Well for one, know your derivatives. If you have soy allergy, remember that 'stearic'-anything or "magnesium stearate" is usually derived from soybean oil, unless otherwise stated. Many of these relatively unknown ingredients are binders added to hold the ingredients together. I learned this the hard way and was reacting for weeks on and off, recently finding out from some friends on the Soy Allergy Board on Facebook that regular brand Zyrtec contains soy.
One of my lovely friends from Twitter (which is another AMAZING source of support for those of us with food allergies or gluten issues) notified me that original brand Allegra is soy-free and does not contain wheat, although it has not been tested for gluten so it cannot call itself gluten-free.
I've been taking Allegra daily, but be sure not to take it with ANY JUICE since this will negate the efficacy of the medication by 35-40%! ONLY take it with water--not even coffee, as coffee is also very acidic. Also, it is recommended not to drink ANY juice 3-4 hours afterwards so that the active ingredients are properly absorbed into the bloodstream.
So the obvious medical treatments are to take medicines prescribed by your doctor, which includes antihistamines and topical corticosteroids.
The not so obvious steps I take are the following:
1. DO NOT use any body products or cosmetics you have not used on open, raw skin before or eat ANYTHING you are unsure of or HAVE NOT MADE YOURSELF.
(I also can't stress enough the importance of using products that are paraben-free and chemical-free. Open skin and cuts allow chemicals and ingredients straight into the bloodstream. For those of you who are not aware of all the chemicals in your cosmetics, bath products, lotions, fragrances and hair products, I invite you to visit Skin Deep by EWG and type in your favorite products to see how toxic they are--or not.)
The absolutely WORST offenders tend to be fragrances and hair sprays, so ban chemical fragrances and hairsprays from your life! If you don't believe me, look up your favorite fragrance on The Cosmetics Safety Database and weep. Don't say I didn't tell you so.
2. If you are very sensitive to environmental allergens like pollen, ragweed or dander, take TWO or more showers daily. Your hair acts like an environmental sponge, so you might need to take one every time you come back from being outdoors more than a half hour...the most important one being just before bed. This will remove any pollens or ragweeds sticking to your body and in your hair and keep you from contaminating clean sheets and pillowcases. Your other option (and more realistic one) is to stay indoors as much as possible. Moisturize with extra-virgin organic olive oil (why ONLY Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil? Because MANY ARE FAKE) or extra-virgin organic coconut oil while skin is still damp after showering. Also note that chlorinated water can aggravate asthma or eczema symptoms so it might help to invest in a shower filter so that chemicals don't go directly into your bloodstream.
3. Moisturizing skin on the outside as well as the inside is SO important during an allergic reaction, since some eczema symptoms, antihistamines and corticosteroids make skin very dry. Not only does it help speed the healing process, it also keeps itchy symptoms from worsening by reducing inflammation. Usually when I have a reaction, I make a healing smoothie using ONLY USDA Certified Organic fruits to guarantee there are no soy pesticides or coatings on the fruit and to be sure they are non-GMO.
Maya's Healing Smoothie Recipe
1 cup frozen USDA Certified Organic mixed berries (I use Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand)
1/2 cup of USDA Certified Organic Plain Yogurt (make sure it contains probiotics! I happen to love Stonyfield Farms brand) NOTE: As of 2015 I strictly cut out dairy entirely, due to delayed allergy. I now use half Organic apple juice and half water.
1 packet of USDA Organic stevia or two tablespoons of USDA Certified Organic honey
1 pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
1/2 cup filtered water or USDA Certified Organic Milk if you like it creamier NOTE: As of 2015 I strictly cut out dairy, due to delayed allergy. I now use half Organic apple juice and half water.
FOUR tablespoons of refrigerated Barleans Flaxseed Oil (this is the MOST important healing part of recipe...for more about WHY you should take this supplement, click here) As with any supplement, consult your doctor or allergist before trying.
Blend all ingredients together and consume within fifteen minutes for optimal benefits. Delicious! I also have other variations where I blend one cup of USDA Organic spinach, one cup USDA Organic cilantro (detoxifier), 1 cup pineapple, 1/2 cup organic apple juice, 1/2 cup water, 1 banana, four tablespoons of the same flaxseed oil, 1/4 cup water, packet of stevia, pinch of celtic sea salt and 1/4 cup ice...
Why do I add salt? Because celtic sea salt is actually a natural antihistamine. It also contains numerous trace minerals your body needs.
Drinking these shakes will not only help hydrate your skin, but will also help you to detoxify and lower the ratio of the allergen in your body and bloodstream. For this reason, the healing process takes time, but eating and drinking regularly will help speed up the process.
