Coping With The Anger From Developing Allergies and Eczema

Being positive is something I really had to work on after I developed my long list of allergens and two different types of eczema. It wasn't easy at first. There were days where I'd come home worn out, angry, bitter and just straight up aggravated about all the obstacles I was faced with that day. 

I actually had to condition myself to think before I touched everything. And I mean everything. I react to different types of surfaces:

  • synthetic fabric
  • metal (nickel)
  • plastic

...and I react to food, body products... the list goes on. I read the labels on every single thing I come into contact with. I'm just going to keep it real - it can be exhausting and absolutely demoralizing. I've learned to not get excited about anything until I find out what it's made of or what the circumstances are. From vacations to something as simple as buying a shirt... I have to investigate thoroughly. No longer can I parooze through the stores, picking up the items that I immediately fall in love with. For example, when I go shopping for clothing, I have to read the label on everything and most items aren't 100% cotton (which is what I go for). I used to LOVE shopping. 

From the minor things to the more serious issues, it just never ends. I have to be really careful in general... I can't use all of the medical products most people use. A good portion of my allergies are to antibiotics and other chemicals that are found in medications. This became a problem when I was being diagnosed with these issues because before we knew that allergic reactions were what I was having, I was being prescribed medication I was allergic to. It puzzled the doctors that I would get better for a day or two and then slide further downhill than I had before. 

My allergies have changed my life so much that my poor boyfriend is terrified of me going through with any major medical procedure (ie - having kids) and dying from an allergic reaction during the process. A lot of doctors don't know enough about the actual ingredients in what they're prescribing. I've had a number of readers send me their horror stories of things that have happened to them in the hospital.

While all of this is very real and very scary, I've also talked to people who have gone through medical procedures just fine and have similar allergies to me. This gives me hope...

But when I really think about it... part of me is still mad. I'm mad that my body can't defend itself. I'm mad that this had added a level of stress to my life and I'm mad that I no longer feel like a super strong and healthy human being. Don't get me wrong - I love working out and getting in shape and that does feel awesome... but I know there are certain battles that are tougher on my body when my allergies and eczema become a factor. I've had a staph infection before because of my skin breaking out and that type of infection can kill you. It's nothing to play around with. On another occasion, my doctor had my file short term disability at my job so I could stay home for a day or two. My skin was in such bad shape he didn't want me leaving my house. In that moment... I was wondering how this would all end up. Deep down, I was scared. 

So, how do I deal with all of this? How do I cope?

  • I surrender to my auto immune issues and make all of the proper accommodations so that I'm as healthy as I can be.
  • I accept the fact that this is my life now.
  • I trust that I'll be just fine as long as I keep educating myself on my allergens and stay diligent in making sure I know what's in EVERYTHING I come into contact with (hidden ingredients make that a tough battle, but I continue on).
  • I have faith that staying positive will help my mental state enough to be able to more easily deal with the 10,000 obstacles I come across in my daily life.

I keep on fighting. I refuse to give up. I will not let allergies and eczema destroy my opportunity at a happy and full life. You shouldn't either!

ALLERGY/ECZEMA STORIES: My whole world changed yesterday!

allergy
First off I’m very relieved to find you and your blog and feel like it’s a life saver at this moment. I have a long road ahead of me. For the past year I have been on a roller coaster of Dr’s and test to find I also have chronic eczema, as well as an allergy to propylene glycol. Here is the catch. I am a established cosmetologist and have been for 10 years. My entire world was turned upside down as you know propylene glycol is in EVERYTHING that I do on a daily basis. You also seem to have “all of a sudden” developed your allergens. I feel helpless and I have no idea how to approach this and get well. My entire body is broke out in eczema patches just like you photographed. My hands being the worst of course since I’m drenching them in PG. My Dr was treating me for psoriasis. The medicine, being a ointment or cream was based of course with PG. Adding fuel to a fire as he says. So as you can tell Im at my worst outbreak at this point. I wasnt physically or mentally prepared for what came to me yesterday.

And I'm so glad you found me and all of the other readers! Sigh. I remember being at my worst point (sounds like yours) and it's life changing. Your day to day life is altered in SO many ways when you're allergic to propylene glycol. It's in everything from makeup to food to e-cigarettes and more. it's EVERYWHERE. What worked for me was avoiding my allergens, educating myself about them and continue down the road of getting allergy tests. I did the patch tests and the prick tests and then I also did some blood tests and looked for lactose intolerance and celiac disease. (I was negative on the latter.) Along with all of this is just giving it time. My day to day life changed completely. My experiences have changed. I got rid of my whole wardrobe (bc of the synthetics), my hair products, my glasses, jewelry, furniture - everything. But here's the thing - you start to get used to it. Every now and then I get a little bitter, but I push past it. And you will too. You'll get your new routines down over time and things will fall into place. Do your research and be your own advocate! You must speak up even though it can be hard to bring attention to yourself. For example, at work I have to have my cubicle modified so I don't have allergic reactions. It draws attention to me and maybe not the type of attention I'd like at work (as explaining skin issues can get intimate real fast), but I try to look at the upside: it gives me an opportunity to have a "real" conversation with my co-workers and get to know them a little better too. We just have to look for the silver linings ;-)

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FASHION FRIDAY: Cotton Pants

It's that time of year... time to pull your coats out of the closet, dust off your boots and enjoy the fresh brisk air we call autumn :-) It's time for baked banana breads, cozy socks and wrapping a big fluffy blanket around yourself. I love fall!

For the summer, I love love love dresses. Since I'm restricted to cotton, searching for items can be a challenge. Dresses are an easy find when it comes to cotton... casual dresses anyways. Not only that, but dresses are convenient as they're an instant outfit and they're comfortable at the same time.

