Allergology International, 2006. Jun; 55(2):203-5.
This is a case report about a 5-year-old girl in Japan with multiple recurrent problems: urticaria (hives), angioedema (swelling), headaches, dyspnea (shortness of breath), loss of consciousness, and abdominal pain. Her symptoms were made worse by antihistamines and corticosteroids.
Her diet diary revealed that symptoms occurred after eating colorful sweets such as candies and jellybeans. . . . but skin prick allergy tests were negative for everything.
Because all the allergy tests were negative, but the challenge tests (exposure) were positive for coloring, aspirin and acetamophen (Tylenol), she was diagnosed with intolerance to dyes and NSAID medications. After avoiding them, she still had reactions to fragrances and chemical odors, so she was diagnosed with severe multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).
AUTHOR CONCLUSIONS: “The present results suggest that in pediatric MCS, food and drug additives containing azo dyes might play important roles as elicitors.”
I agree with the authors, and members of the Feingold Association will recognize this child immediately. However, the girl’s reaction to fragrances is not “severe MCS” separate from her reaction to jelly beans, but the normal reaction of a child sensitive to the abnormal petrochemicals we have sprinkled throughout our modern environment. Both the “azo” dyes and most fragrances are made from petroleum. My own child, more than a year on the Feingold Diet, passed out when a new teacher wearing a heavy perfume stopped at his desk. The school apologized for not having taken my doctor’s note seriously and forgetting to tell the substitute teacher not to wear perfume.
Since the girl also reacted to aspirin, she is probably salicylate-sensitive as well. It all “goes together” and we would simply say the child needs the Stage One (low-salicylate) Feingold Diet. Being in Japan, her parents would not have access to the Feingold Foodlist, but they could get plenty of information on the website www.feingold.org
I recall entering a hotel lobby once where I had to stand in a line for the desk agent. There was a rather strong floral odor of “air freshener.” As we stood in line, all of us unrelated people began to complain of headache. We didn’t all suddenly come down with MCS … we were being poisoned by chemicals added to our air, and we were all dumb enough to keep standing there and breathing it.
I once visited a preschool while the children were napping … and the cleaning crew was cleaning the hallways with some overpoweringly-strong chemicals. Another time, when my son (before Feingold) was in a private school for kids with “learning disabilities,” I went in to talk to the teacher because he had been doing badly and his math charts didn’t show the usual progress. I asked the teacher if other students were doing less well than expected. She said that they were ALL doing less well than expected. The class was meeting in a trailer with a formaldehyde odor. The teacher’s eyes were glassy/watery. I asked if the odor didn’t bother her and she said no – she was used to it. My son discovered that he could do better in class if he first did 100 jumping jacks outdoors to “oxygenate his brain.” I let it happen, and he breathed formaldehyde 6 hours a day for a year. Looking back I wish I had taken him out of the school on the spot.
Years later, my son (and quite a few of his friends) all called home feeling sick, because the school allowed the hallways to be painted during school time. I told the school he would come back when the school no longer smelled of paint. As parents, we must be vigilant to protect our children from breathing toxic fumes – whether they react with hyperactivity, asthma, headache, or even if they don’t appear to react at all. Harmful chemicals are still harmful, even if you don’t see the damage.
STUFF YOU CAN DO:
- Ask your school about their cleaning, “air freshener,” and painting policies.
- Be aware if there is roadwork or tar being laid nearby.
- Pay attention where the kids wait for the school bus – it is directly in the path of exhaust fumes?
- If you car pool, don’t let them ride in cars with those scented things hanging from their mirror.
- And recruit your doctor to weigh in with a note on his prescription pad or letterhead for the school that your child should be protected from perfumes and other toxic chemicals.
When the company I worked for renovated with new carpet and wall paint, I came to work, turned green, and went home. Other workers were getting along with bottles of aspirin on their desk, but I told them I would come back when they fixed the problem. They called in an HVAC company and “gassed out” the carpet over a weekend using heat and added ventilation. Thus (because of my big mouth) we all avoided months of suffering. So don’t be shy — take care of the only body and mind you will ever have. It has to last a long time.