Monday, April 24, 2017

Skin Allergy-Be Aware And Wary Of Product labelling.

How To Read Product Labels To Keep You And Your Skin Safe

If you have skin allergies of any kind you will rapidly become an avid label reader!

However reading labels carefully does not mean this will fully protect you.

For example if you have  perfume allergy you will need to be extra careful. 

Words you will need to watch for are :-
  • fragrance
  • EDT
  • parfam
  • perfume
  • toilet water.

So that seems obvious doesn't it?

However relying on the words fragrance free, non perfumed, and the like does not always mean there is no added fragrance to the product. It may be - but you cannot assume. 

Sometimes fragrances are added to products not to make them smell nice but to mask the unpleasant smell of the other ingredients, the amounts may be small but if you are allergic it can cause you a problem. 

Other times a fragrance may be added for its use as a preservative, not as a perfume, yet it is still an issue to those who are allergic. 

If you are allergic to fragrances it may also be wise for you to be careful or to avoid  products with the following ingredients as well :-
  • acetone
  • camphor
  • musk
  • essential oils
  • benzyl alcohol
  • benzyl acetate
  • benzyl salicylate
  • anisyl alchohol
  • amylcinnamic alcohol. 

Ask your doctor or dermatologist for guidance.

If you are allergic to any specific ingredient or chemical also do make sure you know all its other names. If you have been Skin patch allergy tested your dermatologist should give you a list of what you need to avoid with all its other chemical names as well. Do read and understand all the names of what you are allergic to. 

In my experience-unless there is a full list of ALL the ingredients listed- I need to ask the manufacturer for ingredients and to specify what i am allergic to.

I must have written to more than 50 companies so far to check their ranges and specific products within the ranges to check if they might be suitable for me. Sadly not all responded to me and they are Off my list now. The ones that responded are the ones I consider. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

What If You Are Allergic To Fragrances?

Perfume And Fragrance Allergies 

I have an allergy to fragrance and perfume. It came up on my skin patch allergy tests as quite a "good" reaction (which in my case was a big red welt that took 2 months to go down). 

I was somewhat surprised as though I have never worn a lot of perfumes. I have worn one or two when going out for dinner, a special occasion etc and loved various body lotions that were perfumed. 

I adored my scented candle collection and loved filling the home with natural fragrances...

I always knew my skin was a little sensitive as I could only wear a couple of perfumes and they were of the "purer" variety. Experimenting with lower end teen type perfumes would generally bring me out on a little irritated rash when I was a teenager so I quickly learned to avoid those. However with others I was OK.

For years I have used washing powders and liquids for clothes that invariably tell you that they have a fresh spring scent or a clean fresh fragrance.

Even washing up liquids discuss the bouquet of flowers that you have when using their brand etc. 

I never thought much about it to be honest. We always avoided the obvious plug in varieties of synthetic fragrance - just because we didn't like it but it was only after my diagnosis of being severely affected my perfumes that I started to really look at what we used on ourselves and in the home. 

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 Fact Is Fragrance Sells... 

Most of us love it ! Next time you are looking for a body lotion, cream, shower gel washing detergent think what you do, do you ever lean down and smell it? I know I did and if I liked the scent then I was halfway sold on it. 

The ads portray the sensual woman who smells great (with a perfume) the sexy man who smells great(with the aftershave) The cute baby who smells nice....

Whether artificial fragrances are good for us or not we have learned from a young age that our own scent is simply not good enough. I mean everyone wants to be clean and fresh smelling of course! However, to be clean and fresh by washing is not it seems good enough anymore, we have to cover and mask and have a perfume on. 

So many products now contain perfume and it is on the rise. There was no where near the amount of fragrance products even 30 years ago. Look on the shelves and try to find a products that does not contain fragrance, EDT, perfume.... 

You will find fragrance in Haircare, skincare, washing up liquid, baby products, washing powders and liquids, conditioners, soap, etc most of it totally unnecessary.

Even some sanitary wear is now putting perfume in it! 

While some is natural perfume much of it is synthetic.... 
So no wonder we are now learning that allergies to perfume are on the rise too. Even children bombarded by synthetic perfumes from birth are becoming allergic to this over artificially perfumed world.  

Several studies discuss that fragrance allergy is a leading cause of contact dermatitis and fragrance allergy sufferers can also display symptoms ranging from hives, headaches, wheezing and other breathing issues and sneezing. 

I rarely wore perfume as such, but I did use body lotions and on holiday sunscreens (most of which do have fragrances in them-even though you may not be aware of it) 

So although I was Ok ish for years I became allergic to fragrance and this can happen to anyone at any time.... 

Do bear in mind my severe reaction here was a result of a combination of 4 different allergic reactions to what was in the sunscreen I used-ironically to protect my skin!

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So what can you do about it if you have a fragrance allergy?

As mine is a contact allergy I essentially have to avoid coming into contact with anything or anyone that has had perfume on it. So that means using only non scented washing powders or liquids, haircare,skincare, deodorants, suncreams, soap, washing up liquids and household cleaning and polishing items. 

It means not having or not lighting any scented candles, not wearing any perfumes, avoiding anyone else who might spray perfumes in to the air, avoiding polish with fragrance in it, avoiding shops or salons or spas where you can smell the perfumes as you walk in.... avoiding anything with a scent. 

If it smells nice I cannot have it ! It is easier said than done!!

