In very late 2009, I didn't realize it but my life was about to change drastically...  My skin was slowly becoming a big mess of red, itchy, oozing bumps. By the time 2010 rolled around, the the doctors figured out my problem: allergies and eczema. These allergies affect my skin (mostly), my breathing and my digestion.

To this day, the allergic reactions haven't completely stopped, but I've figured out how to manage them. My allergic skin condition is called Allergic Contact Dermatitis (a form of Eczema). I also have Atopic Eczema which pretty much means that I'll get eczema for no reason. In addition, I'm Lactose Intolerant and Vitamin D Deficient. Developing any medical condition is an adjustment and my case has been no different.

This website is meant to be a resource and platform to connect the allergy and eczema sufferers out there. Doctors just simply cannot tell you how to avoid every single substance you're allergic to or how to adapt to every single situation. In the beginning, I really wished I had someone who could tell me how to get around touching doorknobs, how to deal with only being able to wear cotton clothing (I love fashion!) and the zillion other situations I have come across every day.

So let's get on with it, shall we?

These are my allergens:

  1. nickel
  2. cobalt
  3. polyester
  4. tree pollen
  5. ragweed
  6. common weed
  7. mold
  8. dust mites
  9. cockroaches
  10. cats
  11. dogs
  12. mice
  13. adhesive
  14. ammonium persulfate
  15. dodecyl gallates
  16. octyl gallates
  17. sodium benzoate 
  18. benzoic acid
  19. propylene glycol 
  20. neomycin sulfate 
  21. thimerosal 
  22. polymyxin B 
  23. bacitracin zinc
  24. pramoxine  

It all started in early 2004 when I went swimming in a lake in Maine and I got a small cut on my leg from an underwater rock. For the life of me, I couldn't get the thing to heal. Then it started to turn into a problem - it started to expand.

There were little red bumps that were oozing. Honestly, I can’t remember how long it took, but it ended up eating up most of the skin on BOTH of my shins! It was pretty horrifying to look at. An Infectious Disease Specialist told me that I had a Staph Infection and prescribed me a bunch of stuff. It went away since I had no further issues, I thought it was just some freak accident.

In 2009, I got a cut near my ankle from shaving. A similar thing ended up happening: I couldn't get it to heal and this time, it was creating what looked like a giant, gooey crater in my skin (disgusting, I know). My doctor was stumped. They ended up putting me on so many antibiotics that it was affecting me negatively and I had to be taken off them. Then, the problems seemed to go away after I slammed my thumb in a sliding door. But my legs had started itching like crazy at night; I was scratching them to death in my sleep too, making it worse.

As 2010 began.  it started again: the little red bumps were back at it on my legs. The LAST thing I wanted to see. Then it appeared on my arms… and my hands…. And the doctors really had a case on their hands at this point. My doctor referred me to a dermatologist who prescribed me ointment after ointment and none of it helped. Then I went to another dermatologist that did the same thing. No results.

We were all so confused! And now I was scared. My skin was being taken over by something unknown – and I didn't know how far it would go. Would I be covered? I had just met the love of my life… Was this going to ruin it? What if it covers me completely? Will I survive? How will I go to work?.... It felt a little hopeless...

Below are some photos from that time period. I actually took these to show the people at my job why I was at home on disability for a couple days. Pardon the cell phone photos... I didn't have this blog yet!

 

Then, they prescribed me oral steroids. It worked! That gave the doctors a clue and they referred me to an allergist. The typical scratch test was done on my arm and we ended up finding out that I’m allergic to all the normal stuff: dust, mildew, pollen, and all those types of things. The steroids (Prednisone) were making me feel weird – all puffy and just weird. I don’t know how to describe it. Prednisone has a bad reputation anyways. I really didn't want any part of it. I began avoiding the things they told me I was allergic to, but my skin wasn't improving. My allergist literally looked at me one day and said “What am I going to do with you?” THAT was a downer. That’s when I really realized that going to the doctor doesn't mean they’re going to be able to fix you.

So, she told me that there was an allergist locally who specializes in patch testing and if I wanted to figure this out, I really had to go see him. So I did. He filled my entire back with patches and they had to stay on for 5 days without getting wet. It was an interesting 5 days, I’ll say that! He didn't think there was any way I’d be allergic to very much, but lo and behold, I WAS. I was allergic to my hair products, my soap, preservatives in everything, and more. We even found out that I react to nickel like a normal person would react to poison ivy. Crazy! (You can read more about those tests here) We didn't do the testing for synthetic fabrics and plastics because it just didn't seem likely. After all my experience, I ended up figuring that one out on my own, though. I definitely react to polyester and I seem to react to synthetic fibers in general - especially after continued exposure.

Thank goodness for the specialist – he was able to tell me the exact chemicals I was reacting to and provided me with a chart of everything in CVS and the ingredients in all the products. 

I've learned a few important things from all of this:

  • The ingredients and products that are being used, especially in this country, can be VERY hazardous to our health.
  • The content labeling laws on fabrics, food, and personal care products are waaay too lax.
  • Good products are worth the investment
  • It’s REALLY hard to deal with certain allergies and I think we need someone out there to guide us and provide us with ways to help deal with the constant stress. It’s a lifestyle change and that can be really tough. It’s tough on the individual and it’s tough on their relationships. When I was adjusting in the beginning, there were days where I just wanted to give up. I didn’t understand how I was supposed to be able to go around in public or at work – not touching plastic, metal or fabric. (People look at you pretty weird if you’re wearing gloves in the summer, you know? Not to mention that it’s WAY too hot to do that.) There are so many things that got ripped out of my life – bathing suits, nice hair products, going out to restaurants, ordering pizza, or even something like going to an all day outdoor festival – I probably can’t eat the food, I don’t really like putting sunscreen on my skin for that long and what if I get an allergen on my hands and can’t wash them shortly after? Allergies and eczema really did change everything.

So, I’m here to help!

To help you manage the challenges of allergies and eczema and to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

My mission is to improve your life by providing this platform for all of us to connect and learn from one another.

In fact, there are some handy dandy buttons below... drop me a line! :-D

 

XOXO,

Jennifer