According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a "chronic, recurring disease caused by a person's inability to tolerate an environmental chemical or class of foreign chemicals." MCS is a serious problem that affects many Americans on different levels. Because the symptoms, as well as the triggers, of MCS can range greatly, finding remedies to deal with MCS isn’t easy but there is hope and solutions.
The Common Symptoms
To further complicate the problem, many doctors don't recognize MCS as a real condition because of the lack of research to support it–however, if you are an MCS sufferer, you know that whether acknowledged or not, MCS is real and needs real-world solutions. Recognizing the symptoms of MCS from other conditions is a bit tricky as the symptoms of MCS can vary from person to person. These are the most common symptoms of MCS:
- Runny nose
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Ear aches
- Sore or irritated throat
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach cramps
- Joint/bone/muscle aches
- Short-term memory loss
- Asthma/respiratory issues
- Flu-like symptoms
These symptoms can appear alone or in conjunction with one another, with the length of symptoms lasting for short or long periods of time. The initial reaction can be slight and become more severe, lasting for hours or days at a time. Additionally, people may begin to develop more and more sensitivities to chemicals after their first reaction.
Those individuals considered to have MCS exhibit the following:
- Symptoms that reoccur due to a specific chemical being present.
- The condition is long-term and doesn't improve.
- The presence of low-levels of chemicals can trigger symptoms.
- Symptoms diminish when the chemical trigger is eliminated.
- Similar and different symptoms can occur from unrelated chemical triggers.
- The immune system may involve more than one organ in its reaction to the chemical trigger.
The Common Triggers
Some people are only reactive to certain products, while others seem to be sensitive to the majority of chemicals they are exposed to, such as
- Cleaning products (furniture polish, floor and bathroom cleaners)
- Industrial cleaning products, which are much more potent, can also be very detrimental to MCS sufferers.
- Perfumes (including lotions or other skin care products with fragrances)
- Soaps (hand soaps, shampoos, conditioners, bath oils, body washes, etc.)
- Fabric dyes or certain weaves of fabric that include man-made synthetics and some natural fibers that are reactive; this can be in clothing or bedding
- Laundry detergents (including bleaches, color-safe bleaches, fabric softeners, static drier sheets)
- Permanent markers or highly scented writing tools
- Soft plastics
- Air fresheners (sprays, plugs-in type units, scented indoor candles, citronella candles, etc.)
- Indoor pesticides to kill common household pests (like roaches, ants, flies and mosquitoes); industrial pesticides, which are much stronger, can also trigger attacks
- Glues used for furniture, carpets, appliances, and home construction
- Magazines or newspapers
- Solvents or other VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as fumes that come from natural gas, paints, paint thinners, varnishes, burning wood or other materials in a fireplace; and off-gassing from the use of photocopiers, fax machines and other appliances that can cause to release of VOCs when they are in use.
- Smoke ( tobacco, cooking/grilling, fireplaces, candles)
These are the most common culprits that elicit a MCS reaction; however, it is hard to eliminate all these components from everyday life - and you may only be reactive to some, not all, of them, so it is important to begin a plan to identify as many of your triggers as possible, recognize your symptoms to them, and then address the issue with the proper changes to your environment.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal is an important first step to recognizing your individual MCS triggers and finding solutions to keep your symptoms under control. By tracking your symptoms, you will become aware of how and when your MCS is at its best and worst. Being consistent with this journal is crucial because you will use it to create a picture of your overall MCS.
You don't just want a record of when you felt the worst, but you want to record all reactions for a specific period of time. A general rule is 2 weeks to 30 days for journaling. This will allow enough time for you to go through a regular monthly routine, including cleaning your home, washing laundry, bathing, shopping, cooking, being in and out of your house, and living with a multitude of ever-changing environmental factors.
Your journal should be as detailed as possible and try to follow a set pattern - remember you will be evaluating your responses at the end of a specified time to see when and where you felt the best/worst and what might be at the root cause of your reaction. With this information, you can avoid certain products, minimize your interaction with specific appliances, or replace items in your homes that are having a negative impact on you. Knowing what aggravates your MCS will give you the power to control and change them for the improvement of your health.
Getting the Right Products
Eliminating products that trigger MCS is the next step to feeling well and improving your quality of life. The following products will help you as you combat the elements in your home that cannot totally be banished away.
- Air Purifiers: Air purifiers are an excellent choice for removing airborne pollutants that can trigger a MCS reaction. However, all air purifiers are not created equally. Based on your level of MCS, then you will want to carefully consider your choices in air cleaners before you buy. Many of these units are created of plastics that do off-gas to a small degree, which is completely unnoticeable to many individuals who suffer from MCS. However, if you have severe MCS, then you will want to choose an MCS air purifier that are constructed not to off-gas. If you feel overwhelmed in this process, Sylvane offers product experts (at (800) 934-9194) who will be able to help you through the buying process to find the best machine for your needs and environment. Also, check our Air Purifier Buying Guide.
Air cleaners can dramatically help MCS symptoms because a high-quality unit will filter particles (large and small), chemicals, smoke, and gases from the air before they reach you. The pollutants are locked away and you never have to worry about feeling their effects. Air purifiers are portable, easy to maintain, and offer real results on your investment.
- Hypoallergenic Bedding: Similar to the method allergy sufferers go through in choosing bedding that will give them a peaceful, symptom-free night's rest, MCS-sufferers need to pick bedding that will not trigger a negative reaction. Choose products that are chemically free of dyes and fragrances and made of natural fibers.
- Steam Cleaners: Getting rid of chemical cleaners and keeping your house free of pollutants is necessary to keep your MCS under control. With a steam cleaner you are able to sanitize your home from bacteria, mildew, and mold - and all without the worry of chemical side-effects.
Today's steam cleaners have taken an innovative leap in usability from their former counterparts. They are simple to set up, operate, and maintain. They come in a variety of styles to choose from, as well as in all ranges of sizes to best fit your environment and needs. Investing in a high-quality steam cleaner will improve your quality of life when it comes to your health, and over time a steam cleaner will pay for itself by replacing all the chemical cleaners you were using before. Sylvane offers several highly regarded brands of dry vapor steam cleaners that are backed by years of research and satisfied customers.
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