PG Misery

In May of 2014 my hands broke out in a rash, then my feet. It also caused my mouth to crack inside and out. At first I thought it was poison ivy so I called my doctor and he gave me a steroid cream. It worked but came right back. After the rash went away my skin started peeling off. Then it started itching and cracking and burning. My hands and feet where so raw I couldn’t even open a bottle of soda or wear my regular shoes. This went on for months. I tried everything over the counter and more rx creams. They all seemed to help for about 10 days and then it would always came back. I finally went to a dermatologist who gave me a steroid injection, with in 4 days it was gone. I was so very happy, however, after 10 days it came right back. The dermatologist then took a skin sample because he thought it was psoriasis, of course it wasn’t. Then came the patch test, like you couldn’t get it wet for 5 days. There where several chemicals that showed up as allergic. Number 1 is propylene Glycol! #2 is tocopherol #3 is Fragrance. Propylene Glycol is the worse thing in the world for me. I can tell as soon as I come in contact with it! My eyes itch my skin cracks, the next day I am short of breath. It has been a horrible year. Even though I know What I’m allergic to and try to stay away from it I am still having trouble. I am able to maintain the cracks by applying Vaseline twice a day but there is still redness, especially on my feet and they itch every day. Any suggestions to help me?
— Anonymous Allergista Reader

First of all, that sounds so painful!

And aaaah yes, I remember getting prescribed various creams and having them work for a number of days and then I'd slide even further downhill than I was before. It also took my doctors doing biopsies to rule a bunch of stuff out. I never had them suggest a steroid injection, though. The doctors did put me on Prednisone which I hated. It made me feel really puffy and Prednisone has an awful reputation for side effects including psychotic episodes. The doctors were all, "are you SURE you don't want to take this anymore...?". I definitely did not.

The patch test you did sounds just like the one I went through. I'm wondering why you're still reacting though... Things that pop into my head are:

  • Perhaps you have other allergies you aren't aware of?
  • Are you using some products or eating something with PG hidden inside it? (If you're sensitive enough, your skin can break out by eating something you're allergic to and PG is hidden in very common food ingredients such as modified food starch.)
  • When your skin reacts to an allergy, it's called "allergic contact dermatitis" which is a form of eczema. People can have more than one type of eczema (a doctor I went to thinks I'm atopic as well)... This is definitely something to think about. These are the different types of eczema.

My biggest piece of advice would be to reduce the amount of products you're using (hair,body,cleaning,etc) as much as you can.... anything that touches your skin. The less you're exposed to at this point, the better. Investigate the ingredients and take into consideration that there could be chemicals hidden inside those ingredients. Do the same thing with food, drinks and vitamins. If it doesn't have an ingredient label (like on perfume), stay away from it. Look for trends as far as which ingredients are most common in your products and see if you can figure out which product you're allergic to.

Make sure to also talk about this with your doctor. Perhaps there are some other chemicals they can test you for. I'm not sure what you do for a living, but pay attention to the stuff you're touching on a daily basis and where your skin is reacting. This can be very helpful when it comes to figuring out what the culprit is.

I hope this helps! It's a lot to take in and the beginning of this sort of journey can be really overwhelming... make sure you're taking lots of "you" time, relaxing and staying hydrated!