ASK THE ALLERGISTA: How do you eat out/travel with propylene glycol and nickel allergies?

Q:

 My husband and I have a two week trip planned to Alabama in January. Since my skin is still so reactive to my allergies to propylene glycol and nickel, I am reluctant to go. I just don't know how I can eat at restaurants. Because PG is sprayed on produce, I can't order salads or items with peppers, tomatoes, etc. Milk products (except organic) don't agree with me, so cheese is out. PG is also in all kinds of marinades, dressings, sauces, baked goods, etc. At the family restaurants near my house, chicken breasts are already marinated when they are delivered. I can only think of one "safe" food--a plain hamburger with no butter on the bread. Any ideas for me?

I am also concerned with the cleaners used in hotel rooms. Do I have to respray faucets, sinks, etc. with vinegar and water to get off cleaning solutions that may have been used containing PG? What about the fumes in the room?

Any advice for traveling is very much appreciated--thank you!

A:

First of all - love Alabama!! I lived in the northeast corner for a couple years as a teen and still have people down there who are like family.

Moving on...I feel your pain. I have both of these allergies and at this point, I'm happy to say that I'm definitely comfortable with traveling. When it comes to food, I bring my own snacks and drinks. I talk to the hotel ahead of time and make sure they put a mini fridge in the room for me. This has never been an extra charge. Many rooms already come with one, but there was at least one time where they had to put one in for me. I also check out which restaurants are nearby. I look at their menus and usually decide what I'll get ahead of time. Hotel restaurants have been very accommodating with my allergies as well. My go-to types of food on vacations are Asian food or places with a grill. I can usually get plain food at places like this. When I go for Asian food, Japanese menus usually have the most simple options: sushi, steamed edamame, plain rice and steamed mixed veggies. At grills, if it's a nice enough restaurant, they have plain meat that can be brushed with something simple like olive oil and garlic. Plain meat and veggies can easily be thrown into a pan with olive oil... it all depends on how good of a restaurant it is unfortunately.

As far as the pg-being-sprayed-on-produce issue... this has never been a problem for me and I'm pretty allergic to propylene glycol. As long as the produce is washed, I don't worry about it. If you can find some organic produce, obviously go with that. I'd be interested to know if you react to produce that's been sprayed with pg, but washed before eating... that would mean that you are extra ultra sensitive.

If you really are reacting to pg on produce, I'd bring your own food. See if you can score a hotel room with a kitchenette and cook your own meals. When I went down to Alabama two summers ago, I stayed with people I knew, bought food at the grocery store and cooked. We went out to eat once and I ordered salad with extra virgin olive oil dressing. Actually, I went out to eat twice - the second time was at an Asian buffet, so it was easy to stick to rice, steamed veggies and stuff like that. 

When I've stayed in hotel rooms, I bring my own bedding (because of my allergy to synthetics) and I pretty much don't touch anything in the room... this sounds more difficult than it actually is. I can sit anywhere on the bed because I've changed the bedding and if I sit at the desk which is so often in hotel rooms, I just don't rest my arms on the chair or desk. If I'm wearing shorts, I put down a towel or blanket so I'm not actually touching it. In the bathroom, I use the small towels to turn on faucets and to touch other metal/possibly nickel objects. I also bring some bandannas and cotton gloves with me for stuff like this. It's good to have options! This nickel testing kit is useful as well.

I haven't had issues with fumes in hotel rooms... more-so with dust. Check around with the hotels and see if they offer any allergy services. A lot of them are cooperative when it comes to allergies. I always ask that my bed be stripped of all bedding and sheets before I get there because I A) don't want to touch it and B) don't want all that extra bedding taking up space in the room. Nobody has ever been difficult with my requests. You could ask that they wipe down with water after using their chemical products... that's a thought.

I hope this helps and that it's given you hope that you CAN travel and actually enjoy yourself. All it takes is a little extra planning and creativity.

Have a wonderfully awesome time!

Sincerely,

The Allergista

 

Coughing, More Coughing and a Glorious Haircut

Yup, I've officially become that person in our sea of cubicles that coughs all freakin day... sigh. I began to not feel so great last Sunday and was full-on sick by Tuesday. I took a day off and while I've gotten better, I cannot shake this cough!

