Things to keep in mind when you are visiting someone with Chemical Intolerances & Sensitivities

Things to keep in mind when you are visiting someone with Chemical Intolerances & Sensitivities

If you are reading this article, it is probably because someone has sent it to you, someone who is suffering from an immune system condition like MCAD or an Environmental Illness like Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance, sometimes referred to as MCS.  I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article.

The journey of someone with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity)TILT (Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance), and MCAD (Mast Cell Activation Disorder) is often a lonely one. It is a journey plagued by solitude and isolation. The hardest part for those of us who have multiple health conditions in addition to one of the illnesses mentioned above is finding empathy and understanding from our loved ones. Too often, our family and friends become overwhelmed and uncomfortable with everything that affects us, so they disengage, and relationships are damaged.

Many times we feel guilty for having to ask family and friends to make accommodations for us. Some of us value our relationships so much that we would rather deal with the unbearable symptoms after exposure than speak up and sound offensive by our requests. It is a cycle of self-destruction. We place others first at the expense of our own health…until we crash and end up in a hospital or breathing through an oxygen mask.

After months of being very sick following an exposure, everything begins to settle in. We may be told by our physicians that we have to practice extreme chemical avoidance.
Some are prescribed oxygen tanks to use at home, and some have to be hospitalized until symptoms settle and all functions are stable. In every case, it is different, but symptoms are usually quite severe before we are forced to speak up.

If you have a friend or family member, or neighbor with MCS / TILT or MCAD please don’t forget your compassion. Don’t write them off. Don’t stop visiting unless they ask you to.

Below are some things to keep in mind when you want to visit someone with severe chemical sensitivities or – Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT).

Before we can proceed, I must ask. Do you know what MCS/TILT is and how severely it affects people? Please click here to read about this debilitating illness.
We even have an entire month dedicated to us. You can read about that here. Interested in peer-reviewed studies, then click here.

MCAD (Mast Cell Activation Disorder) also affects many people who have chemical sensitivities, so please be cautious, as this condition makes it nearly impossible to be near any type of trigger. “MCAD is an immunological condition in which mast cells inappropriately and excessively release chemical mediators, resulting in a range of chronic symptoms, sometimes including anaphylaxis or near-anaphylaxis attacks.” Source

Now that you know a little bit more, here are some guidelines you can follow when going to visit someone who suffers from the above-named illnesses. Please note that not all people will need to follow this extent of precaution. Each person is at a different stage of their illness, so I recommend speaking with the person affected and have them specify the things that they would like you to do prior to visiting.

A note about essential oils:
Essential Oils, even the ones that are in their purest form, are NOT tolerated by most people suffering from the above-named illnesses, so please do not use any on your body, hair, or on your clothing for a few days before your planned visit. 

Procedures for the day you are planning to visit:

Clothing and Laundry
Soak all laundry for several hours or overnight before washing in 4 cups of fragrance-free baking soda. Wash all clothing you plan on wearing at least twice to remove any residue of perfumes, etc. If you use fabric softner and detergent with fragrance, it is best to purchase a clean set of clothes and wash them by hand and hang them to dry, as the washing machine and dryer will have the fragrance from previous washes and will make the clothes you are washing pick up those fragrances.
Clothing can be washed with 4 cups of baking soda and water. If tolerated by the person you are visiting, you can also add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar and a fragrance-free liquid detergent. For more fragrance-free laundry options, click here. 
Let clothes soak for a few hours or overnight, and then rinse.

Do not use regular detergent even if it says “Scent Free” because, in many cases, manufacturing companies use chemical masking agents to cover up the chemical smells used in their products.
Do not use any fabric softener. Dry your clothes and put them on just before you are ready to leave home. If you are not wearing clothes, immediately place them in a large new zip-lock bag and store them away from any fragrances until it is time to get dressed.

Clean the body and wash your hair with fragrance-free castile soap like the ones recommended here. Do not use any of your shampoos, conditioner, hair styling creams, moose, leave-in conditioners, or detanglers in your hair.  Remember to ask the person what they can tolerate, as some people may be OK with using a fragrance-free glycerin-based soap that is readily available at most stores for under one dollar. For a complete list of fragrance-free products, please click here.

Moisturizing Conditioning & Deodorant
Ask the person you are visiting if they can tolerate refined coconut oil, raw coconut oil, or a tallow-based balm. If they can, you can use these oils to moisturize your skin and condition your hair after coming out of the shower. Refined coconut oil has less of a smell and is tolerated by many people, as is pure grapeseed oil.

Do not use any type of store-bought deodorant. Some people with MCS can tolerate fragrance-free deodorants but always ask them before applying.

