's not like, it isn't a massive thing. But once you’ve been back for sort of three or four times within sort of two months or something, I think they just sort of realised that this sort of normal stuff isn't going to work.
 

Dermatology nurses helped Cat understand how best to use emollients (moisturisers).

Dermatology nurses helped Cat understand how best to use emollients (moisturisers).

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So the nurses are quite good, they’ve obviously got a bit more time so they sort of talk to you if you’ve got any sort of worries or issues, but I wouldn’t say I've sort of overly sort of had like many in-depth conversations with them, but they're sort of quite good at just sort of giving you a bit more sort of information and sort of stuff that may be sort of dermatologists sort of look over, and GPs, so they're quite a good sort of knowledge hub.

What sort of things have nurses spoken to you about that GPs and dermatologists have skimmed over?

Some of it's just like technique, like techniques, like ways to sort of apply creams and things like that that you don’t really, you're like ‘well you put it on, how difficult can it be?’ [Laughs] “Arr no, well if you do it like this and this and this, then it's actually sort of better” – things like that, that they don’t, like dermatologists don’t really have the time; well they probably wouldn’t think to sort of do or how like what's the best order to do stuff in, and things like that. But they’ve just got a bit more experience and they’ve probably learned from other people. So, yeah sort of things like that.

Could you say a bit more about what the nurses have said about techniques for applying creams?

Yeah so things like you follow like the hairline down, rather than up against, that was one of the key things. And like putting on the shower gel before you get in the shower, which I'd never thought to do [laughs] before, which I don’t always do cos I don’t have the time to sort of sit there for five minutes and do that.  But yeah, so you sort of put it on and then it absorbs into your skin or something, and then you sort of get in and wash it off rather than just sort of putting it straight on and it coming straight off again. So things like that that I hadn’t really thought about.
 

Cat has looked online for more information about immunosuppressants.

Cat has looked online for more information about immunosuppressants.

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When they put me on like these immunosuppressants, so you just sort of Google that and sort of like put side effects in or something, and then you just get a whole list of stuff, and you just sort of read through it, see what someone else. So things like, you know, to look out for. Obviously see what like the sort of side effects people have, or things like when to take tablets like well if people have any advice like sort of stuff like that. It probably won't work for you but it's good to sort of see what stuff's out there, or see how long people are sort of on stuff for and things like that so, it is yeah, quite useful.
 

Cat makes sure to change her razor every week or so to avoid developing folliculitis on her legs again.

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Cat makes sure to change her razor every week or so to avoid developing folliculitis on her legs again.

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So yeah so I've like on your legs had some sort of infections, sort of folliculitis, I think, yeah.

OK.

So sort of that sort of a couple of times, it was probably cos I wasn’t using a clean razor as well [laughs], but yeah so it's sort of things just like yeah having like, you know making sure you’ve got fresh sort of-, well a razor, or one that’s like, you know, change it every week or something, things like that is probably the worst I’ve sort of had.

And so when you developed folliculitis on your legs did you – what did you do about it; how did you respond?

I went to the GP and got some antibiotics so yeah, which all cleared it up in a couple of days so it's fine.
 

Cat finds it’s easier to cope with eczema in her social life nowadays than when she was at university.

Cat finds it’s easier to cope with eczema in her social life nowadays than when she was at university.

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At uni you spend a lot of time in the evenings going out and getting sort of hot and sweaty, and sort of nightclubs and things like that, which is not very sort of, like cos I think it was quite difficult in the first couple of years especially when that’s a lot of socialising happens in the first year, first year or two at university. Which it is quite difficult to sort of do that but you just, you wanna sort of make friends and things like that, so you just sort of have to grin and bear it and skip… instead [laughs]. No, that’s definitely not the thing to do [laughs]. 

[Laughs]

So yeah so, yeah I think yeah, it did impact a bit on that, but yeah by the time I'd sort of sorted it out I'd moved on with my social life, so you know, only go out once a week or something, so it was sort of easier to cope with and just sort of things like bars and pubs sort of, once you sort of move, a bit older, bit more mature, and that’s the sort of socialising you do. It's a bit easier to sort of cope with those sort of things so.
 

