Asking for a Friend: Help! My classmates make mean jokes about my medical condition

  • One student asks how to handle people who tease them for their hives
  • If you have difficult, embarrassing or awkward questions to ask about teen life, send them in anonymously, and ‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to help you
Amalissa Hall |

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Have a question? We've got an answer for you! Friend of a friend is here to help you out.

Dear Friend of a Friend,

Thanks for the advice last time I wrote to you!

I suffer from chronic hives - often I am covered with itchy, red rashes. I’ve got used to them over the years, but something happened recently that caused me to hate my allergies much more than before.

I had a flare-up during an online lesson. My whole body was itching like crazy and I reached for my cream, only to find the container empty. I rummaged around my room to find another, and was off camera for a while.

When I returned to my laptop, my teacher asked me where I had been. This teacher is normally very strict about disappearing from the camera for more than five minutes and the usual penalty would be copying paragraphs from the textbook.

My best friend spilled all my secrets - how do I let her go?

However the teacher also teaches First Aid, so I explained my condition to her, and she was lenient because she understood the severity of it.

But my classmates weren’t so kind. They’re mad that I wasn’t punished, and keep calling me unkind names like “teacher’s itchy pet” in the class WhatsApp group. They sometimes make cruel jokes during other lessons, too.

This has made me very sad and nervous, and has actually worsened my rashes. I know that my rashes are sometimes affected by my mood, and this is one of those times.

I have come to dislike my rashes so much that I get frustrated every time I get them, forming an endless cycle. What can I do?

Itchy Scratcher Back Again

We get it - classmates can be a real headache sometimes.

Hi Itchy,

Sorry that you are in so much pain, both physically and mentally. This is not an easy thing to be dealing with, but remember that this skin condition is out of your control.

What you do have control over is your mindset. Yes, it is frustrating and uncomfortable, but at some point, you have to accept this is the way things are right now.

Whenever you get a flare-up, try not to get upset. When you get stressed, your brain produces cortisol, which increases inflammation in the body, and can worsen your rash. Instead, treat your skin, and then turn to meditation and deep breathing to calm your mind.

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There are many such breathing techniques you can find online. Focus on breathing every time you feel upset, and soon enough, it will become a natural response.

Don’t dwell on mean comments, because in the long run it will feed your negative feelings. Put that energy into building your confidence and skills. Be friendly, work hard and share the positivity.

Unfortunately people will always be unkind, no matter what. So as long as you’re being the best person you can be, your peers will have to face the fact that they are not being nice people.

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Change the narrative about how your condition is perceived - instead of being embarrassed about it, own it and be confident about it.

So, rather than disappearing for a few minutes to find cream and your teacher having to ask where you are, tell the class that you need something and say “Excuse me, can I please step away for a moment to get my medication? Thank you”. Being straightforward about it will give people less of a reason to pick on your insecurity.

If your peers are making fun of you, call them out on the group chat and ask them why they are making fun of an uncomfortable skin condition.

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Or, better still, come back at them with a joke about it. And the best would be to get the joke in before they start, something along the lines of “Could you behive more kindly today? I’m feeling a bit itchy.”

For things you can do long term, try tackling the root of the problem instead of the symptoms. Is this a dietary issue? Is it weather related? Keep a diary of all the times you get hives, and all the times your skin is fine, and try to spot patterns.

Hopefully this helps you, Friend of a Friend

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please send an email to yp@scmp. com with “Asking for a Friend” in the subject line. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

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