Have you been feeling sick and don’t know why?
This blog will provide you with insight, and an arsenal of tools for your weird symptoms that come with modern-life in the 21st century.
First things first… technically, our physical reactions to “modern life” (or rather the elements in our environment) are not classified as an “allergy” by the medical world. The factual term is “sensitivity”. However, I chose the words “allergy” and “allergic” because that’s the only point of reference people have when they start feeling sick. That’s the word they will “google” when they are looking for answers. That is the word that I used when I first got sick 14 years ago. I went to an allergist and told her that I thought I was “allergic to steak”. All I knew was that I would get quite sick shortly after eating steak. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was happening to me. The only word that came to mind was “allergy”. Well, the allergist explained to me that a food allergy is a rather deadly experience and the reaction I described – although clearly unsettling and painful – was called a “food sensitivity”.
Here’s another reason why I chose the words “allergy” and “allergic”…
My physical reactions to everyday chemicals are quite severe. My nervous system sets off all kinds of reactions in my body and brain; sometimes I can’t speak properly and can’t even stand up without help. If someone comes into my home with chemicals (perfume, scented laundry detergent on their clothes, a newspaper or magazine) then I could be sick in bed for days until all those toxins leave the air. In fact, I will get sick if I just answer the door and the person outside the door is wearing perfume/cologne. My physical reaction – no matter how severe – is technically called a “chemical sensitivity”… not an allergy. But whenever I ask people to show up “unscented” because I am “sensitive to chemicals” then they don’t take me seriously. Usually, they will say something like; “Oh, I’m sensitive too! Whenever someone wears perfume that is too strong, I get a headache.” Yeah thanks (I’m thinking), but if I go near someone with strong perfume, I’ll spend a week in bed… it’s NOT the same thing. Then, because they didn’t understand my situation, they show up with a “light scent” which makes me very ill anyway. Hence, I have learned that using the word “allergic” may be technically wrong, but it’s very effective when I need regular people to understand how serious my reaction is. If I must see people, I say that I might have an “allergic reaction” to fragrance. They seem to understand those words much better.
When you are dealing with the medical community, be sure that you are using the correct language. Tell your doctor that you are having a “severe reaction” or “debilitating sensitivity” but don’t tell them you are “allergic” to new stuff. They may not get you the help that you need.
- Twitter: @ModernAllergy