4. Eat moisturizing allergen-free safe foods! By moisturizing foods, I mean USDA Organic foods ONLY that are high in omega-3s and omega-6s to reduce inflammation. These include but are not limited to:
tuna (same as above) I buy 'Wild Planet' brand in bulk from Costco. Found in single cans at Whole Foods.
grass-fed or flaxseed-fed organic eggs Pete's and Gerry's are my go-to brand.
olive oil Once again, make sure your olive oil is USDA Organic or Organic Certified since many on the market are fake.
extra-virgin organic coconut oil (I notice a big difference in my skin when I consume this regularly--as I've said before, coconuts are seeds, not nuts...but always consult your doctor before trying! I actually thought I was allergic to coconut oil in an old post but it turned out I was allergic to non grass-fed eggs because of the soy feed! I now use coconut oil for cooking practically everything.)
5. Get lots of rest! Trying to battle the effects of antihistamines and keep your eyes open with a 'venti' coffee from Starbucks or several shots of espresso is just counterproductive because it lowers your immune system and also dries out your skin further causing tiny cracks in the skin that will make you itch more! Not to mention the risk of cross-contamination at your favorite coffeeshop from soy milk and natural flavors from those syrups and the soy-feed contamination, pesticides and antibiotics in regular milk....aaaarghhh!! Just don't do it. Plus if you happen to be on Prednisone, excess caffeine will prob give you anxiety.
Take your meds, take a shower or salt bath (apply plenty of USDA Organic Olive oil--this is my favorite--after) and apply your topical corticosteroid creams or lotions as needed. Don't overdo it. I know you want to take that tube and literally suffocate every itchy pore on your body with that itch-relieving prescription cream of the Gods but you are doing yourself damage in the long-run and years from now, those same creams might not work--or worse, cause a reaction. So apply sparingly, as prescribed by your doctor. Then just go to sleep. For ten hours or more, if you can...I remember as a child I literally slept once for almost two days straight during a reaction. Your body has been poisoned and needs time to heal, so allow yourself that time and don't beat yourself up about it. Go schedule an emergency allergist visit and get a note from your doc because you will likely have to be out for at least two days depending on how bad your reaction was.
6. Do not make important decisions or have stressful conversations. This is your time to heal. Make it your fun time to catch up on movies that make you laugh. Anything that boosts your immune system is welcome here. Go on Pinterest and look at the funny boards. Avoid people or situations that will stress you out. Let people know you're having a reaction and take your meds around the clock. Sleep when your body tells you to.
7. Drink lots of water. If you could get your hands on mineral water like Pellegrino, even better. Studies show that mineral water helps to detoxify heavy metals from the body and brain. If you don't have access to mineral water, add a pinch of celtic sea salt to filtered water, which will help replenish the minerals your body needs while aiding in moving the poison (allergens) out of your system.
8. Cover your space with a freshly laundered 100% cotton sheet. The last thing you need is pollen, ragweed or dust mites in your couch or chair causing your itchy hives to get worse. Anyone who is with you should stay on their side of the furniture since you will likely need your own space to scratch plus their body heat or skin could aggravate your eczema (I know it definitely does for me). Change this sheet every time you come back to sit or lay down for an extended period of time. Do not sit or allow others to sit in your space and contaminate it with pollen and ragweed from their hair, clothes and skin--make them shower first.
9. Turn on the air purifier or invest in one! The best air purifiers use a HEPA filter to filter out smoke, dust, pollen, dander, ragweed and so much more. To ensure a high-quality product, look for high ratings! This Honeywell purifier is a good example. If you're also allergic to dust and dander, make sure to get all central heating or A/C filters changed. Many people forget to change filters and experts recommend monthly filter replacements for people with severe allergies. Using dust mite beddings and pillow covers will also make a huge difference in your reactions since it isn't actually dust you are reacting to with dust allergy--its the dust mite's droppings!
10. Take EXTRA probiotics - If you're not taking a good one, you better invest in one. Yes, they might be pricey but studies show probiotics are one of the most important supplements you can take if you have severe food allergies. According to that link, if you up your usual dosage during a reaction, you might hinder or even halt inflammation. I take Trunature Digestive Probiotic which is soy-free, dairy-free and gluten-free! During a reaction, I double up on the dosage but you definitely have to take it regularly for about a week to notice a difference in the way you feel. My favorite soy-free gluten-free probiotic is Ultimate Flora (blue box).
Hopefully all of this helped you...and remember, its only temporary. As frustrating and debilitating as it is now, take comfort knowing you will heal. If not now, the answers will come--just stay positive and strong.