Bitter Sweet Steroid Packss

What I thought were just allergies ended up turning into a horrible cough with asthmatic symptoms, so I went to the doctor. Turns out it was an infection and I should've gone to the doctor way earlier. The good news is my breathing test came back with negative results: no asthma! The not-so-great news is that I had to take a steroid pack in addition to an antibiotic ...

Steroid packs cause a mix of strong emotions for me: it indicates my defeat to eczema and also the blissful eczema-free time that comes from taking the medication. When my doctor told me he was prescribing prednisone, I accidentally blurted, "but my skin is okay!" Silly, Helen. Steroid packs are for so much more than just skin issues. 

What's the worst thing about steroid medication? The after-effects. After I finish a pack, my skin is usually worse than how it was before I started it. Rebound, stronger eczema! I will continue to avoid steroid packs as much as possible, but, oh, the bitter sweetness of steroid packs!


Sneaky Little Itches

Everyone gets a little itch here and there. It's normal and is often not related to eczema. But be careful, my eczema peeps, because any spot you scratch repeatedly can become a new eczema spot! 

I was recently wearing an article of clothing that was irritating me a little, so I was scratching a bit while it was on my body. It wasn't an allergic reaction; the material just irritated my skin, like how a t-shirt tag can bother your skin. I didn't avoid scratching, since I wasn't itching on one of my typical eczema spots. Mistake! By the next day, the sneaky little itchy had caused a new minor eczema spot for me - meaning that the itchiness continued in that spot without the irritator. 

Beware of sneaky little itches!


My Christmas Tree is Trying to Kill Me

Last December, my now-husband and I went into our garage to pull down our artificial Christmas tree. My guy decided to shake out the tree outside before bringing it into the house. I thought it was unnecessary, but couldn't have been more wrong. 

Houston is great for many reasons, but big, disgusting c*%ckro@&h bugs aren't one of them. I can't look at them and can't even type their name. Ew. As you can imagine, our artificial tree box had become the home to trillions of those bugs. My knight in shining armor battled them out in our driveway for quite some time. We didn't get another tree last year; we were a bit over it. I find artificial trees pretty unappealing now - mainly because of the bug incident, but also because I have never been a fan of artificial plants or greenery and a christmas tree seems no different. Ideally, I'd use a potted tree that wouldn't need to die, but, unfortunately, Houston doesn't offer those Californian-type services for the holiday season.

So, last weekend my man and I went out searching for a real tree and found the perfect one: Short and wide, just like I wanted. We walked it home half a mile in the wet, cold weather, because it was easier than transporting it in Stormy, my i3. We finished decorating the tree last night; in fact, that's when I realized my tree was trying to kill me. Okay, maybe not kill me, but it was definitely hurting me.

My eyes, my wheezing, my quickly-worsening "regular-people allergies" are probably because of the live tree I have inside my own house! Obviously. Both my allergist and dermatologist have warned me about my allergy to plants and trees. It's been less than a week and I can barely sleep. My eyes are really bothering me and my cough gets really bad in my house. Yes, I should probably get rid of it ASAP. But not yet. I never said I was rational! Maybe other allergy-ridden people take perfect care of themselves all the time. I still try to fight my allergies at times. I'm not 100% sure my christmas tree is trying to kill me and I am hosting a holiday party next weekend. The tree is staying up! Although, it may not make it to the end of the month ...


Regular-People Allergies

Itchy eyes, runny nose, and coughing are what I call "regular-people allergies." These are the most common types of allergic reactions. Some folks get stuffy, others get itchy. I'm the latter, of course. Oddly enough, though, as my skin allergies have improved the last few months, I suddenly started experiencing regular-people allergies!

I've had mild to moderate laryngitis symptoms for a few months now - my voice is constantly hoarse and doesn't sound like me. I can in no way sing along to holiday songs this month. My nose is draining to my throat and even to my chest, giving me a bad cough at times. My eyes can barely handle the itchiness - they get swollen overnight and also get teary. So unlike me!

I think this proves that my eczema is caused by allergies. I'm around something (or multiple things) that are causing reactions. And now that my skin is a little more under control (I credit acupuncture and herbal pills!), my body is finding new ways to react. Enter the runny nose and itchy eyes. 

I feel a little guilty for underestimating how these more common allergic reactions feel. I don't like them! They're not as bad as staying up all night with your skin on fire and unbearably itchy, but they're definitely not great by any means! 

Now if only I could stop sneezing so I can get up to take my weekly allergy injections ...


"Don't Scratch!"

"Don't Scratch" - the dreaded words we often hear and hate. We don't want to scratch; it's more of a need. I could insert motivational words here about how it's mind over matter and how I believe in you, but, ultimately, the body will probably win. Itching is an immune response. It is making you feel itchy because it wants you to react to something it thinks is hurting you. And the body likes to get its way - you'll feel itchier and itchier until you can't handle it.

Maybe I'm being dramatic because I am itchy now and just made myself bleed. I'm sorry. What I'm trying to say is that we should have realistic goals. I don't think not scratching is realistic. I think controlling how we scratch is more realistic. Here are my tips:

1. keep your nails short and filed so they're smooth. Fingernails are weapons for eczema sufferers. 

2. Use cold compresses when the skin is completely out of control. It helps calm it down. 

3. Touch your itchy spots and rub instead of scratching with fingernails.

4. Have "hell no" scratch zones. Mine is my face. I've had serious eczema on my face and I know that scratching will make it go down a very bad path. I avoid scratching my face as often as possible.

5. Love yourself and your body. Sounds mushy, but your skin is a part of you. Instead of feeling like it's attacking you, be compassionate towards it. This will help you be more gentle with it when it's acting up.

