I was doing really well this past week, itch-wise. After using steroid cream very cautiously and sparingly for just a few days on my back and legs and vowing to eat a STRICT dairy-free diet (no “cheating” and getting lazy about forgetting to find out the ingredients in things), I was looking and feeling a lot better. Then, SOMETHING set my eczema into a tizzy yesterday, or maybe it was the day before. I went into an “itch trance” as soon as I came home. For those with eczema, you recognize an “itch trance” – all your ‘trouble spots’ start itching. You itch uncontrollably. You know it’s not good to itch, but even scratching doesn’t relieve the sensation and you just can’t stop from letting your hands wander all around, the itch traveling and your eyes glazing over as you wreak havoc on your tender skin.
Maybe I should have known something was up when the night before, I woke up with some “claw marks” on my thigh. These marks are long, red, angry, and look almost exactly like they came from some angry wild animal, but they came from ME! I keep my fingernails super short and cannot possibly inflict that kind of damage when awake, so I must REALLY be digging in voraciously. My dear husband even woke up with a claw mark on his chest….sorry honey, guess I got a tad overzealous in the night and even scratched YOU instead. So then the following evening I got really itchy, and this evening was the same story.
Warning. Here comes a picture of eczema on the right. My eczema, to be specific. I had almost completely clear skin on my stomach before this “itch attack” from some unknown trigger. It is not extreme, but it is not attractive either.
Now. With a reaction like this, where I was pretty okay just a few days ago, I have some theories about what caused all this rash-tasticness.
THEORY 1: BEING ILL. I’ve been recovering from a cold and bronchitis this week. I mentioned in a previous post that my eczema always seems to get worse when I get sick. My face got dry and red right away, but maybe my body is having a delayed reaction or there is some sort of “die-off” going on as my system rids itself of my illness, as I AM feeling a lot better than before.
THEORY 2: PROPYLENE GLYCOL. I don’t have any confirmation of being allergic to propylene glycol, but after reading The Allergista’s blog and her own struggles with a propylene glycol allergy, plus other bloggers that have commented on her pages finding out their own allergies to it, I am not going to rule it out. ESPECIALLY since being sick, I’ve been sucking down cold & cough medicine regularly for the last, oh, 4-5 days. That stuff is loaded with propylene glycol. It’s also a possibility that I may be sensitive to it, but can tolerate it in small amounts (I use mouthwash daily with no apparent problems, which also has propylene glycol).
THEORY 3: HIDDEN DAIRY. I’ve been very diligent about not eating dairy after the repentance of a past week’s chocolate bender that left me looking and feeling quite miserable. However, the other day I made myself some chicken noodle soup from a prepared mix and, ignorant me, did not clearly read the ingredients. I figured, there is chicken, there are noodles, and there are vegetables – why would dairy be sneaking into a soup like this? Went back and read the package and yes, there was some unpronounceable ingredient way down on the list that I don’t even remember that then said in parentheses “DERIVED FROM DAIRY”. Blah. Serves me right to be more careful next time if this was the culprit.
THEORY 4. NUTS. After I went off my 10 day trial with the elimination diet, I did not go hog-wild on an eating free-for-all. I actually didn’t eat nuts for a good while afterward, just because I had gotten so used to avoiding them and I actually now enjoy eating sunflower seed butter and pumpkin seeds instead. But then one day I tried some peanut butter again, and then made a recipe with almond milk and ate that for a few days straight, and had a Pro-Bar (which has nuts) on two different occasions. So perhaps nuts are another trigger of mine, or maybe I can only tolerate them in small amounts and this exceeded my limit.
Even though I haven’t strictly been on the Elimination Diet since stopping it and deciding to regroup, I’ve been eating sort of a modified version of it. I have not been consuming caffeine, fish, any nightshade vegetables, and hardly ANY fruit. The only fruits I’ve eaten have been cranberries and blueberries, very sparingly. I have eaten eggs, some corn, very small amount of soy (i.e. soy lecithin in vegan chocolate), and gluten very sparingly as well. Because the four above things are the only things that have changed just before/around the time I got this itchy flare, I strongly suspect one of them is the culprit.
Random amusing story. I had a friend with a chronic disease as well, and one time she was laughing because her doctor wrote down that she was having a lupus “FLAIR”, not a FLARE. So we went around all day shouting “FLAIR!” and pretending we were covered in sparkles and glitter and all things that would make someone full of FLAIR. It’s kind of a fun, albeit ridiculous way to think about eczema and other chronic conditions that flare. Either that or I’m high on my propylene glycol-laced cough syrup. These are not rashes, these are my sparkles! This is not eczema, this is rainbows and bright colors and shiny things! So for the rest of the night, I’m just too full of FLAIR to be anything less than fabulous. 😀