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Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy (pictured above) was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis (AD) at an early age. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
  • Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy and professional surfer Coco Ho talk about living with atopic dermatitis (AD).
  • AD affects more than 9.6 million children and approximately 16.5 million adults in the United States.
  • Although the exact cause of AD is not known, scientists have detected a genetic component and a link to immune system dysregulation.

Swimmers spend a lot of their time out in the open and for Olympian Ryan Murphy, exposed skin means his atopic dermatitis (AD) shows up often.

Murphy was diagnosed with AD as a child. As the most common type of eczema, the condition affected more than 9.6 million children and approximately 16.5 million adults in the United States, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA).

“It’s kind of a unique sport to have eczema. I play a sport where I walk around in a Speedo so people see a lot of my skin and [I’m] learn to be comfortable answering questions like what’s on your skin? Is it contagious?” Murphy told Healthline.

FYI, it’s not contagious.

The disease causes flare-ups of rashes and dry skin, which can become infected and burn under water. Murphy often experiences flare-ups all over his body, including his feet, legs, knees, armpits, and neck.

Sun, stress, sweat, sand and salt water can trigger skin damage, making it harder to swim.

professional surfer Coco Ho knows Murphy’s fight all too well. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in her 20s after experiencing itching and burning behind her ear.

“At first I just thought it was a rash, maybe a stress rash that would go away and I ignored it for a while… it would get worse and worse and I would surf and jump in the water. salt water and it would burn, so I realized it was something much more serious than a stress rash,” she told Healthline.

The two water lovers have found treatment and ways to cope with AD so they can continue their time in the water.

To stay mentally strong and focused while swimming despite his AD, Murphy sticks to a well-thought-out plan. Her plan includes preventative measures such as moisturizing her skin, using towels made of a soft, non-irritating material, showering after being in salt water or chlorine, and sitting on a towel or blanket at the beach to avoid contact with the sand.

“[When] I have a plan, I feel really comfortable and it takes some of the stress away,” he said.

Prior to competition, Ho focuses on reducing stress by surrounding himself with calm demeanor people, including his closest friends and his coach.

“[I also] stay well hydrated [which] helps calm my whole system down pretty quickly and just trying to enjoy everything and not think about the itch,” she said.

Right before she enters the ocean, her AD can flare up, especially when surfing in warm areas like Hawaii.

“I jump in the water and have a burning sensation for a while, then I hit a wave and forget about it for a bit. [It’s about] learn how to make sure I treat it before it happens and keep my system as cool and calm as possible,” Ho said.

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“It’s kind of a unique sport to have eczema. I play a sport where I walk around in a Speedo so people see a lot of my skin and [I’m] learn to be comfortable answering questions like what’s on your skin? Is it contagious?” Murphy (pictured above) told Healthline. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

To raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, Murphy and Ho teamed up with Dupixent for The Now Me: beach mode country. By sharing their personal journeys with Alzheimer’s disease, they hope to erase the stigma surrounding skin conditions, build confidence in others to be comfortable in their own skin, and inspire people with skin conditions to seek care. doctor.

“Patients come in and say, ‘I’ve never worn short sleeves’ or ‘I’ve always worn long sleeves to cover my body'” Dr. Annabelle Garciaa San Antonio dermatologist, told Healthline.

She treats patients with Alzheimer’s disease who have deep scratches on the skin caused by intense itching as well as patients who have difficulty sleeping due to discomfort.

“It’s important to know that there are treatments and most of the time we can control eczema,” Garcia said.

Dr. Adnan Mir, a member of the Pediatric Dermatology Societyadded that AD can also affect mental health.

“Chronic itching, loss of sleep and the onset of eczema can lead to anxiety for children and parents, poor school performance and low self-esteem,” he told Healthline. These are issues that should not be ignored, and your doctor and the community can provide invaluable support.

A healthcare professional can also help explain misunderstandings about AD. For example, Mir pointed out that although some types of eczema are caused by contact allergies, AD is intrinsic to the skin.

“Your skin acts as a barrier that keeps what’s supposed to be inside (water) in and what’s out (potential allergens and irritants). When this barrier is not working properly, the skin dries out from water loss and irritants can come into contact with the deeper layers of the skin, causing inflammation,” he explained. “So chances are your child isn’t really allergic to anything that causes eczema – it’s just the nature of their skin.”

He recommended restoring the skin barrier with moisturizing creams and ointments and avoiding harsh soaps, scented products and hot baths.

Garcia reassured that AD is not related to hygiene. Although scientists don’t know the exact cause, they have detected a genetic component and a link to immune system dysregulation.

“But it’s nothing the patient did wrong; it is nothing that you cause. It’s just skin sensitivity and studies have shown that there are different barrier issues on patients’ skin,” Garcia said.

Treatment for AD can include management of triggers, medicated ointments, creams, lotions, biologics, phototherapy, as well as complementary and alternative options, according to the NEA.

Learning about the disease and treatment options is what Ho hopes for anyone living with Alzheimer’s disease. It also aims to make them feel less alone.

“It’s a little complexity but in your body it’s the biggest thing there is… when I’m in my office, which is salt water, and it’s burning and I’m trying to focus and compete at the highest level, if I knew 10 years ago that a lot of other people or other athletes were dealing with this, I sympathize or feel better about myself,” Ho said.

Murphy agreed. By speaking out, he hopes to help others embrace their AD.

“It’s a unique experience that I feel like I had growing up. Very young, I learned to be comfortable with [AD] and it’s really cool to be part of this campaign and hopefully help everyone feel comfortable,” he said.