However, as the weather gets cooler it's time to leave those dresses in my closet and focus on pants!

Here are the top picks from my latest search (click the image to view product page):


ASK THE ALLERGISTA: Nickel Allergy

Q:

Are there any nickel free razors out there? How do I shave my legs without getting a rash?

A:

SIGH. I wish I had a perfect solution to this. I haven't used a "normal" razor in...well, it's been years at this point....wow, just realized that! This is actually why I'm petitioning companies to make a nickel-free razor. I've been told that without nickel, the razors wouldn't hold up. I find that hard to believe, though. I'm not saying I was lied to, but I think there must be some way to make metal sharp/durable enough without using nickel. If this hypothetical razor has to be replaced more often, I'd be ok with that even though it's not ideal. At least I'd have the option to do a smooth shave!

Here are some other options (I've tried most):

  • Using a nickel-free electric razor. Panasonic makes some, which I use. Here's a link to that blog post.
  • Getting waxed. The downside to this is that it's expensive, painful, and you have to let the hair grow out in between waxings.
  • Using an epilator. This looks like an electric razor, but instead of blades, it has these weird looking metal wheel-looking things. Essentially what the wheel things do is grab onto your hairs and pulls them out. It's like reeeeeeally slow waxing and it's also painful. Eventually you go kinda numb, but I wasn't a fan. I had to put on a movie to watch to bide my time and give myself something to focus on while I slowly ripped out each hair. It works, but after that experience, I felt like waxing would be a better option since it's faster and therefore less painful.
  • Laser hair removal. Sigh. I've been told not to do this by my dermatologist as my skin is overly sensitive. I'm really getting to the point, though, where when I think about laser hair removal, I want to get a test patch done. This whole hair removal thing is such a pain in my butt that it would be nice to not even have to think about it. I do have a friend who had it done on her legs and she couldn't recommend it more. Do some research on your local medspas before you settle on one. You can also go to the dermatologist for this service, but insurance won't cover it since laser hair removal is not considered necessary for your health. It's more cost affordable to go to a good medspa, anyways.
  • Products like Nair... you know, those weird creams that essentially dissolve your leg hair. I won't go near these products because of how severe they are to our skin. I used it once in high school and it looked like my skin had been lightly burned. Not cool.
  • Buffing mitts. I'm sure you've seen those weird sand paper-like sleeves that claim to buff the hair right off. I also tried this back in high school... and hated it. It hurt! No sand paper for me, thank you!

So, right now what I do is use my electric razors and if I'm planning on going on a vacation where I'll be in a swimsuit, I make an appointment to get waxed. 

Hopefully one day, there will be a better solution for people who are allergic to nickel!

God luck - I hope this helps!

Sincerely,

The Allergista

 

ALLERGY/ECZEMA STORY: Allergic to my car!

I had childhood eczema on my feet and hands but it disappeared as I got older. About 7 years ago I went hiking and got an allergic reaction on my shins- the medicated steroid cream only made it worse (it had propylene glycol in it) and they had to prescribe internal steroids. It went away but afterward I started getting all of these weird reactions (it was as if that one allergic reaction prompted a change in my body or something) and the eczema came back. I figured out it was the propylene glycol in my beauty products and food, and once I avoided this I stopped getting the reactions.

Then a year later the eczema came back worse than before. Just avoiding pg didn’t help. I used an “organic” eczema cream from Whole Foods and both of my hands blew up and became red and raw. (I am a children’s librarian so needless to say, storytimes were not fun- I felt like everyone was grossed out looking at my hands!) I tried Eucerin and some other creams but they only made my hands worse.

I finally went to the allergist and got tested for some basic allergens and listened as he basically told me what I thought was some crazy stuff- to moisturize every night (and during the day on my hands) with Crisco (yes, Crisco! But not the oil and not the kind with the butter lol) and to take a bleach bath. I moisturized and the eczema eventually started going away! It took awhile but it has worked for me, although I find I am still allergic to beauty products.

I got so frustrated trying to identify what I was allergic to that I now use all natural products, and the only product I buy is a glycerin soap from Whole Foods.

A couple of months ago I got a new car (leather interior) and all of a sudden the eczema came back pretty badly on my hands. It wasn’t until I took a 3 hour road trip that I realized it was probably from my steering wheel. I also developed bumps on my forearms (which I never had)- and I realized that I had been resting my arms on the center console and door. I started wearing gloves and lo and behold it started getting a bit better, but I was still waking up in the middle of the night scratching the heck out of my hands. This had initially freaked me out and I never did it, but I decided to try the bleach bath.(diluted bleach) There was no bleach smell and it didn’t burn my hands. In fact the itching went away that night and the eczema starting really clearing up! I was amazed. I wouldn’t want to constantly to do this, but it worked to get a little relief and to get the eczema under control.

I am awaiting my organic cotton steering wheel cover from Etsy and getting ready to wipe down my entire car to see if that helps too. (not sure if it’s the leather or if they wiped it down with something like Armorall) I’ve spoken with one other person who has had a reaction to their car as well, so I know I’m not crazy. I’m wondering if there is anyone else out there with this same problem?

P.S. - Oops I forgot to mention that I moisturize my whole body- I end up throwing out lots of pajamas and sheets but it has helped to control the eczema even though it is only on my hands. ;-)

I'm allergic to my car too! I also get eczema on my arms if I rest them on the door or center console. Now that I commute by train, most of that eczema is gone... an added plus to commuting! I'm glad that the bleach bath works for you. I often see that listed as a treatment that people use, but have always been to afraid to try it! And aaaah yes... the propylene glycol struggle - it's a tough one! It's in eeeeverything. Cheers to you finding some ways to help banish the eczema that pops up, though. Good luck in your journey and thanks for sharing your story!

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