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Responding to Questions About My Psoriasis

Written by Katya Meltaus
Posted on November 24, 2021

I am fortunate enough to be an early childhood educator. One of the things I love about interacting with children is that you always know what they’re thinking and they keep it 100 percent real with you all the time. Naturally, they’ve had a lot of questions about my psoriasis.

When they notice it, my students will usually first ask, “What is that on your legs/arms?” I explain that it’s a problem with my skin called psoriasis but that I’m OK. Often, the children wonder if I can spread it to anyone else. In response to this, I reassure them that it is safe to be around me and that you can’t give psoriasis to other people.

Since they are coming from a place of care, my students will also ask, “Why don’t you just go to a doctor? They can give you some medicine for it!” This is where things get tricky to explain. I have to laugh a little because they have no idea how many doctors I see or how many treatments I’ve tried! I honor their suggestion, however, and thank them for their concern. I tell them that I do go to the doctor but that they’re not really sure why psoriasis happens or how to help me make it go away.

This is when the concern sets in on their faces — children are incredibly empathetic! “I’m sorry, teacher,” they sometimes say. Then they’ll ask the next most pressing question, having learned that it’s hard to make it go away: “Does it hurt?”

To this I say, “Yes, it can be quite itchy sometimes,” and I try to help them make a personal connection by imagining a time that they felt itchy. I reassure them by letting them know that I have learned some tricks to help me be more comfortable and let them know that hard-working scientists are studying all the time to try to figure out why psoriasis happens and how they can treat it more effectively. This is always a nice opportunity to pitch careers in STEM (that is, science, technology, engineering, and math) to the little ones!

Talking to kids about psoriasis has honestly helped me become more comfortable talking to adults about it. My experiences with kids tells me that if people care about you, they usually just want to know that you’re OK and how they can help.

Interestingly, adults have some of the same questions and concerns about contagiousness. The “Why haven’t you just gone to the doctor?” concern is also present amongst adults, which can sometimes lead to the judgment that a person with psoriasis simply isn’t taking care of themselves. This idea is hurtful and frustrating.

When explaining my condition to people — particularly potential partners on dates — they have also wondered about the cadence of psoriasis: “When does it come? When does it go away?” As someone who has only had this disease for a couple of years, I am still learning about my own particular case, and I have to tell them that I don’t know when it will come or when it will go, only that it will inevitably come back.

Potential partners also want to know how it affects my ability to enjoy intimacy with others. To this, I’ve been able to share the honest answer that when I feel safe, comfortable, and appreciated — psoriasis and all — that intimacy can still be pleasurable for me. We just need to make sure I apply my topicals … after.

MyPsoriasisTeam columnists discuss psoriasis from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyPsoriasisTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyPsoriasisTeam content isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Posted on November 24, 2021
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Katya Meltaus is an early childhood educator living in the Bay Area. She has been managing severe psoriasis for the past two years. Learn more about her here.

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