Beauty Products
Makeup should be avoided unless it is fragrance-free and is approved by the person with MCS. Some people can tolerate a fragrance-free lip balm and mineral or food-based makeup, but others may not be able to, so always ask before using any cosmetic products.
Do not dye your hair or do any hair treatments at least two weeks before you are planning to visit, as chemicals in these products will linger on your hair for days and can cause a reaction.

Do not use any shaving creams, moisturizer, beard wax, or aftershave. If you need to shave, do so a few days before your visit, or if you must shave the day of your visit, you can mix grapeseed oil and castile soap to use as shaving cream.

Gas Stations & Perfumes
Do not stop to pump gas the day you are visiting. Petrochemical fumes stick to clothing and shoes and can affect a person just the same as spraying them with perfume would.
Perfumes are included in this section because over 95 percent of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals.
Do not use any perfume at all, not even if it is organic or all-natural. Also, do not use any essential oils as they contain chemical compounds that can cause reactions.

Vehicle & Home Maintenance
Remove all scented air fresheners from your vehicle for at least one month before visiting the person with MCS. Open your car windows each day and allow the car to air out as you drive to remove any residue of chemicals. Although removing car air fresheners may be beneficial to some people with mild MCS, many will react to a car’s air freshener even months after the fresheners have been removed since a small residue always remains from air fresheners. So play it safe and always ask your friend with MCS what they prefer you to do. They may suggest riding in someone else’s car that does not use car air fresheners.

Discontinue all use of air fresheners in your home for at least one month before planning your visit. This means plugins, sprays, mothballs, etc. Let your home air out each week as well by opening windows.

Do not paint your home; use chemical household cleaners, fertilizers, bug spray, or disinfectants on the day you are visiting someone with MCS.

Purses & Backpacks
It is best to avoid bringing large bags when visiting as these can often pick up smells, molds, and other bio-contaminants from places you have visited. If possible, place your identification and main items in a small wallet or zip-lock bag. You can also lock your bag in the trunk of your car if you feel secure doing so.

For families traveling with children or people needing to carry many items, use a washable diaper bag, purse, or backpack, and wash following the procedures mentioned above.

Upon Arriving For Your Visit

Be prepared to take off your shoes and place them in a bag, garage, or shoe rack.

Don’t be offended or take it personally if you missed something and your host reacts with strong symptoms. Try to be as understanding and loving as possible and follow any suggestions they may give you, such as washing your face, showering, changing clothes, clipping up your hair, etc.

Remember, this person suffering could be you. Think about how you would like to be treated if you were in the same situation. Place yourself in their position.

Avoid making critical or judgmental comments such as:
“Oh my goodness, but I thought my body wash was OK. I don’t react to it at all, and I have severe allergies.”
“You are so sensitive, and it seems crazy to have to do all this just to visit you.”
“Haven’t you seen a doctor already? Why aren’t you cured? You must not want to get better.”

Comments like these are a slap in the face, and they are like telling someone in a wheelchair with a crippling disability that they need to walk to and from their car without using a wheelchair.

Did you know that people who suffer from MCAD, TILT, and MCS are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act? These conditions are considered disabling as they severely alter a person’s quality of life and their ability to work and function properly.

Please do not discriminate against them the same way you wouldn’t discriminate against someone with muscular dystrophy, cancer, ALS, or someone in a wheelchair.

For more tips on becoming Fragrance-Free in your home, click here.
For a list of fragrance-free and essential oil-free products, click here. 

Lastly, if you or someone you know is experiencing chemical sensitivities and intolerances to food, water, clothing, etc, please take a look at your indoor environment. Often, there is a toxicant in the indoor air space that is crippling the body and resulting in these conditions; the most common are mycotoxin-producing molds. 

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  2. Great article, lots of resources and ideas for me to give to family, friends, and service people before coming, and to educate them about MCS. Thx

    1. Thanks Karren.
      I’m glad that you found this article helpful.😊

    2. I recently learned that my friend have MCS so I’m researching it. Found great article here. So I thought I will forward this to friends. Before doing that, can you fix the grammar error in the second sentence in third paragraph? You used the word “then” in this sentence. “Some of us value our relationships so much that we would rather deal with the unbearable symptoms after exposure then speak up and sound offensive by our requests.” It should be “than” because you are comparing them rather than the time shift. I decided to speak up, otherwise I usually just move on to the next article, because I thought your article is worthy of being shared. Trust me, when I encounter these mistakes all the time, I don’t even bother correcting. But I thought your article is worthy of sharing and spreading, and I thought you would appreciate this. Thank you.

      1. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed this article. I appreciate the extra eyes as I work alone on my posts and sometimes I miss things when writing in a hurry and when I’m sick.
        Chemical Free Gal

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