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Mutiple Chemical Sensitivity

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Intro post [Feb. 21st, 2009|10:04 pm]
Mutiple Chemical Sensitivity


[mood |frustratedfrustrated]
[music |Jason Mraz --- I'm Yours]

I have never been diagnosed with skin allergies/sensitivities, but I know for sure what I have. My grandma, mother, and two cousins have all been dx'ed as allergic to: artificial fragrance of any sort, methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde. I have the exact same symptoms, from the same products, just not the fancy-schmancy insurance that will cover expensive allergy testing.

Why, oh why, is it so hard to find products that I am not allergic to? Currently, I do not wear makeup at all. I use mens' unscented (really actually unscented) shaving gel, expensive hippie-store shampoo, homemade (by a friend) conditioner, and plain lye/lard soap. I only wish this was enough, though! I'll go maybe a week and a half without a breakout, then I'm itching again. And it doesn't just stop at a bit of itchiness...it's a bumpy red rash that gets itchier as you scratch it. I can keep myself from scratching it open while I'm awake, but how do you stop your hands from doing their job while you sleep? I've tried petroleum jelly (to stop air from tickling the rash), I've tried bandages over it (to keep me from being able to scratch), I've even tried cutting my fingernails all the way down to the quick (OW. OW OW OW. NEVER AGAIN.), and I still end up with weeks of scabby arms and thighs and hips, and with blood spots on my clothing, and scars on the insides of my elbows, and with customers at work looking at me like i'm some kind of pox-ridden leper.

I hate my body for doing this to me, but at the same time, I know it's not my body's fault, after all my relatives have it too. I just wish there was something more than steroidal anti-itch cream that I could effectively use (not that the desoximetasone is particularly effective...it stops the itch as long as I haven't already scratched it within the past two hours. eyeroll.), so that I could stop itching all the time!

I'm also having a hell of a time getting my mother-in-law to quit using scented crap when I'm at her house. She seriously thinks that if the scent isn't strong, it's okay. Or, if it doesn't smell perfumey, it's okay (febreze, etc.). Or, my favorite, as long as she blows out the candle as I'm walking in the door...you get the picture.

I wonder if there are allergy shot type treatments for this? I don't even really know how allergy shots work. Do you get them a bunch and then wean off of them and not have allergies anymore, or do you have to keep getting them on a regular schedule to keep the allergies at bay? If the latter is true, are they more effective than otc allergy meds, at least?

Sigh. I just want to rip my arms off. I'll take pics of them next time they're flared up, for fun. How's that for something to look forward to?

[User Picture]From: lauria
2009-02-22 05:43 am (UTC)
If your relatives actually tested allergic and not just sensitive (which is what I test as. It has to do with exactly how your body responds, not with how severe your symptoms are!), then I would think that there is something you could take. Does sudefed help at all? My sensitivity is respiratory mostly, so I don't have to deal with scratching myself to death. Could you have excema on top of the allergy and that contributing to the breakout? Obviously it would be best if you could go to a soctor and talk these things over, but insurance is always a pain.

I use Free & Clear Shampoo with no conditioner since my hair is short and a bit oily.

Magick Botanicals has a whole line of products.

DHS might be another brand you could try.

I wear Physicians Formula for makeup when I bother. I linked you to the mineral wear because that would probably be for the most sensitive.

I HATE HATE HATE it when it's assumed that just because they can't smell it or notice a scent that it means that I can't either! Um hello, it's not the "smell" of it, it's the CHEMICALS that make it up and that hang in the air for hours and hours and hours (which is what they're designed to do, the tricky little buggers!)

For REALLY cracked/dry skin, I completely reccommend
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. Wow that stuff is AMAZING. And goopy and sticky, but once done, YAY! (It's the third one down)

Good luck on finding a solution. I hope someone has more experience with skin reactions and can point you in the right direction in terms of potential medications.

(Sorry for any spelling errors. I'm absolutely exhausted and feel like words don't make any sense at all!)
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[User Picture]From: hellgamatic
2009-02-22 06:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the links! Cetaphil, unfortunately, makes us break out too. Grandma's doc hasn't yet figured out what the heck is in that stuff that we react to, but we all do... As far as medicines go, I take claritin and sudafed every single day and it doesn't seem to help (I have to take it for sinus allergies anyway). I'm considering switching to Zyrtec or whichever is the other formerly-scrip-now-otc allergy pill, just to see if it helps more.

Apparently what we have is "allergic contact dermatitis" which is the same thing that happens when you get poison ivy or sumac or oak rashes. Lovely, eh? The only thing that is missing is the weeping of the sores, since that is specific to those plants.

That shampoo is exactly the stuff my grandma uses. Where do you buy yours? I can't remember where she gets hers, so I haven't gotten any yet :-( The stuff I use is Earth Science Fragrance-Free Shampoo. It has an essential oil and a flower extract, but I haven't had any problems with it so far.

That mineral wear stuff looks great. I don't really like wearing most makeup, even aside from the allergies, but I love wearing powder, lol. Now I just have to decide between pressed and loose powder!

