Looking after yourself physically

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a long-term (chronic) skin condition that can cause unpleasant symptoms. This includes abscesses and scarring on the skin.

Looking after your physical wellbeing can help you to live more fully with HS. It is helpful to explore areas of your day-to-day life where you could try to make changes.

Eating well and exercising

Eating well and keeping active can help to reduce stress and physical tension. This can also help you keep to a healthy weight, which is particularly important for people with HS.

Try to eat a well-balanced diet and do regular exercise.

Think of an activity that is manageable for you and your current symptoms. Make sure it is an activity you enjoy. For example, you could try walking part or all of the way to work. If you have not been active for a while, you might need to take this slowly.

If you have a bad flare-up of symptoms, you might need to reduce your activity for a short time. You can then build up your activity again as your symptoms improve.

Self-care routine

There might be things you can do to ease the discomfort of HS and manage the symptoms. For example, you could:

  • put a hot flannel on the affected area
  • take any medicines as prescribed
  • use any recommended treatments, such as antibacterial washes
  • adjust your clothes

You could also avoid some things, like any lotions and skin creams that may make your HS worse.

Try to find which of these things work best for you.

Take advice from your healthcare professionals and learn from your own experience. Using this information, you can make your own plan to manage HS. This might help you to cope better with your condition.

Sleep and rest

Allow yourself enough time for sleep and rest, but try not to worry if you do not sleep well. It can help to have a regular bedtime and make time to relax before bed.

Avoid having alcoholic drinks at bedtime or relying on caffeine during the day. This only makes you feel worse in the long term.

Changing smoking habits

For some people with HS, stopping smoking can help with some aspects of their condition. Stopping smoking can be challenging and you might want to ask for support from your doctor.

Learning to relax

Relaxing can help the mind and body. You can try out different things until you find one that works for you.

Tips for relaxing

  • Listen to music or recordings of background sounds, like waves crashing or rain falling. You can download free apps on your smartphone, or CDs of white noise (a low humming sound) or other relaxing music are widely available.
  • Spend 5 minutes focusing your attention on the rhythm of your breath.
  • Use meditation practices, or prayer if you are religious, to relax.
  • Imagine being in a peaceful place, such as a beach or woodland. Notice what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell.
  • Gently tense and relax different muscle groups until your body feels relaxed. Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).
  • Stop rushing around during the day and leave plenty of time for your planned activities.

Resource number: 3945/VER3
Last reviewed: November 2021
Next review due: November 2024

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your clinical nurse specialist (CNS). You can find their details at the top of your clinic letter, your CNS contact card or medicines booklet.

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Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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