I tend to write about what is on my mind at the moment as most writers tend to do.
For the past two weeks, I was an itchy mess of hives and peeling, itching skin. My educated guess is that its probably due to my environmental allergies to ragweed, dust mites and pollen. My allergist is going to kill me, since I'm seeing him next week after having skipped several months of immunizations because of the reactions I was having hours later after my shots. I just couldn't handle it at the time with my gluten issues...but now my seasonal allergies are here--with a vengeance!
It doesn't matter that I am so careful with my diet, to the point that I seem to have hoarded all of my "safe" food to myself and am throwing together my own strange (but unbelievably healthy and delicious to me) concoctions from scratch, which boil down to three specific meals
which I will show you in my next blog post.
So going back to the itchy skin, you HAVE to eat healthy during skin inflammations. There is no way around it. You will notice the difference if you don't. Cut out the caffeine (if you need the reason, you can find it on this post). AVOID the sugar and use stevia instead. Why? Because sugar feeds inflammation (For those of you who aren't gluten-free, so does bread and pasta; it turns into sugar in your body and in excess, is the cause of numerous long-term health issues). If you can't get used to the taste of stevia, use REAL Canadian maple syrup; it contains over 20 antioxidants and is being touted as a superfood. I use it in coffee sometimes and the taste reminds me of the raw sugar at Starbucks.
So now that I've gotten the diet thing off of my chest, I'm going to talk about the pursuit of getting rid of the itch that seems to move and skip around all over your body like an annoying bug. Except it isn't a bug and swatting at the damned thing just makes it seem to get worse. Why? Because you're stressing out FROM the itch, which is increasing cortisol (the stress hormone) which in turn makes the reaction worse (here is a link to the study how stress affects dermatitis aka eczema).
First thing first:
Cool your space.
Turn on the A/C even if its fall or winter and people think you're crazy. If they're cold, tell them to please put on a sweater or hat; you can't peel off your skin, but they can add more layers. An allergic reaction will affect your body temperature and you will likely get warm or too hot and start to sweat (which for people like me with cholinergic urticaria, also aggravates your sensitive condition. Here's the study in case you're curious). Cooling your space could also dehydrate so make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids and using moisturizers and lip balm as needed.
If you deal with hand eczema or any eczema for that matter, you've probably used many different household objects to try to kill the itch. This...
..IS NOT A SCRATCHER. I commend you for your ingenuity and innovation but sorry--we've all done it...and its NOT your answer.
When you scratch with anything you are creating tiny cuts in your skin and opening your body's largest protective organ up to bacteria, allergens, chemicals and God-knows-what in whatever you're using to distract yourself from the itch. In the case of a hairbrush, you're DEFINITELY going to get allergens, dust and chemicals--especially if you are using any products not safe enough to eat. If you are rubbing violently at the itch (like I used to do with the edges of my clothing) you are creating massive friction which is creating heat, which in turn is aggravating the itch and making it worse, not to mention that tiny microscopic particles from dried detergent, fibers in the clothing or God-knows-what are now entering your bloodstream.
You may reason, "Ohhh, but it has the little balls on the ends of the plastic bristles so they're not actually scratching into my--"
NO! Here is what you're going to do instead.
Step 1. Cleanse
If its your hands that are itching, walk to the nearest bathroom and run the water to as cold as you can get it to. Wash your hands with your favorite soy-free chemical-free soap using cold water. I'm currently using the Alaffia African Black Soap from Whole Foods.
*Note: IF YOUR SKIN IS NOT BROKEN OR CUT UP YET and you think the itching is due to environmental allergies or something you touched or slathered on your skin and you're allergic to it, pick up a bag of USDA Organic brown sugar at the grocery. Put 1/2 cup in a bowl and add 1/4 cup olive oil or Extra-Virgin Organic coconut oil. Scrub your hands in warm water (do NOT use hot! Warm water will dissolve any coatings or chemical allergens like dimethicone or soy derivatives like PEGs off of the skin) using this mixture along with a pump of your favorite soy-free allergen-free chemical-free liquid soap. This works best in my opinion to remove any traces of allergen coating the skin.
The reason why I say not to use hot water is because--yes--it WILL feel amazing and seemingly stop the itch for those few seconds, but what happens after? That same spot will itch like its NEVER itched before! You will literally want to peel your skin off. Don't do it.
Heat makes things expand--and cold makes things contract. If your skin is inflamed and an allergen is the cause, the heat is making the blood vessels that are coursing histamine through your blood EXPAND thereby aggravating inflammation!
Step 2. Moisturize
So now that you've washed the cause of your demise off, you will need to moisturize, IMMEDIATELY. Using a towel (washed in a laundry detergent you're not allergic to, I hope) blot your skin so that it is still slightly damp or better yet, just dry off in a steamy bathroom. Now I am just as guilty as many of you of slathering Vaseline all over my face and body since it seems to be the only thing that doesn't make my skin react. This is another DON'T....click here to read why.
A much healthier alternative is USDA Organic extra-virgin olive oil (ONLY use USDA Organic or Mueller-safe oils so that you know its truly 100% pure olive oil)or make your OWN using olive oil and beeswax (I buy beeswax from Whole Foods and add 100% pure shea butter to the recipe which I order online and minus a bit of the olive oil to even it out). Its SO easy to make and is so much more cost-effective than buying one oz. containers for 25 bucks or more when you can make 16 oz. (or larger) for about the same price.
A big part of moisturizing your skin goes back to diet. If you haven't read my post, "Damage Control - Dealing With an Allergic Reaction" which goes into the importance of Omega 3s during an allergic reaction, read it now.
Step 3. Medicate
Now is the time to put on those corticosteroid creams or lotions your doctor prescribed. Fill a bag with ice and cover with a towel; put this against wherever you are really itchy--I know this helps me sometimes. Use medicated creams sparingly and if you're still really itchy, take an antihistamine. If your breathing is being affected, your throat feels scratchy like you can't swallow or your heart is racing, you might need to USE AN EPI-PEN if you have one and go to the hospital, immediately. Do not play games with an allergic reaction--your life could be at stake.
Step 4. Protect
If the eczema is bad on your hands, put on nitrile gloves. I buy them from Costco but you can also get them at any pharmacy. I change them after a couple of hours (you will have to rewash your hands and reapply your moisturizers with each glove change to wash off sweat). If you can get your hands on 100% cotton gloves, you might like those better, but I either lose them within 24 hrs or just never use them again. For me, the nitrile gloves are much more convenient. Wearing gloves protects open cuts and wounds from allergens in your environment and helps aid in the healing process. I notice when I'm having bad hand eczema and I do everything except wear gloves, the itch is worse. For some reason, the gloves calm my itchy skin slightly.
If the eczema is all over your arms, legs and body, wear long-sleeves and long pants, making sure your skin is covered with 100% cotton. I truly believe this helps with the healing process and once again, prevents allergens in the air from aggravating an already sensitive condition.
I hope this post helped some of you--and remember, its only temporary. You can heal.