This is a series focused on personal journey with eczema while managing a certain aspect of life. Today, we have Ruth who is sharing about her eczema, allergies, food intolerances and allergic march. Ruth is a copy writer and marketing communications specialist (Ruth Holroyd) and also has an allergy blog WhatAllergy.
Marcie Mom: Hi Ruth, thanks for sharing about your multiple allergic conditions. Let’s start with you sharing a little of your atopic history.
Ruth: Well I was born with eczema, I don’t ever remember NOT having it. Then a peanut allergy, hay fever, asthma and then allergic to dog and cat dander and I was on the allergic march.
I was also allergic to egg as a baby but I can eat eggs now when well cooked though I have to be careful not to overdo it or they can start to make me fell unwell. This now just an intolerant reaction which is easy to manage and I save eggs as something to eat when I eat out.
The eczema has been with me as long as I can remember but does seem to go in cycles. It does clear up sometimes for a few years then comes back to bite me. I have it pretty well under control but I know that certain foods cause awful itchy eczema to flare up. Dairy is the worst for this as well as tomato, celery and fresh coriander. It gets me the day or even two days after eating and my skin will be boiling with pain, red, raw and like a think crusty hard scaly mask of pain. This mainly gets my face and neck but can be all over and even tiny traces can do this.
I have allergies now to all nuts, soya, dairy, kidney beans, celery, tomatoes and pretty much everything processed and any kind of lactic acid. Beetroot and cucumber are suspected foods but this seems to be a bit random. And the thing is it’s a different reaction with each food. Often delayed and causing eczema so often doesn’t show up in allergy testing. But if I exercise WHAM – if I’ve eaten the above allergens, especially dairy or celery I’ll get anaphylaxis which is just terrifying.
Soya milk causes me immediate and severe asthma. Soya protein, flour and other types cause less dangerous asthma but I’m better avoiding any soya. It has meant I have reduced my asthma medication drastically since discovering this was a trigger.
I also have a wheat intolerance which I often just don’t mention as it’s not life threatening but it’s really painful, causes extreme constipation and bloating and very very bad wind! I know if I’ve eaten any. Not great for anyone who is near when I eat any gluten or wheat.
Marcie Mom: How have so many allergic (and hypersensitivity) conditions affect your lifestyle and quality of life?
Ruth: I try not to let them affect my life but it’s impossible to completely achieve this. You have to be really well prepared. So I try to have lots of fresh food in the house. I tend to just avoid the allergens and not use many freefrom branded goods because they often contain one of more of my allergens. Home cooking from scratch is the norm but there are some amazing healthy freefrom ready meals coming out like ilumi which make life just a little more fun. I tend to cook extra and freeze portions for days when I can’t face cooking.
Eating out is a huge challenge. I do try to do this as you really miss out when you just never go out but I try to go for entertainment options where food is not involved like walks with a picnic, drinks instead of a meal, shopping, cinema etc. The options are endless. But eating out should be a treat and I have managed to have some lovely meals out but not without military planning, endless checking and just a little worry.
Going on holiday is a challenge too because you NEVER get a holiday from allergies. We go self catering or camping and this works well. Expensive hotels tend to be better too as they are less dusty and have better catering but small B&Bs can be wonderful if you can find one you trust which isn’t going to trigger any of your allergies. I find dust is one of my hardest as even in a busy pub I’ll be wheezing if it’s got carpet and curtains.
I know it’s tough on my husband and family too who have to cater to my every whim (Now wouldn’t that be nice?) and often change plans so I’m safe, take extra care in the kitchen etc. Family and friends have been amazing at helping me stay safe, always have an eye out for mistakes I might make and often surprise me with their kindness and understanding.
Especially with the eczema. What I feel like is a raging, red, angry, miserable horrible person. What they is just me and often they say my skin looks fine. Just a little pink and maybe like sunburn. Not something to worry about but I imagine everyone is horrified. Learning not to care what your face looks like and what people think is a hard lesson when you can feel it itching and burning but if you take your mind of your eczema and go out you scratch a little less so it’s well worth it.
Marcie Mom: Does your career choice have anything to do with your eczema and allergies?
Ruth: Probably not really but I did want to be a policewoman which was an instant no go when they discover I anaphylaxis AND multiple triggers caused by exercise. Not good really. Working from home has made my life so much easier. I can take a morning off if I’ve had a really bad allergic reaction and I can catch up when I’m feeling better. Noone can see me on really bad eczema days and this does take off the pressure. If I was working full time I would have had a terrible work record over the last few years as the allergies have been so much worse. I’m getting them under control now though and working out ways to stay safe – I have been a bit lax and made lots of mistakes but we live and learn.
Marcie Mom: One final question – what advice would you give to a lady who wants to build confidence and meet more people, despite visible eczema?
Ruth: It really needed not be a life sentence although it often does feel like one. My advice is always to try to accept it, so you have allergies. Big deal. You can live with this if you’re careful and on the plus side I am really healthy, don’t put on weight, have learnt to cook amazing tasty food, love cooking and baking now, have met some amazing inspiration people through blogging, judging on the freefrom food awards and public speaking. I also organise an Allergy Support Group. This is a great way to meet like minded people and have a good moan in a friendly place where people really get you. Get involved in local groups like this, join forums and learn as much as you can and make sure you get the support you need from your doctor and allergy specialists – not always easy but vital as these things change and can get worse without warning.
Keeping eczema and asthma under control can have huge impacts on allergic reactions. If skin is not moisturised well and breaks down allergens can and will penetrate your skin too. If you asthma is not well managed you could get far worse allergic reactions. By keeping these areas well managed you can greatly help your allergy health.
Exercise too for me is key. The fitter I am the less allergic I am. Not sure why but maybe you sweat out the allergens quicker or maybe the body is just better able to process allergens. Who knows, but it’s another way of enjoying a better life too. Eat well and exercise.
Also everyone should read my blog – it was voted in the top 5 UK allergy blogs last year and is jam packed with useful tips, product reviews and advice for living life to the full with life threatening allergies, eczema and asthma. Life is for living and there is always someone worse off than you. Life with allergies and eczema can have its positives too and lots of them so keep smiling and moisturise!
Marcie Mom: Thank you so much for sharing your eczema and multiple allergies. Many can identify with it and I do hope ladies reading your sharing will be encouraged.