Laura's Allergy Story- Part 1- Not letting the 'itchies' get the best of me
By Laura Xavia, January 2022
MY FIRST REACTION
Like many others, I have always had my allergies, like a prickly invisible friend. I remember realising how to scratch with the texture of the fabric of the mittens my mother put on my hands to stop me from scratching.
We lived in the Snowy Mountains, and I quickly discovered that icy cold alleviated the 'itchies'. But if it was on my stomach or chest, it was frowned upon just to rip the clothes off and do belly angels in the snow.
I guess my first reaction was in utero as the 'itchies' have been hereditary along my maternal line.
I remember the first one (reaction) was about age 5, and it was commonplace for me. It was a whole of body reaction, beginning on my sternum. I spent most of my time in the shower. When I was out, I had a wet apron to keep me cold as I lay under the air conditioner. I was very uncomfortable and tired, and I wondered why God didn't like me, as I couldn't remember being naughty. The Doctor prescribed a thick waxy, oily cream that was both useless and horrible.
We lived around the corner from the beach, which was the only thing that helped (saltwater). Even the sting was pure bliss after a constant itch.
DISCOVERING & MANAGING THE REACTIONS
I want to share my experience to help others. Not knowing is unbearable! Is it a deficiency? Is it a disease? Is it a parasite? There are a billion questions, but the big one is, how do I stop it?
When I was a child, I thought I was the only one suffering this... thing. Whilst my inner world was alive and magical, I just couldn't interact properly with the external world. My skin was wrong, broken, inside out. It was like I just didn't belong on earth; I felt like an alien. I was heartbreakingly shy.
I had many batteries of tests, fasts, elimination diets, creams and medication trials in an effort to understand, diagnose and elevate my allergies. Everything always failed. I recall the first patch test I had on my left arm; I was very small, 3 or 4, and the whole left side of my body exploded. When I healed, they did one at a time; I reacted to everything, including the product they used to make the squares, the marker and the material they put on to try to make it better.
So I can proudly say I have Environmental Dermal Allergies. A.K.A no one knows what it is, so it has the vaguest title to allow for any eventuality.
I call them 'itchies'.
I touch my skin 10 to 20 times per minute, awful huh? Unprofessional. However, my skin is super sensitive. I can feel a mozzie fly past! And that can be the introduction, a minuscule irritation. I touch to ease the prickle. I unconsciously scratch it. Again. And again. Within moments I have a 6-inch square area I've scratched the skin off, and it's still furiously itchy! If it isn't stopped at this point, it could overtake my body very quickly. After swimming in a pool, one Christmas, it spread into my eyeballs!
At the age of 6, it was decided that even though my liver and kidneys showed perfect functioning, there must be something wrong with them, so I was not permitted processed foods. The 'itchies' still came as they pleased.
Stress, heat and soft-touch do aggravate them, but their absence doesn't eliminate them.
As a child, a powerful cold shower was my best friend. While I was in there, the sores stinging blissfully, I would make 'mixtures' of eucalyptus oil, vinegar, chillies, garlic etc. The pain was my friend; it stopped the itch.
Swimming in the ocean, ah! It was cold and healing. I spent my entire childhood neck deep in the water. But the second I landed, there they were itching.
Antihistamine tablets gave the slightest relief, antihistamine cream, ah no! Felt horrendous! Ice would numb the area for a few precious seconds and then power straight back up, furious!
The 'itchies' have been hereditary along my maternal line; however, my daughter doesn't have it. My sibling doesn't have it. So I pray it has stopped with me.
Although medical assistance was sort for many years, no help was received. We travelled far and wide to this specialist and that without the tiniest effect to the itch.
We then turned to alternative forms of healing, herbalists, Chinese medicine, nutritionists, homeopathic, reiki, bowen, kinesiology, etc.
I have tried every lotion, potion and witchdoctor imaginable. And the things I have found that help me are:
- swimming at the beach
- cold water or ice
- washing my hair with an apple cider vinegar rinse only
- natures botanical personal insect repellent - applied directly to the site of the itch
THE CHANGE IT HAD ON MY LIFE
As I have always had the 'itchies', my life has not changed in that respect.
Discovering what brings relief has changed my life. The irritation still comes, but I can effectively intervene, mostly.
