Living with Allergies and Sensitivities

A true story about chemical sensitivities
by Yvonne DuFresne 

a l l  n a t u r a l  i n f o



           I was a teenager when I initially began to develop asthma and allergies.  It began with an allergy to cats.  Although I grew up in a family that included a pet cat, I didn’t experience any of the typical allergy symptoms until my teens.  I never gave it much thought, but instead avoided being around cats.

     Several years later when I was planning an upcoming trip to my parents’ home which they shared with their beloved cat, I decided to visit an allergist in the hopes that he would be able to prescribe something that would “cat proof” my body for the upcoming visit.  I was given a plethora of tests including the infamous scratch test.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure, the scratch test is used to observe the skin’s reaction to various allergens.  A needle is used to prick the skin of the back and forearm and then the suspected allergens are applied to the pricked areas.  After about 20 minutes or so, the scratched areas are examined for adverse reactions.  Generally redness, swelling, and itching are signs of an allergic reaction.

     My first scratch test included over 100 scratches.  After about 20 minutes, my doctor returned to examine his handiwork and let out a little gasp when he saw my back... he commented that he had never seen something like this before.  I had an allergic reaction to every single sample allergen applied.  Good grief!  I thought I was just allergic to housecats… now I’m allergic to grass, mold, canines, pollen, dust, ammonia, shell fish, ragweed, latex, wasps, bees, yellow jackets, etc.  Of course, my doctor recommended an aggressive (and of course expensive) treatment plan, which was to include weekly injections for at least 5 years! What????  There had to be a better way.

     I then began the process of eliminating potential irritants from my environment, which included the foods I ate, household cleaning products I used, cosmetics and personal care items that I used, and I limited my exposure to animals.  I also began researching various methods of internal cleansing.

     I read a very interesting book by Stanley Burroughs, who was a pioneer in alternative medicine, entitled “The Master Cleanser”.  The premise of the cleanse is his belief that many modern diseases and allergies are the result of excess toxins in the body.  The Master Cleanser is a natural means to eliminate toxic buildup and mucous from the body.  I have been doing semi-annual ten day cleanses for many years now and I feel that this has helped my allergies, nasal congestion, and general well-being immensely.  I also consciously seek out natural alternatives to chemical-laden products.  It seemed as though every time I cleaned with conventional cleaning products I experienced a “sneeze-fest” for several hours.  Here are a few of my favorite alternatives:

Household Cleaning Products

     Replace your blue window and glass cleaner with a mixture of 1 part plain vinegar and 8 parts water.  This can also be used as an “all-purpose” spray cleaner.

     Replace scouring powder with a paste made from baking soda and warm water

     Replace bleach with borax

     Replace degreasers with fresh lemon juice

     Baking Soda can be used in many ways and easily replaces chlorine-based scouring products for bathroom and kitchen cleaning tasks

     Replace commercial automatic dishwasher soap with equal parts of borax and washing soda

     Replace waxy furniture polishing products with a mixture of olive oil and several drops of lemon essential oil

Ingredients to avoid in cleaning products:

  • chlorine bleach

  • ammonia

  • synthetic chemicals

Cosmetic Ingredients that can cause sensitivity, adverse effects, allergic reactions, and/or are known carcinogens or suspected carcinogens:

     I’m particularly allergic to this ingredient, which is commonly used in lipsticks and blush products.  Carmine is a red dye derived from dried and pulverized adult female cochineal insects.

FD & C, D & C, and external D & C dyes
     Synthetic colorants derived from coal tar, a known carcinogenic

Formaldehyde, Quaternium 15, Diazolidinyl Urea
     Commonly used preservatives suspected to be cancer causing

     Commonly used highly toxic preservative known to cause sensitivity and allergic reactions

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
     Foaming agent known to cause skin rashes and allergic reactions

Chemical Fragrance
     Can be very irritating to sensitive individuals causing skin irritation, nasal congestion, and headache

Alpha Hydroxy Acids
     May increase risk of sunburn, cause swelling, photosensitivity, and skin irritation

     A known carcinogen

     There are a number of additional offending ingredients, but these are the main substances that I have found that I cannot personally tolerate.

     As far as cosmetics and personal care products go, I try to keep things as simple as possible.  I use cosmetics made from minerals including Titanium Dioxide, Mica, and Iron Oxides.  I strive to keep my formulations simple yet effective without adding unnecessary additional ingredients.  My dry skin is effectively moisturized with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

     Although it is impossible to eliminate all potential irritants in the world we live in, it is possible to make informed choices in reference to some of the substances we inhale, ingest, and topically apply daily.  In my case, I was pointed towards more naturally derived ingredients in order to control my allergies and skin sensitivities and in the process found many wonderful alternatives to hazardous chemicals.  I’m sure that there are many other ingredients to avoid as well, but I have highlighted those offenders that I have personally been affected by. 


Yvonne DuFresne

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