As well as extra practical considerations around symptoms, triggers and treatments are the emotional aspects of having eczema on school/university, such as:
- feeling self-conscious, teasing and/or being bullied (see also ‘emotions‘ and friendships)
- the need for extra support – including for exams, on school trips and during classes
Emotional impacts at school
Lots of people said they had felt self-conscious at school, sixth form/college and/or university (see also ‘emotions‘). Some thought that teenagers are especially worried about looks and appearance. It can be difficult to spend lots of time around other people, and eczema was sometimes seen as an added practical and emotional stress. Anissa had wanted to use make-up to disguise eczema and Ele remembers putting foundation on her hands for a while. Hazel found it hard coming back to school after having chickenpox which had combined with her eczema. Georgia felt embarrassed about eczema above her lip, which she had thought was a cold sore at first, and remembers begging her mum to let her stay home. Sometimes people didn’t want to go to school because their eczema was painful or made them feel insecure, as was the case for Shams and Anissa when they were younger.
Although some young people were reluctant to use the word ‘bullying’, many had experienced times in primary and secondary school when other pupils were rude and unkind about their eczema. Anissa and Katie-Lauren had experience of others trying to start fights with them by making nasty comments about their eczema. Aadam had been teased about having ‘old man’s hands’. Many thought that hurtful comments were usually out of ignorance, such as thinking that eczema is something they could ‘catch’.
School, sixth form/college and university are also places where friendships can grow. Molly’s friends at secondary school all knew she had eczema and were supportive. Abid found there was more choice at college than school: what clothes he wore, what he studied, who his friends were.
There were mixed experiences of teachers (including PE teachers). Evie said some of her secondary school teachers were better than others. Vicky felt that her primary school teachers didn’t know much about eczema. Georgia’s PE teachers in primary school would excuse her from classes but she found the secondary school teachers ‘less sympathetic’.
Some young people had been given, or asked for, extra support for their studies because of the difficulties they experienced. Katie-Lauren had extenuating circumstances at college in case of missing an exam because of eczema. Himesh gets extra time in exams for cream breaks. Evie used a separate room for changing before and after PE classes. Himesh’s and Vicky’s teachers would give them work to do during hospital stays. Shams sits his exams in a separate room. Lizzie contacted her university accommodation to ask about getting a water filter installed. She was offered an ensuite room but declined as she thinks others with health conditions would benefit more from this.
Sometimes support wasn’t available or as good as it could have been. Ele didn’t have any extra time to use moisturisers in exams and found that it streaked her papers. Aadam had time off for appointments, including whilst having immunotherapy, but his school didn’t give him any help catching up. He’s since moved schools and has found his current one more supportive and encouraging of his extracurricular achievements too (such as producing an illustrated book for young children with eczema).
Moving out and/or going to university was seen as a big change and some worried about support (from families but also medically). This includes concerns about getting medical help and prescription costs/finances. Some chose to stick with the GP they had seen before university and travel home for appointments. Others signed up for a new GP and some found their university-based medical centres were well-experienced in helping young people.