6. Have a "no scratch" mantra, phrase, song, etc. Mine is the "Let it go" line from Disney's Frozen song. It's a great line for not scratching!

7. Avoid bleeding! Instead of "don't scratch," we should hear "don't bleed" from our loved ones. We really should avoid making ourselves bleed. 

8. Forgive yourself. It's hard when you try to not scratch and you fail. Forgive yourself and try again. 

9. Stop the itching. Not as easy as it sounds, I know, but many times there are reasons for the flare-up or there are things you can do to reduce the itching. Remove yourself from the allergen, take an antihistamine, meditate, distract yourself, calm down, etc.  

Good luck!


The Sprint from the Shower to the Moisturizer

Short showers with not-too-hot water is a must for eczema folks. You get in and you get out! No dillydallying. When my skin is super flared up, I shower carefully, only getting my skin wet when necessary. Water is one of an eczema sufferer's worst enemy! It burns and dries out the skin.

A shower usually shows me the first sign of an upcoming flareup - you can feel it in your skin as the water touches it. Because the water dries out the skin as you shower, as soon as you finish, it's imperative for you to moisturize and use your eczema products right away. On good days, it's not important; but on bad days, I can feel my skin dry out at a super fast rate. Within five minutes, it's uncomfortable to stretch my face and body. 

So run, my eczema peeps, from the shower to the moisturizer and get your skin in order so you can have a great day with your body!


Dust Mite Allergy and My Freezer

I have a pretty serious dust mite allergy. Out of the gazillion food, product ingredient, animal and environmental allergies I have, I'm confident my dust mite allergy causes a reaction for me. Earlier this year, I started getting reactions to my allergy injections, which contained dust mite substances. They were local reactions, meaning the injection area got swollen, itchy and felt hot; and the reaction lasted days. I've had a dust mite allergy for years, but never knew it was that serious.

Since then, I've done the whole de-dust mite thing: new mattress, no curtains, special bedding, dust mite spray, dust mite powder on upholstery and rugs, etc. Then I noticed that my clothing made me itchy. Sweaters that I didn't wear (or wash) often would make me itchy. Fluffy scarves would do the same. "Dust mites!" I thought.

There are a few options for minimizing dust mites on clothes and blankets:

1. Wash in hot water (at least 140 F). I used a thermometer to make sure my hot water was hot enough. The problem with this is the damage hot water does to clothing - your things won't last as long and will look faded. 

2. Use a de-mite laundry additive or allergen wash laundry detergent. This sounds great and gets great reviews on Amazon, but it has tea tree oil and I'm worried I'll have a flare-up reaction because of my composite mix contact allergy (basically am allergy to lots of plants and trees). I still want to try it, though.

3. Freeze it! Both hot water and freezing temperatures kill dust mites. For example, you can put a teddy bear in the freezer to kill its dust mites. I don't have a teddy bear situation, but I do have items I don't want to wash that need to be treated. And this is why if you open my freezer at home, on the bottom shelf you'll see scarves, knit hats, sweaters, etc. I think it helps!

I just put a sweater in my freezer. I hadn't worn it in months (Houston is usually hot) and my arms became pretty itchy while I wore it. I'll take it out of the freezer in a few days and will see if it's better. I'll report back!


Genetics, Eczema and Skin Allergies

Today is my mom's birthday.  I love her to pieces. When my mom was in her early twenties, she went through serious skin issues, mainly on her face. Huge chunks of her skin would peel off and her scabs would ooze. She tells me it was horrible and she wouldn't wish it in her worst enemy - not that she has one. My mom is Mexican and when this happened to her, she went to a Mexican allergist. She found out she had tons of food allergies and begin to take allergy injections. Here's where I get confused. My doctors tell me that food allergies aren't treated by allergy injections. There is no treatment, they tell me. Well my mom was cured with whatever injections she took in Mexico. Don't get me wrong, her skin isn't perfect and new skin conditions have taken over, but the horrible eczema she had as a young adult disappeared and has never returned. (Knock on wood.)

I worry that if / when / if I have kids, he / she / they will inherit my skin issues. It's definitely possible and I would feel terrible if it happened. My mother feels very sorry about my eczema, dermatitis and skin allergies. It's not her fault. The thing is, eczema and skin allergies seem to be more and more common these days. Babies left and right have eczema. My adorable one-year-old niece has it, even though my sister has never had eczema. A part of me wonders if the family eczema gene passed onto my neice or if she's just another, albeit adorable and amazing, baby with temporary eczema. I really, really hope it's the latter.

In the meantime, my mom and I will continue to have the eczema-sufferers bond. The "I know what you're going through" bond. It's good to have her support and understanding. Happy birthday, mom.  



The Nightly Ritual

Choose your poison, then lather up. Wait a few minutes for your skin to absorb it. Depending on the severity of your eczema, the selected product may burn your skin for a bit. Take the pills - vitamins, herbal pills, antihistamines, etc. Now go to bed. Hopefully the itchiness and scratching won't wake you up tonight. On a good night, you may not even need any type of moisturizer at all. Bad nights are no fun. I often use sleep hypnosis apps to go to sleep; they help me sleep deeper. Good night!


Running and Working Out with Eczema

It hurts! And burns. All your spots flare up even more when you run or do a hard workout and you need to shower soon after to wash off the salty sweat. During my really bad months, I avoid running altogether. Instead, I lift weights and keep things calm to avoid sweating. It's also extra important to not have super lenient eating habits if working out is off limits because of your skin. I say all of this as if I would workout and eat healthy every day if I didn't have eczema. Nope. Sometimes having eczema makes me feel like I'd be a gym rat and marathon runner if only I didn't have eczema. But I immediately tell myself, "yeah right!" Either way, I just ran three miles and have to squeeze in a quick workout before my skin screams for a shower!