My last post from a few days ago brought up the mysterious evolution of my rash into something that seemed quite different from eczema or atopic dermatitis. This also seems way different than simply a contact dermatitis as well, and I’ve cleaned up my personal care routine thoroughly over the past months of this journey where, unless I have suddenly developed a sensitivity to something usually benign (like dimethicone, which is in a lot of my products), there is no logical reason for my skin to be acting up in new and strange ways.
Here’s a picture of my face from the other day. The areas that are irritated looking are red, raised, and clearly delineated; though they don’t itch at all. I have similar rashes around the other eye (though this eye in the picture is worse), by each corner of my mouth, and on/above one side of my jawline. All in the same areas that I’ve been dealing with rashes and breakouts on and off over recent months, but in these new raised, inflamed, blotchy ways.
Yesterday was definitely a struggle-bus day. I woke up and was having some extreme trouble breathing. I had also woke up in the night with my eyelids BURNING like mad, to the point where I had to wake up to get an ice cube to put on them to soothe them enough where I could go back to sleep. Not itchy like in the past, but like they were on FIRE. (This happened another night this week too). Even though I took my inhaler, the trouble breathing persisted, and I ended up taking my inhaler about 6 times over less than a 12 hour period, which for me is unusual, extreme, and a sign that there is something really not right.
I didn’t have time to mull this unfortunate transpiring over for too long, as I had an event to go to. I made myself look as human as possible, though my eyes still felt thick and awkward. I reassured myself that I felt worse than I looked, but once I walked into the event, a well-meaning acquaintance looked at me in a concerned manner and said, “Are your eyes okay?” Yes, yes, I hurriedly said, I’ve been having a horrible time of allergies lately. Which everyone understood.
I sat through the event realizing that my chest was still tight with shortness of breath, DESPITE taking my inhaler, DESPITE being on these new histamine support supplements, DESPITE even taking an extra antihistamine (Allegra) before I left home. I quietly sat and tried not to panic-breathe. I’ve dealt with asthma enough that I know I’m not going to die, but having reduced lung function is extremely uncomfortable. Then my nose began to run. (Also unusual considering I had taken an antihistamine). Not having any tissues on me, I discreetly wiped my nose on my hand. Again, and again, and again I did this, while continuing to try breathing calmly; counting down the minutes until the event was over. I did my bare minimum of social duties and then couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
But oh joy, I had another event to go to in a few hours! This time, a party for a friend, and even though I was sorely tempted to beg off and claim not feeling well, I knew it would mean a lot if I showed up. And sitting around at home feeling sorry for myself and my skin sounded even less appealing. I actually put on my glasses (which I never wear out) to hopefully allow my eyes to feel mildly more comfortable into the night (and to distract from how chewed up the skin around my eyes looked). I was still having a sporadic runny nose, but this time I brought tissues and it wasn’t too terrible. I survived the party and had a reasonable amount of fun despite my eyelids starting to feel thick and unwieldy as the night went on.
Once I got home, I started to ponder all of the pieces of this puzzle for the day – WHY systemic issues like respiratory distress along with strange rashes? WHY would taking an antihistamine not even seem to touch my “allergy” symptoms? WHY would my skin be seemingly getting WORSE in a non-eczema manner DESPITE cleaning up my diet and being on my supplement regimen?
I don’t know how exactly I stumbled upon it, but in my thought process of putting things together and doing some Internet sleuthing, I hit upon the concept of mold being a factor. Ah! This to me sounded extremely plausible that mold could be a factor in my skin’s recent demise. I live in a home that is close to 100 years old, I have a bathroom that, even with a fan, doesn’t seem extremely well ventilated, and I have a window AC unit that could well be harboring all kinds of spores, as I’ve lived here for 3+ years and haven’t ever had it maintained.
I then began to mentally retrace my days and patterns and think about the days that I had burning eyes and respiratory distress upon waking in the past – and these were days that I was running the window AC unit. And in fact, my skin getting worse over the past weeks did seem to roughly correspond with running the AC unit at night more frequently. I resolved to look into this further in the morning and did not run the unit for the night.
In the morning, these extraordinarily dry areas on all my rashes greeted me, like these ones around my eye:
I took this as a good sign that the inflammation (whatever it was) was moving out and the outer layer of skin was shedding off in order to make room for new healing skin. I’ve experienced this “peel and flake” cycle before quite a few times over the past months and certainly quite a bit back in the days of TSW. I picked off any big flakes with tweezers and then I did some gentle exfoliation with coconut oil.
I had a blessedly free day of ANY obligations today, so I spent it cleaning my house, looking more into the potential mold issue, and hard-core moisturizing my dry patches regularly (coconut oil, Avene, and Vaniply). I was super happy to have a complete introvert hermit day and not have to look presentable at all.
It’s always good to be a bit skeptical of things you find on the Internet and not take everything at face value, but it’s a real fact that mold in homes can make people sick, and it seems like my recent symptoms would make sense with lining up to the use of the window AC unit blowing out mold spores into the air which are then causing irritation to my probably-already-compromised-immune system.
I have an appointment with a highly rated ‘healthy home’ personnel in a few days who is going to come and check out my house for potential mold or other hazards. In the meantime, I am NOT running the AC unit and I am staying positive in my body’s ability to keep on healing itself even if that is going to take a little bit of time!