It is unlikely that I am allergic to ALL fragrances but the problem is pinning down to the ones I am. In the fragrance patch test they use a mix of the most common to cause allergies.

The problem in todays world is that there are so many fragrances all mixed up and used in complex ways. 

Really the purer and more natural the better chance that I might be Ok with it. I already know that I am Ok with some real scented flowers- but NOT with the synthetic copies of those flowers....

I am still hoping that at some time in the future i may be able to use one or two pure essential oils for when I feel like wearing a perfume or maybe could add to a wash, but for now its safer for me to AVOID all fragrance on my skin.

Do check with companies to know if fragrances are used in their products. Hopefully ingredients will be listed on the product. 

In any event ALWAYS read the full ingredient list and do a patch test before using. 

If you are interested in learning more about fragrance allergy these websites may be useful to you.

Here is a  short Video explaining more about fragrance Allergies

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Is Skin Patch Allergy Testing ?

Skin Patch Allergy Testing 

I had skin patch testing done for my unexplained skin condition. It does not hurt but is a little inconvenient and the reactions I found to be a bit itchy. However it was certainly worth it to find out why my skin was reacting so badly. I wish I had it done much earlier.

Skin Patch Allergy Testing Procedure

The procedure I went through took one week. I had to first go to the clinic on a Monday morning to have the patches with known allergens onto my back.

It felt like a series of very large sticking plasters. After that I was not permitted to get the area wet or damp so I can only have very shallow baths and not very warm either so as to avoid steam getting the patches damp. 

Due to all the markings the nurses make it is wise to wear a T shirt or shirt you don't care about as the marks may stain clothing. I wore a couple of old T shirts day and night. It is actually easier to wear clothing that unbuttons down the front as less hassle to get on and off. 

On the Wednesday I went back to have the patches removed and a first reading taken. Still had to keep area dry. 

On Friday I had to go back again for a final reading and to see the Dr for a final diagnosis and discussion. For me there were three very good reactions which clearly stated what I was allergic to. I was then given sheets with an explanation of the allergens and all I had to avoid- which in my case is a lot!!  

Photo Of My Skin Patch Allergy Reactions

Here is a photo of how my back looked after having the allergens on my back for 2 days. As you can see there is some reaction shown in 3 areas where there is redness. It was also quite raised and very very itchy!  

 A Few Helpful Tips

  • Wear clothing that is easy for you to remove and put back on.

  • The patches go across your back and the markers can stain so wear something that you don't care about too much.

  • Wear something in bed at night as well to protect the patches from coming off. 

  • If you get a reaction it may well itch or feel sore. Do not scratch it. 

  • I was advised not to take antihistamines but to contact them if the itching got unbearable. It was very itchy for me but I did not need to ask for any medication as it is only a very small area of irritation.

The video below explains skin patch allergy testing.

 It also shows a demonstration of an actual skin patch allergy test.  Of course do discuss with your healthcare professional exactly how your skin patch testing will occur as it may vary from place to place and between countries.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Who Should You Tell About Your Skin Allergies?

Ten People To Tell About Your Allergies. 

So you have a diagnosis of various things you are allergic to  and is it important that you tell anyone else?

It is of course your decision... In my case I felt that it was important to let key people know so that I did not put myself in danger of going through all the blistering and rashes all over again. Also because one of them is Penicillin it is vital that no one gives me that.  

I am allergic to 5 main things :-
  • Fragrances
  • Balsam of peru
  • Two preservatives commonly used in skincare and medical preparations.
  • Penicillin.

Due to this it is important that key people in my life are aware of them and the reactions I can have.

1. The Person You live with. In my case my husband has had to change a lot of his products as well and we have had to change how we clean our home and wash our clothes so clearly he needs to be involved and aware. He has been very supportive! 

2. Friends and wider family - in my case so they don't use perfumes when they see me, are understanding when we visit and also so they don't make the mistake of buying presents that are toxic to me!

3. Hairdresser-I can only find one shampoo and conditioner that I can use so far and its not the one my hairdresser salon uses. So I discussed it with him and we agreed I would bring my own. Have to say my hairdressers have been wonderful, accommodating me at quiet times so I am not exposed to too many hairdressing chemicals and really looking after me.

4. Dentist- It is important in my case as some dental compounds contain the allergens I have so i gave them a detailed list of what I am allergic to.  

5. Hospital staff-If you are going into hospital for surgery it is important tell them what allergies you have- whatever the allergy.

6. Salon Staff -Beauty or "pamper" treatments- tell your therapist BEFORE you start treatment and preferably when you book what your allergies are. They may work around them or may advise you not to undertake that treatment.   

7. GP/Doctor. Clearly your GP/Doctor will know but do remember to tell any GP/Doctor/Healthcare professional  that you need to see if you are away from home or if abroad on holiday or for work. 

8. Carer. If you have a carer to support you they will also need to be told what you are allergic to and what products you can and cannot use. 

9. Emergency Services if necessary. With many allergies it is safer and easier for you if you wear a Medical ID Pendant Or Bracelet with the names of the allergens on so that if you cannot communicate the healthcare teams will know what is safe for you to use. There are ones available for men , women and for children and can be one of the most important piece of jewellery you own. 

10. Your Place Of Work. This may be important simply to let your employer and workmates know in case you get a reaction to say a perfume a colleague is wearing,  or due to for example chemicals you regularly come into contact with that you now need protecting from.