So, this past week has been all about not working in my spare time... There will be some more blog posts coming soon, though - don't you worry ;-)

As those of us with chronic medical issues know... we have to put rest first sometimes in these busy lives of ours. In fact, I am vowing that when I get home today, I'm going to immediately shower and get into bed!

In other news, I did manage to drag myself to the hairdresser last week. I pushed my appointment back later into the day so I could sleep in (which ended up being thwarted by our dog, Bentley), but I couldn't cancel because my hair soooo desperately needed it. It had gotten so long it was just hanging there. It was beginning to drive me IN-SANE. I didn't want to go another week.

My hairdresser did a great job - check it out! I'm going for a smoother look these days:

Since I wake up at the crack of dawn to get downtown every day, I need a hairstyle that I can sleep on... one that doesn't look quite so messy. There's no way I'm doing 1-2 hours worth of work on hair every morning. No thank you.

I'm enjoying getting better at using a curling iron - it's nice to switch it up! :-)

Here's how she did the look: she blow dried my hair and then used a 1" curling iron. Pinning my hair up and starting underneath, she began curling at the front by my face - first curling away from my face, then alternating the curls toward my face and away from my face again. Every now and then she'd twist a piece of hair and then wrap it around the iron to throw in some variety. She repeated this until all of my hair was done and then used the iron to slightly bend my bangs away from my face.

She did this all with zero product except for some finishing hairspray which she applied after the curls were done. The finishing touch is running your fingers through the curls and then -poof- beautiful hair.

I love it!

 

ASK THE ALLERGISTA: Nickel-free Razors

Q:

Im also allergic to nickel. And when I shave omg what itch and very bad rash. My skin gets raw, red and then infected. Did you find any info on non nickel razors?

A:

I've gotten a few emails lately asking this same question, so I figured it'd be a great one to answer this week.

I've seen suggestions for titanium razors and some other razors that had chemical-filled moisturizing strips which I stay away from as well. The problem with titanium is that a lot of it is an alloy and razors are known for containing nickel, so that ends up being a problem. However, I did just get a recommendation from somebody to try this razor by Body Toolz. The site says it's all stainless steel and the person who wrote me about it said they were told there's no nickel. So, what I'm going to do is order one this week and I'll test it with my nickel testing kit. I'm not gonna lie - that razor looks a little scary... but if it works, I'll quickly get over that!

Stay tuned!

Sincerely,

The Allergista

 

Allergista Recipes

Did you know that I have a whole bunch of yummy recipes right here on the blog? It's true! I love cooking - when I have the time, that is! :-)

Click the photos to go to the recipe:

Blackened Chicken

Blackened Chicken

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Simply Sweet Popcorn

Simply Sweet Popcorn

Modified Mapo Tofu

Modified Mapo Tofu

Sweet Fruit Smoothie

Sweet Fruit Smoothie

How to Roast a Red Bell Pepper

How to Roast a Red Bell Pepper

Lactose-free French Toast

Lactose-free French Toast

Pizza/Pasta Sauce

Pizza/Pasta Sauce


ECZEMA/ALLERGY STORIES: Immunosuppressants Can Create a Bumpy Road for the Diagnosis Process

This story was submitted to my general email address, but I just had to share!

