It's hard to be a teenager. Many kids are insecure--they think that others think they're not tough enough, or not cool enough, or whatever-- so they bully and torment kids who don't fit in. And it's easy to single out the boy with the funny rash.
Of course there could be more to this story. The boy may have been suffering from clinical depression, which is distinct from general teenage angst. But who among us adults doesn't still keenly recall every casual remark that wounded us during those years?
I'm lucky. Although I definitely had eczema all the way through high school, nobody made a habit of jeering at me for it. (Instead, they jeered at my accent, haircut, trouser cuffs, and Bryan Adams cassettes, among other things.)
We should tell kids with eczema that life does get better. Your eczema may not improve, if you're one of the unlucky 2% or so. But past high school, you're not trapped in the zoo any more; the cliques aren't as intense, because people have little to gain by making you feel bad. The more life experience people have, the less they care about how your skin looks. And if you can feel confident in yourself, it shows on the outside.
* * *An important conference opened yesterday in Phoenix: the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. There's a particularly interesting session on Saturday from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. It's titled "The Great Atopic Dermatitis Raft Debate: The Greatest Role in the Pathophysiology of AD." (I don't know what "raft" means here.) It's basically a four-way mano-a-mano between presenting scientists, each of whom is claiming that the cells THEY study play the most important role in eczema. Our good friend Donald Leung (head of the Atopic Dermatitis Research Network) is in the T cell corner. He evidently wrote the abstract, because it says "Upon completion of this session, participants should be able to... describe the scientific evidence that supports T cells as playing the key role in causing AD."
Which is amusing, because the more I read about eczema, even in articles written by Leung, the more it emerges that eczema arises from a barrier defect in the outermost layer of the skin-- a defect in keratinocytes. (He does nod in their direction, saying keratinocytes have a "critical" role, but not the KEY role.
I've snoozed through many an academic conference presentation, but I'd sure like to be at that session! It'd be like Iron Chef, only immunology.