Thanks for your help!
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[User Picture]From: ravan
2009-02-22 09:25 am (UTC)
I use fragrance free laundry soap, hair care, I make my own bar soap, and I take loratadine (generic claritin) every day so I can breath at work. I have to pre-wash any new clothes I get. I seldom wear make-up, and then only the super clear stuff. If I'm careful I can wear some essential oils.

You might want to try the Aveeno lotions and anti-itch stuff. Check for the versions without fragrance.

I hate the people who think that if they can't smell it, or if it's just a little, that it's not there or won't affect you.

I'm allergic to aldehydes and ketones, apparently. I used to be an environmental chemist. My co-workers didn't believe me, no one was allergic to that. Then one day we went up on a roof with a manlift to check some test equipment, with me along to help. Less than a minute, and I was doubled over coughing and choking so bad I couldn't breathe. Scared the living shit out of the guy I was with. When we got back onto the ground, and I could breathe again, I asked what we were testing for, since it was pretty obvious I was reacting to it. IIRC, it was acetaldehye and methyl ethyl ketone, among other things, from a paint operation. When we got back, word got around, and the fragrance level dropped like a rock in that office.
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[User Picture]From: hellgamatic
2009-02-22 06:28 pm (UTC)
Part of me thinks "Oh, wow, I'm so glad mine aren't respiratory!" and then the rest of me thinks "Oh, damn, I'd so much rather be able to stop it by not breathing in..." Sigh. They're both equally shitty, aren't they? Want to move to a deserted island with me, where we can be freeeeee of this crap? :-D

Seriously, though, this crap makes me want to start a "manmade-chemical-free" and "crap-that-makes-me-sneeze-free" commune some day.
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[User Picture]From: riverrocks
2009-02-22 04:52 pm (UTC)
I find myself shifting into detective mode. I have to solve this kind of puzzle for myself all the time.

Have you changed your laundry products? Some of the commercial detergents and most of the fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain formaldehyde. I do pretty well with the Seventh Generation Free & Clear, but there have been times when (for both financial and health reasons) I made do with distilled white vinegar and baking soda.

Also, if formaldehyde is an issue, any new clothes could be part of the problem as well. Most commercially produced clothing (and/or fabric available in fabric stores) is processed with formaldehyde and other chemicals (they call it "sizing"). I can't tolerate wearing any new clothes that haven't been soaked in baking soda (dissolved in water) for a few days and then washed several times with safe soap and distilled white vinegar.

Formaldehyde is also used as a preservative in acrylic paints and watercolors (can you tell I used to be a painter and fabric artist?).

I have a reaction similar to the one you describe, but to chlorine. It took me ages to figure this out. I was taking lots of showers to get the perfume stink off of me from being out in the world but the rashes just kept getting worse. Then I got a shower filter that pulls out (most of ) the chlorine from the city water and things got a lot better. No idea if this is part of your problem, but the process I used (what is touching all the places that are breaking out? what am I eating or coming in contact with? that kind of detecting) might help figure out the root of the problem.

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[User Picture]From: hellgamatic
2009-02-22 06:36 pm (UTC)
For laundry, right now, I use All Small & Mighty Free Clear detergent, no dryer sheets, and vinegar as fabric softener. I'm gonna switch to this when we run out, since it specifically states that it is formaldehyde free, along with unscented.

I do wash my new clothes twice before I can wear them, but even just trying them on at stores breaks me out. Do you have any tips on getting past that? I usually just slather my "allergy spots" (the places that always always break out) with mom's prescription allergy cream stuff, let it soak in, then try on the stuff.

Yeah, the paint thing sucks balls. Do you by any chance know of any paints at all that are formaldehyde free? I wanted to paint some furniture this summer and am so bummed that I can't. Hubby is seriously considering finding me a hazmat suit to wear while painting, lol.

I don't think chlorine is problematic for me. I swim alot in the summer and it doesn't make it worse or anything...my legs do get itchy in the pool, but it's cause I don't shave as often as I could and the water tickles them!

I really think that the breakouts I'm getting now are almost entirely caused by customers at work. I have been searching high and low for a job that will take me away from perfumes, but for now I'm stuck working retail at a video rental store, and alas, people around here seem to bathe in scent. At least it's not as bad as my last job, which seems to be what triggered the allergies to start. It was in the chemical section at Walmart! Stocking air fresheners and laundry detergents and all that jazz. They wouldn't transfer me to another dept either, since I didn't have a doctor's note. Jerks.
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[User Picture]From: donkey_hokey
2009-02-25 11:15 pm (UTC)
Avoiding paint with VOCs is the trick.

This page may be helpful for resources and info: http://www.eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_paints.htm

Welcome to the group.

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[User Picture]From: friedenliebe
2009-02-23 03:03 am (UTC)
Welcome to the group.

Allergy shots are low doses of the allergen, and build increasingly until you can tolerate a dose higher than the environment offers. You do not have to keep taking them. MCS has been theorized to be caused by an enzyme deficiency, and thus can't be treated with shots. Avoidance is more important that tolerance.

Getting others to understand and accommodate your needs is by far the hardest part for me as well. Good luck with the mother in law!
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