The coronavirus lockdown is giving people with hyperhidrosis unexpected freedom

For many, the need to self-isolate as part of tackling the spread of coronavirus can feel extremely testing.

Unable to see family, limiting your physical interactions and having to re-cast your bedroom as a makeshift office space are just some of the adjustments people are having to make to their lives.

But for the not inconsiderable number of hyperhidrosis sufferers, who live with a condition that causes excessive sweating, the restrictions in place for containing Covid-19 offer them a greater sense of freedom than ever before.

Andrea, a 35-year-old engineer living in Cincinnati, Ohio, has dealt with hyperhidrosis for as long as she can remember.

The condition mainly affects her hands, leaving them perpetually slick with sweat. As a result, she avoids shaking hands as much as she can.

‘I recently moved to a different job in the same company where everyone is very new, so there’s been a lot of handshakes,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

When someone offers Andrea their palm, she’ll normally concoct an excuse about having a cold and not wanting to pass it on.

‘Or, sometimes, I just say in my head let’s do it and look at their face to see how they react to how wet my hand is,’ she says.

For Andrea, being forced to work from home to stem the Covid-19 outbreak means she no longer experiences the draining daily anxiety about her condition.

‘The current situation is terrible, but it’s quite nice to not have the pressure of shaking someone’s hand,’ she says.

‘I think that after this pandemic, things will get even better for people with hyperhidrosis because people will be more concerned about colds and viruses, and wary about touching each other.’

Like Andrea, Abbie, 24, from Bexhill in south east England, has suffered from hyperhidrosis for most of her life. She says that she’s constantly worrying about how her excessive sweating impacts those around her.  

‘At work, I always think about silly things, like the fact that we share the same landline phone and if I put it back down it will have a wet mark on it,’ she says. ‘I just worry about how horrible it must be for someone else to go and pick it up after me.’

Abbie, who is a graphic designer, has been working from home for three weeks now. Although she misses her ‘brilliant’ colleagues and the office chitchat, she feels relieved to not be commuting, nor feel the need to hide her heavy sweating underneath baggy jumpers. 

Hyperhidrosis is said to affect at least 1% of the population, but there is a distinct lack of awareness of the condition.

There is currently no cure, but some sufferers treat their excessive sweating with Botox jabs or the use of iontophoresis machines like Dermadry, which passes a low voltage electrical current through the skin of the hands or feet.

Despite the public’s unfamiliarity with the condition, hyperhidrosis has a substantial impact on those who suffer from it.

‘It’s affected my dating life, my career and my confidence levels,’ says 27-year-old Bethany, from the West Midlands in England, who began sweating excessively when she hit puberty. ‘It’s stopped me doing a lot of things in life that I will never get the chance to do again.’

Bethany says life has improved since the government enforced self-isolation and social distancing.

‘It’s great that I don’t have to go to business meetings or interact with people day-to-day, and that I can just use the phone to communicate and don’t have to touch anyone,’ she says.

‘It’s made me a lot more confident; I can wear what I want to be comfortable and I can control the temperature of my house, so it’s just been wonderful.

‘I feel sorry for anyone who has lost family members or friends, works in the NHS or is a key worker having to come into contact with the virus.

‘But a part of me, the hyperhidrosis part, is going to be a little sad when this process is over and normal life resumes.’

There has been much speculation in the news about how society might change once the pandemic has been brought under control. Many hope that this enforced period of working from home will demonstrate to stubborn employers that flexible working is possible and, in some ways, beneficial.

‘I think Covid-19 marks the start of a major cultural shift,’ Leejohn Chambers, an environmental psychologist based in Preston, tells us. ‘The technology to work from home is there, but it’s often not utilised due to backwards ideas about the home worker just sat on the couch with a remote and some crisps when they should be working.

‘This period will open up a lot of companies’ eyes to the fact that they don’t need this massive office with everyone always there. I think companies will find employees telling them that home working works well for them and asking for more flexible setups going forward.’

Workplaces perhaps becoming more open to non-traditional work setups is one positive thing we can take forward with us once these strange times are over.

In turn, this could mean that the everyday anxieties of people with life-alerting disorders like hyperhidrosis could be reduced – although greater awareness and understanding of the condition would also be beneficial.

Unprecedented is a word that has come to define the darker aspects of this period we’re living through.

Equally, Covid-19 has presented some people with the first opportunity to feel normal in many years.

‘Now with the lockdown, I feel like I have the anxieties of people who don’t have the condition,’ says Abbie.

‘I’m worried about whether I’ll still have a job at the end of this and whether I’m still able to buy food from the supermarket.

‘But my anxieties are more like those of the average person. It’s been nice to not worry about whether I’ve left a mark somewhere or if I’m sweating through my top.’

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