I come to your page frequently for support! I am a 29 year old mother, nurse and wife whose life was turned upside down a year and half ago. I was found to be allergic to PG and lanolin amongst many other allergens. I am feeling frustrated and amazed by how much one allergy can turn your world up side down. I was diagnosed with dyshidrotic and atopic eczema on both hands after switching jobs to an office RN. After trying multiple topical creams, which we later found I was allergic to, and multiple prednisone tapers with no success I was unsure what to do next. Patch testing was performed then I was given a kenalog injection. I was faced with the decision of not being able to care for my 2 year old due to my extensive discomfort or weaning my 2 year old of my breast milk so I could start cyclosporine. Much to my dismay I chose to wean my daughter, which was harder on her than myself. I’m pro extended breastfeeding and this went against everything I have ever wanted for my child to be able to self wean. The cyclosporine was started with little relief, my dose was tapered up to the maximum dose recommended for my body weight. I had every imaginable side effect to the cyclosporine during this time; excessive hair growth, low magnesium, cramps, increased blood pressure and weight gain. I’m sure you get the idea by now. I since had asked to be sent to an educational hospital for a second opinion. I went there and was told my diagnosis and treatment was spot on. I was told then, that I have the worse case of dyshidrotic eczema they have ever seen. I went back home feeling defeated, still unsure how to be a wife, mother and nurse. Multiple blood work appointments and follow up appointments with my dermatologist resulted in me being told they no longer could care for me due to the severity of my condition. They suggested I go establish care with the educational facility I went to receive a second opinion. Again, I was defeated because that meant driving a hour and a half one way, each time I needed a doctors appointment because I live in remote Vermont. The doctors at my new dermatologist office decided I would be best to redo my patch testing with Dr. Zug, one of the leading experts in the field. So, I drove 3 times that week to my dermatologist to complete the patch testing. At that time I was still on cyclosporine but they were to afraid to decrease my dose for fear I would have a severe flair. This round of Patch testing revealed total different results than the first time. Once again, I was frustrated. The first time I was patch tested I was noted to have 15 allergies, this time it was found I had 7 allergies most which were different than the first time! Being on an immunosuppressant during allergy testing is less than ideal, but what is one to do. Now, how do I live with my allergies as a nurse and mother? I’m still trying to get this under control as it seems PG hides in everything!

It was then decided that cyclosporine was not safe for me to take long term, so I was switched to cellcept. In order to do this the doctors decided to bridge me with prednisone while weaning me off cyclosporine and starting the cellcept. Low and behold, I ended up with a full body yeast rash because I was so immunosuppressed. Multiple trips back to my dermatologist and a 14 day course of diflucan cured that. I can not explain ho itchy this was, the worst! Cellcept proved not to be 100% effective either. Puva light therapy was then suggested. I was concerned about missing work and the financial toll of driving to the dermatologist 2-3 times a week for 5-20 weeks, so I declined. I then discussed this with my husband and work, who all decided I must do it! I spent my summer driving back and forth to Dartmouth. I also had to avoid sunlight for 24 hours after treatments, which means my summer sucked! I did this for approximately 14 weeks at which time we decided it was not effective. My doctor suggested I go to grand rounds so she could get other opinions from various dermatologists in the area. For anybody who has not attended grand rounds let me explain, it’s horrifying! I had 30 plus doctors come in and out of my room asking me various questions and all examining my hands! They were previously briefed on my medical history. Well these doctors then sat down at a round table and discussed me, I was know as “medical case #3.” Horrifying! I’m a person not a number! I tried to keep a positive attitude hoping some great new treatment idea would come out of all this. The only new recommendation, “take time off from work and try coal tar.” I again, was apprehensive about taking time off from work due to financials and the fact that I’m a busy body. My doctor recommended I try the coal tar. I did, but it started to make “chunks” fall out of my skin (my famous word). I was told to stop the coal tar. At my next dermatology appointment we decided I needed time off from work as a nurse to let my hands heal. Here I am, almost 5 weeks later, waiting for my follow up appointment Monday. I’ve definitely noted some improvement, yet it’s not gone. Now what? Your guess is as good as mine.

I absolutely hate being on a daily oral immunosuppressants at such a young age. I can’t have another pregnancy if I wanted to due to these medications. I have so much anxiety about the unknown and feel so depressed because I can’t participate in my favorite activities. I’ve tried whole food diets, stopping dairy and gluten without success. Ive done the no poo method and all natural cleaning methods to avoid chemicals in my home with no success. I take daily vitamin d supplements. I’m at a loss. I do appreciate all the support my family, friends and your blog/page has leant to me. Eczema and allergies suck, but I will not let them defeat me!

Thank you,
A fellow eczema/allergy sufferer from Vermont

I'm so glad you found my site :-) Welcome to your new allergy/eczema family!

Wow, this story sounds a little similar to mine... the diagnosis phase is absolutely a challenge. That facility with all of the people coming in and out of the room sounds awful... I hope they have some useful information for you in your follow up appointment. It's going to be hard getting accurate results from the patch testing when you're on medication like that... If at any point you can get off it, go do the patch testing and then you can find out your REAL allergies. My heart goes out to you... it's a scary journey! I give big props to your husband - he has your best interest at heart :-)

My fingers are crossed for you!!