When the Cure is the Cause

I’ve had eczema all my life. From the two-year-old who scratched her arms to scabs to the 18-year-old who reached for the hydrocortisone the moment she felt an itch, to now, when the once-fulfilled, “You’ll grow out of it,” seems like a distant memory. I’ve used steroid creams, nasal steroids, steroid mousse, and immune suppressant creams. I always felt that at least I had some measure of control. Until I started to react to the medication.

I didn’t know it at first. I was using hydrocortisone cream off and on, and using a neti pot and prescribed nasal spray to fix my sinuses. But the spray wasn’t cutting it, and I had to up the dose. I stayed on that maximum dose for a year and a half straight, and it worked less well as time passed. Then I learned that methylisothiazolinone (MI) was likely one of the causes of my allergic reactions. I learned it was often used to help sterilize wood fibre (cellulose). And I learned cellulose was in the nasal spray.

Despite my doctor’s insistence that the steroid couldn’t move beyond my sinuses, I definitely felt withdrawal symptoms as I weaned myself off of it. Once I’d stopped (and removed MI from other commonly-used products in my home), I only needed a daily sinus rinse to almost completely clear my sinus issues.

Then I patch tested positive for propylene glycol. For the record, most hydrocortisone-type creams contain propylene glycol, and many contain cellulose as well. I was trying to fix the rashes on my arms and neck, and they were getting worse by the day. The allergist prescribed an immune-suppressant cream, but using it as prescribed diluted to half strength on my face, arms, chest, and neck made me feel sick after a couple of days. Even using it half strength on only my face twice a day made me sick within two days. Even using it half strength on my face only once a day, within three days I feel sick.

Visits to my doctor and even my allergist had them shrugging their shoulders. They would prescribe something they thought might work, I would check it with the pharmacist, find out it contained one of my allergens, and go back to the doctor for another try. It was only after researching online and recruiting a pharmacist to help search that I finally found a corticosteroid that works for me. With everything I’d been through and how bad I looked, my doctor was ready to prescribe what I requested.

file7571340932139I can’t say this strongly enough: When clearing your home of allergens, don’t forget to check your medications. Even when your doctor who knows your allergies prescribed it. Even plain moisturizing creams and lotions suggested by your doctors, over-the-counter medications, and if you’re really sensitive, oral medications. If you need to get rid of something important, research for alternatives online before seeing your doctor, to avoid the back and forth. Even if there’s only one medication out there you can use safely, something you can turn to when your immune system has jumped into overdrive is a lifesaver.

What medications have you had to stop using due to allergies? Comment below.

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