Dermatitis, eczema, well specifically Atopic Dermatitis is something that I have dealt with since I was young. The cause is unknown, but I distinctly remember when I was 19 working in a pizza shop, folding pizza boxes, I cut myself (paper cut style) on a box on one of my fingers. The cut took a long time to heal, and formed into this itchy blistery thing, which eventually spread over both my hands. 30 years later it is still an ongoing irritant.
For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it is red itchiness, blisters under the skin that flare up from time to time, so itchy that sometime in madness you with scratch it until it bleeds, just looking for a bit of relief. If you don't do something about it you will have red raw peeling skin for weeks or always.
Sounds nasty, but with hydrocortisone (a prescription cream) I can keep it under control. I've learnt to "detect" when it is about to start (it's a very minor itchiness on spots on my fingers/hands) so I will hit it with a small quantity of cream just before I go to sleep for 2-3 nights in a row, and that stops it from really erupting. I use moisturiser whenever I remember, that helps, I keep several tubes of moisturiser around the house and at work. I try not to stick my hands in chemicals (covid-19 and all that hand sanitiser has been a disaster for dermatitis sufferers) and I notice that stress can bring it on.
To all my brothers and sisters out there in the same boat - I empathise with you.
So a few weeks ago I had an "outbreak" of dermatitis on the tip of my left index finger. Which is super-inconvenient because that's an important guitar playing skin surface. What was worse about this outbreak is that it was also under my nail. It is pretty easy to shutdown an outbreak on your hands, slightly more difficult on your fingertip, but the hardest when it gets under your nail. I got onto it straight away, twice a day I was hitting it with cream. But in the meantime - I was playing rhythm guitar with the school band's Christmas Carol night! And if you are going to strum chords with a concert band full of brass, you need to do it with a steel string!
It was the perfect storm. My supple nylon string fingertip were getting a hard workout on my steel string guitar, the dermatitis was heading under my nail, and cuts were opening up. The actual event turned out great - the nice thing about Christmas carols is it's about community and participation, the music is secondary. So even though I thought my playing was sub par (I had worked out the chords for 13 songs, transposed the yucky Bb and Eb keys that brass and woodwind seem to love by putting a capo at 1, but I only had a few sessions with them to figure out what they were doing for intros, outros, number of verses/choruses...I could write a full post about it) suffice to say the event turned out nice.
I took some paracetamol before the event and grit my teeth. By song 3 my fingertip was bleeding. I was fretting slightly differently to direct the contact surface away, but there wasn't much I could do. Smile and take it. Funny thing about that sort of pain is the longer you push through the less you notice it.