About a year ago I noticed red dots on my right hand which would come and go over the course of a few months. Then they showed up my other hand, bigger and redder, so I decided to see a dermatologist.
“You have atopic dermatitis.” She said.
“Okay. What’s that,” I asked.
“It’s chronic eczema. I see it all the time.”
She explained that for the next two weeks, I’d apply a steroid cream to my hands and cover them with plastic gloves each night. My hands cleared. The rash came back and I did the same treatment. This went on for months as the rash kept getting worst. I felt like something I touched caused it, especially on my right hand, my dominant hand.
Researching my diagnosis, I eventually came across a website called, eczema exposed. My perpetual rash could be an allergy, I convinced myself. Contact dermatitis sounded more realistic, and I had to take matters into my own hands. The rash continued to get worse and more painful. I needed a cure.
“You’re allergic to your phone.” My husband teased me.
“I think it’s nickel. We’re going to have to replace all doorknobs, appliances, and fixtures.” I told him, believing it to be true.
A panel of thirty-seven common irritants were uncomfortably taped to my back for 48 hours.
“Wow.” The doctor’s assistant said over and over while removing my panels. “This one blistered, one of the worse I’ve seen. And number ten is just as bad.”
She gathered up the number’s, printed out the results and additional information as I waited. The doctor came in and asked to see my back. “Well, what’s the results?” I asked.
“I don’t know, or care. My assistant will bring you the info.” She left in her sparkling red high heels and white coat. I was shocked. She was the rudest doctor I’ve ever met.
The blistered result was bacitracin which I already knew about. I was surprised they tested me for it since it appeared on my past medical history. I guess the doctor just wanted me to suffer. I concentrated on the second one, a product used in the processing of rubber. The assistant handed me all the paperwork and suggested this is where the detective work begins. She sent me out the door with no other guidance.
Okay, that was pleasant. I didn’t know much about rubber, but I didn’t think it played a big part in my life. Over the next few weeks, I’d learn how much it does.
I called a friend to share my results. My husband was right, my phone cover had a rubber rim. I removed it and went to the nearest best buy for a plastic one. All electric and iPhone cords are possible culprits, so I started taping parts of those with body tape to shield me. I bought a clear nail polish for protection from my headphones and ear buds I use daily. I tossed the rubber wristband I wore. The gloves I used to treat my allergy, yes latex. I replaced those with vinyl. Bike handles, pens, golf clubs, tires and buttons on the remote, golf cart steering wheel all contain partial rubber products.
I climbed inside our small single engine plane and stared at the cockpit. I was flying in a rubber nightmare. I decided to deal with it for the ride and when I arrived at our destination I became proactive. I’d order gloves. Silk gloves, lacy gloves, leather gloves, in all colors. I’d have fun with it. The gloved life, until I figure it out. I’m not sure if I look like Micky Mouse or My Fair Lady wearing my white gloves. I’d like to think the latter.
The chemical I’m allergic to relates to rubber, latex, neoprene, elastic, spandex, lycra and things I’m still learning. Latex allergies are becoming more common and life changing. My allergy may get worse if not dealt with in a timely manner. In fact the Association of Latex Allergy suggest I get an EpiPen and a medical I.D. warning of my allergy. I’ll be rubber free before I allow that to happen.
It’s a tedious process of finding out what products have these ingredients and I wish manufacturers were more forthcoming. Until then it’s a matter of acting as a detective, with research and trial and error. I’d like to see a chemical free environment going forward because this growing problem is not going away.
Being proactive I’ve changed all under garments to 100% cotton, except my running bras. As a “C” cup it’s impossible to have a supportive high intensity workout bra made of cotton. So my solution was to run to Wal-Mart and find a few cheap cotton ones to wear under my spandex’s bras. Problem solved and they are so much more comfortable.
If you are diagnosed with eczema, get an allergy test just in case it’s something you can eventually control. I respect most doctors, but I don’t always trust their judgement. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health. Do research, ask questions, and talk to others who have been through similar experiences. Please share your comments, experiences or questions below.