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Br J Dermatol. 2019 Apr 25. doi: 10.1111/bjd.18046. [Epub ahead of print]

"It's like the bad guy in a movie who just doesn't die": A qualitative exploration of young people's adaptation to eczema and implications for self-care.

Author information

Primary Care and Population Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, U.K.
Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, U.K.
Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG, U.K.
Faculty of Epidemiology & Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Health Data Research UK, London.



Eczema is a common childhood inflammatory skin condition, affecting more than 1 in 5 children. A popular perception is children 'outgrow eczema', although epidemiological studies have shown that, for many, eczema follows a life-long episodic course. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions of young people about the nature of their eczema and how these perceptions relate to their self-care and adapting to living with eczema.


Secondary inductive thematic analysis of interviews conducted for A total of 23 interviews with young people with eczema were included. Participants consisted of 17 women and 6 men, ranging from 17 to 25 years old.


Participants generally experienced eczema as an episodic long-term condition and reported a mismatch between information received about eczema and their experiences. The experience of eczema as long-term and episodic had implications for self-care, challenging the process of identifying triggers of eczema flare-ups and evaluating the success of treatment regimes. Participants' experiences of eczema over time also had implications for adaptation and finding a balance between accepting eczema as long-term and hoping it would go away. This linked to a gradual shift in treatment expectations from 'cure' to 'control' of eczema.


For young people who continue to experience eczema beyond childhood, a greater focus on self-care for a long-term condition may be helpful. Greater awareness of the impact of early messages around 'growing out of' eczema and provision of high quality information may help manage expectations and support adaptation to treatment regimes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


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