Right now, I don't have any sores larger than a few pea-sized dots. Seeing my face clean and clear, this is a miracle in my life. Not having a constant snowstorm of dandruff or psoriasis is beyond wonderful. Using the above mentioned products is life-changing!
MANAGING DAY-TO-DAY LIFE
I constantly need to touch if the 'itchies' emerge from my super sensitive skin. The 'itchies' can feel like small tarantulas are walking under my skin with their tiny barbed feet and fury bodies (nope, I don't do drugs or drink alcohol). If I try to ignore the feeling, it escalates quickly.
Scratching the skin off to relieve the itch is an entirely unintentional and unconscious act. It doesn't hurt, it brings relief, and if I could stop it, I would. So out and about, I scratch.
I am unable to cover an itch as any kind of touch is crazy irritating. Having visible large, violently angry 'itches' and/or sores causes people to stare, be concerned for their own safety or, best of all, express advice.
Sometimes I welcome these advances as an opportunity to educate upon the various details of my allergy. It is usually quite a conversation, and I feel great afterwards, if not completely exhausted.
Sometimes my shyness is incapacitating, and I simply stay home. Having a constant itch is exhausting. Additionally, I have open wounds I need to protect against infection.
I have re-created an old natural antibacterial formula as I did pick up a horror story in a hospital and became deathly unwell in 2007. Prescription antibacterial is problematic in its effectiveness.
So I need to carry my above-mentioned 'magic potion', my nature's botanical personal insect repellent, antihistamine tablets and plantain powder with me always, everywhere.
Finally, I have dreadlocked my hair, allowing air to circulate around my scalp. My scalp was always a raging hot mess, lava and snow mixed. I 'wash' my hair with a rinse of apple cider vinegar. That's it! No shampoo, no conditioner, nothing. My scalp is still sensitive, but the psoriasis is all but gone no more lava. The relief of not looking like I'm infested with lice is heaven-sent. And my hair is soft and strong; I think it maintains the perfect ph or something.
Short hair doesn't suit me; I love long hair but a single hair falling onto my skin is agony. I have experienced broken bones, and hair fall is worse! Dreadlocks hold onto the hair that would have fallen, creating an exotic, funky hairstyle rather than agony. Peace and I get to look nice too!
MY SUPPORT NETWORK (My Pal-lergies)
The term Pal-lergies is cute. I wish I had known about Allergy Life Australia, as I didn't have a buddy. My father died when I was young, and my mother quickly tired of the chase to find a cure. My mother had also suffered from this ailment, but she grew out of it at about 10 years. So she expected me to do the same.
I didn't know anyone with even similar allergies. Others in my family had sinus allergies, but not dermal.
I researched remedies for myself. Although entirely self-taught, I discovered that the inside of the bark of bracken fern aided greatly in allergy relief. However, this substance was difficult to harvest and store. I then happened upon plantain. It is everywhere, easy to harvest, easy to reduce to a powder for long term storage, easy to mix with water to a paste, easy to apply, and it reduces the itch by 90% or so - fabulous
Later I discovered Nature's Botanical and vinegar.
So I guess mother nature is my Pal-lergies 😊
WHAT I LEARNT & MY ADVICE FOR OTHERS
I've always had my allergy; I don't know life without it. However, I would say be prepared to have a serious attack all the time; just have your bag/box of tricks with you always.
I've learnt not to minimise my place in the universe; I, like you, am a unique individual, I am perfectly me, and my allergy is a part of that whole. I find it one of the most important things is to be yourself, don't strive and wish to be like someone else.
All you can see of a person is their skin; as the saying goes, "beauty is more than skin deep".
Be a beautiful soul; know you are infinitely stronger than the person with perfect skin. Show up and do you. I've missed out on a million things because I chose not to leave my home, I felt bad, or I looked bad. And that's OK; I think it's important to honour and respect how you feel, but do whatever you gotta do to get out that door!
As the saying goes, "you do you."
Part 2 coming soon
Thank you Laura for sharing your Allergy Story with the community🙏
My Allergy Story shares the experiences of Australians living with allergies, who share their story with you to raise awareness and further understanding of the impact and effect of allergies in our community. Click here to read more.
The information provided on Allergy Life Australia is to generally educate and inform you about living with allergies, intolerances and conditions, and is not intended as medical instruction or as a substitute for diagnosis, examination and advice by a qualified health care provider.