Cat sleeps better now she’s working than when she was at university.

Cat sleeps better now she’s working than when she was at university.

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I think sort of normally, just get into bed and like fall straight asleep, sort of like tire myself out. Like quite, I’ve got into quite a good routine now, obviously being at work helps cos you get more of a day routine. So, normally I get to bed and sort of straight sort of out, but I think when I was at uni, and you spend so long just like watching TV in bed and things like that, where yeah you sort of spend more time in bed just cos it's better than doing work. So I think yeah that was sort of difficult, and when it's like sort of time to go sleep and you're not really ready to go to sleep, and it's easier just to sit there and sort of itch and scratch, and things like that.

But yeah I think sort of since I started work it's just getting in a better routine. And sort of like, I don’t, I scratch during my sleep but I don’t know so, I just sort of yeah, as soon as my head hits the pillow, sort of out, it's quite nice.
 

Cat sleeps better now she’s working than when she was at university.

Cat sleeps better now she’s working than when she was at university.

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I think sort of normally, just get into bed and like fall straight asleep, sort of like tire myself out. Like quite, I’ve got into quite a good routine now, obviously being at work helps cos you get more of a day routine. So, normally I get to bed and sort of straight sort of out, but I think when I was at uni, and you spend so long just like watching TV in bed and things like that, where yeah you sort of spend more time in bed just cos it's better than doing work. So I think yeah that was sort of difficult, and when it's like sort of time to go sleep and you're not really ready to go to sleep, and it's easier just to sit there and sort of itch and scratch, and things like that.

But yeah I think sort of since I started work it's just getting in a better routine. And sort of like, I don’t, I scratch during my sleep but I don’t know so, I just sort of yeah, as soon as my head hits the pillow, sort of out, it's quite nice.
 

Cat doesn’t feel there is much pressure on appearance in her work environment.

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Cat doesn’t feel there is much pressure on appearance in her work environment.

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Being a quite male dominated environment as well it's not, you're not under that pressure, whereas in some other companies you might sort of be under pressure to either look good or something. It’s like, you brush your hair one day and they’ll be like, “Oh, you've dressed up,” I was like, "No, I've just brushed my hair actually." [laughs]. It's quite a nice environment and, yeah, everyone there’s really friendly and they're like if, you know, your health's suffering then, like work from home, or something like that which has got the flexibility to do that as well, which is quite nice; or come in late or leave early. So yeah I wouldn’t really say it sort of, it impacts my work. As I say when it gets a bit stressful at work it might sort of, obviously stress is a bit of a trigger. So, it's yeah, that, yeah, not at the moment it's not, but in the future if you sort of, as I get more responsibility it could end up sort of obviously being a bit more of a trigger or something, but just gotta learn to control. They sort of promote a good work life balance, so I think that’s quite a key sort of thing; sort of leave work and go home and you just completely forget about everything, so it's quite nice just to sort of like cut from one to the other.
 

Cat’s looked online for information about eczema treatments.

Cat’s looked online for information about eczema treatments.

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There's quite a lot of good information out there and it’s just sort of sort of picking through it and reading it and getting a bit more background and what, yeah, what it is – people's experiences as well, like sort of the point of this thing. So, yeah just sort of yeah, just Google whatever it is and see what comes up, and obviously there's stuff that doesn’t apply to you, but it is quite a good way to sort of find stuff out that you maybe wouldn’t, or you wouldn’t even think of to sort of ask someone, or something like that so.

Could you tell me any examples of those things that you’ve looked for, or things that have come up that you wouldn’t have thought to ask previously?

Yeah so when they put me on like these immunosuppressants, so you just sort of Google that and sort of like put side-effects in or something, and then you just get a whole list of stuff, and you just sort of read through it, see what someone else. So things like, you know, to look out for. Obviously see what like the sort of side-effects people have, or things like when to take tablets like well if people have any advice like sort of stuff like that. It probably won't work for you but it's good to sort of see what stuff's out there, or see how long people are sort of on stuff for and things like that so, it is yeah, quite useful.
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