Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Contact Allergic Dermatitis that turned into a NIGHTMARE!!!

Are you like me, who, after having immigrated to the US, have encountered a lot of new things to which you react (i.e., allergic to)?

During my first year in the US, it was the year of exposure to new trees, new bacterial/viral strains, etc. That first exposure made my immune system create a counter-attack force for future re-exposures...

On my second year I had a brief episode of urticaria, which lasted 3 days. I could only think of having eaten Chinese food as a culprit. I used Benadryl and Aveeno oatmeal baths to help soothe the itching.

On the third year, I suffered another episode of urticaria for almost two weeks. Aveeno oatmeal did not help much to soothe. I was glad it was over by the end of the second week.

Fourth year here, I seemed to have succeeded avoiding re-exposure to whatever triggered my urticaria (I avoided gardening).

This year I attempted gardening during the first nice weekend of spring, and suffered from a new type of allergy that led to the nightmare depicted on the photo. As of this posting, the whole event is now on its 5th week. Yap! That's how long I have been suffering from this predicament.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was suffering from dishydrotic eczema and was on prednisone treatment. I was at the last days of my prednisone taper when my allergic dermatitis started.

See my slide presentation for the series of events explaining the whole thing. I will keep updating this slide show as I progress.

The flare-ups of my skin inflammation apparently was caused by my alternating use of petroleum jelly then lotions (which I would dare use once I felt my skin was getting better). Upon my derma's suggestion, I stopped all lotions or special soap for sensitive skin and stick to petroleum jelly, soak for at least 15 minutes in shower or tub (to engorge my skin cells and close the cracks), then slather a thick layer of the petroleum jelly to trap the moisture. Also, he prescribed desonide lotion which I had to apply to affected areas twice a day. I did that, and the desonide use had immediate effect on inhibiting the itching and inflammation of my arms/hands, and with showers twice a day at least, using the (self-prescribed) hot water treatment (counter-intuitive, the treatment regimen was effective for me. I believe that the increased rush of inflammatory chemicals like histamine, bradykinins, interleukins, etc. overload the receptors so that after the initial sensation like that of being scratched when in fact it was heated water, comes pain, then relief from itchiness for at least 4 hours (so finally I would get at least 4 hrs of straight sleep). Increased sleep boosts health and immune system. Less irritation (use only petroleum jelly) and more hydration of my skin (showers soaks)...finally my skin was back to normal after 6 months. When I mean back to normal, there is no longer that thin layer of skin with fast turnover, which was very very prone to losing moisture.

Well, during the first few months when I thought I would never get my pre-morbid skin, I was getting depressed because not only could I not wear tank tops/shorts without being so self-conscious, I also was not sure if there was ever an end to that suffering. I also felt so vulnerable since my skin was not intact and I was working at the ER (skin is the biggest organ of defense, so I felt defenseless). I even recorded songs for my hubby (although I did not tell him then that those were in case my skin issue would lead to my early demise eventually).

Now, I am happy with my skin, even if I still suffer from itchiness and cracks every time I go on duty at the hospital and have to wash my hands often.

1 comment:

MerryCherry, MD said...

Uhoh, I'm glad your skin is well now. Pruritus itself should be considered 'emergency!' :)