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I'm a mom, a wife, a best friend. Sick with CFIDS/ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia since 1975 as a result of a nasty flu while still in grad school, it wasn't until the late '80's that I received a diagnosis. Until that flu I'd never really been ill before. With each year I get progressively worse and add to the bucket load of symptoms I'm living with. I've been blessed with an incredible family and best friend who've stayed with me through my struggles as we continue to find a way out of this monstrous illness and its complications. We've tried seemingly every approach to find my way back to health. Often I think our best weapon in this undesirable and unasked-for adventure has been laughter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dealing With Chemical Sensitivity

Wearing all cotton by Joan Vass made life infinitely more comfortable: office get-together picnic in the '80's (can't you tell by the hair???)

Like many of "us" who are cursed with this DD, I can't walk down the detergent aisle of a store because that aisle in particular seems to irritate almost all of us with CFIDS/ME/fibro in the form of migraines and even skin irritation, often in the form of abrasions and hives.  I can't even go into most department stores without my eyes turning severely red, which burn so painfully that I find myself wondering, "how much worse can any of Dante's hells possibly be?"

On the whole, however, I've found that the higher-end stores like Saks are significantly easier to "endure."  My head and skin tell me that the higher-end stores don't use as many chemicals in products (such as clothing) as the lower-end stores do.  Due to the superior fabrics used in high-end stores, fewer chemicals are needed, for example, in their sizing, in order to look good.  Furthermore, when fewer chemicals are used, the stores themselves don't cause my eyes to immediately redden and water, and a migraine hitting me like a sadist banging a shovel over my head as soon as I walk through their doors.

At any rate, I thought that I'd jot down some of my survival tips in this area of pain in the behind-ness:

1.  If at all possible, wash your garments before wearing them.  Of course, as with most things, there are exceptions to the rule.

  •  I find that Eddie Bauer and The Gap/Banana Republic T-shirts, for example, are OK.  Yes, some garments will make my eyes burn but in a perverse sort of way, that's a blessing since it warns me to not even go there! Eddie Bauer and The Gap don't seem to make my eyes red, I get no headache nor skin sensitivity in the way of hives and/or rashes.  However, since I only order on-line, I'm not sure how actually going into one of their stores would react with my traitorous body.
  • I try to buy fabrics which are washable and do not require dry cleaning.  Of course I'm not crazy enough to do this with coats, though I must admit that I once tried this with a washable suede jacket and to say that it was a failure is to say that Dorothy had a bit of a hard time getting back home again from Oz.

2. Establish if you are allergic to any detergents, fabric softeners and other laundry products, including spray-on starch and spray-on sizing.  I find that I'm off and on in this area.  I'll be sensitive for a few years, start in with the more "organic" products for a couple of years and go back to the old, established ones.  (Am I high-maintenance?  Nah!  What could possibly give you that idea?)  Surprisingly, I don't have trouble with Downy fabric softener: in fact, if I don't use it, I have skin irritation, perhaps because the clothing is then too hard on my skin?  And for some reason I've not had good luck with the organic fabric softeners.

3. Set "rinse" on max and/or "extra cycle" in your washer setting in order to get rid of as much detergent as possible.  This is, actually, my best weapon in my laundry wars: rinse, rinse and rinse, and then rinse again.

4. As my garments become more mine and less the manufacturer's, I find that I can use less cleaning product as well as less fabric softener. With each wash, more of the chemicals are washed out, bit by bit, load by load.  Because of this, I like to buy higher end garments (nightgowns and lingerie, especially, since they are closest to the skin).  I'd much rather lean toward the expensive nightgown which will last me a minimum of 10 years, has fewer chemicals to wash out in the first place due to the finer fabric, than a cheaply made one which will last only for a couple of years, most of which time I'm fighting the chemicals embedded in the fabric.  I discussed cotton wear (nightwear) in this post, here

I hope that you can find something in this post that'll help make your life easier.  What tips can you offer us in dealing with these chemical sensitivities?  We'd love to have more tips!

And, finally, I do hope everyone's feeling their best today, only better. Ciao and paka!

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