Travelling with MCS

This trip to Ireland has been challenging for me because I suffer with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). If you don’t know what that is, Dr. Campbell offers this page. At home, I can control my environment and stay balanced, but on the road every environment comes with hazards. The city is rife with toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke to perfume to diesel exhaust. While every B&B is a potential bomb of scented laundry detergent, fabric softener, perfumes or air fresheners. The symptoms lessen when I leave the area but are persistant; for example, I can taste perfume almost constantly now. I’ve experienced new symptoms over the last couple of weeks: tingling tongue, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, and brain fog. I now carry antihistamines which help with some symptoms and an epi-pen, just in case.
Sadly, this may be my last road trip.
Some folks have been amazingly kind and understanding, especially women who’ve reacted themselves to different chemicals. One woman rewashed all the sheets before I arrived in hot water with no soap. But, let’s face it, anyone accommodating guests has to wash their sheets with detergent and a business can’t afford to use “natural” unscented soaps. Some places that I’ve queried send their laundry out so have no control over what the commercial laundry uses. My daughter says that I should open a B&B for people with sensitivities and allergies.
All of this creates stress and anxiety. I power on, but the threat is always looming.

 What can you do in this situation?

Avoid. This is number one and also the biggest challenge. You never know what’s coming around the corner.
Spend as much time as possible outside in the fresh air. I’ve done lots of walking in the pastures and fields of rural Ireland. In Dublin, I had to reverse this process because the downtown core is loaded with smokers, diesel buses, and perfumes. Boys, your cologne and after shave is the worst! One family I met at Uisneach, who have lived in Ireland for thirteen years, moved to the country when their children were born because the particulate level is so high in Dublin.
Communicate. Phone ahead, explain the situation, ask if they use scented fabric softener, and warn your hosts. Airbnb was good enough to refund two nights accommodation when I had to leave because the scents made me sick. Sometimes I feel like a whiner, but health is your priority. If you suffer in silence you will only get worse. Ask if you can see (smell) the room, and if it’s scented, walk away.
Hotels might be slightly better than B&Bs but not always. We checked into a hotel in Waterford because we were unable to find any other accommodation, went to the room, and had to leave within the hour. We both reacted to the old carpets, dust, and smoke in the hallways. That was our worst day yet. We drove another two hours and tried three other B&Bs before we found one that was suitable in another town. Even then we had to make some adjustments.
Air out the room as soon as you can and leave the windows open at night. A couple of places I slept in socks, slippers, pjs, sweaters, and wrapped in blankets, but the country air was fresh. At one location, we were able to find another duvet that had not been freshly washed in fabric softener. Cover the pillow with your clothes, then remember to wash your clothes and hang them out in the fresh air; otherwise, you’ll be packing the scent with you.
Be an advocate. I think that people with MCS have to talk about it. The truth is: these chemicals hurt everyone. People with MCS are just the canaries.
Try and stay balanced. This is difficult at times. I’m also food sensitive (gluten and dairy intolerant) so keeping myself fed is an ongoing challenge. Ireland is quite hip when it comes to food allergies. I saw this sign at the surf shack at Curracloe Beach.
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Some restaurants are excellent. One server said, “What would you like? I’ll make you up a plate.”
Another host, left us almond milk, butter substitute, gluten free bread, and fresh free range duck eggs; then brought us fresh zucchini and cucumbers from her greenhouse!
On the other hand, in one small town, after scouting three restaurants, the only thing we could find for supper was french fries and salad. Everything else was breaded, buttered, or cheesed. Tonight we were fortunate to find a Malaysian place in Kinsale (near Cork) and feasted on pad thai and curry!
Take vitamins, meditate, and sleep when you can.

The Outcome?

Despite all of this, I’ve undertaken loads of research, which is why I came here. I’ve learned much about myself and my subject. I’ve met wonderful folks and made new friends. And I still love Ireland, the landscape, the culture, and the people. If you’re planning a trip to this beautiful island, message me and I’ll recommend some people that will look after you.
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6 thoughts on “Travelling with MCS

  1. Have been enjoying your posts about your trip to Ireland but am so sorry about the allergy problems.
    When you have time, do contact me by e mail so I can tell you about my story.
    Sue

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  2. Ah, thanks. Yes, it’s certainly been a challenge, and I knew it would be difficult. Today I feel great. The sea wind here in the southern part of the island is so clean and fresh, and we’re at a great B&B.

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  3. Wendy I hear your pain. I travel with a pillowcase after staying in an airbnb where the sheets were so scented I could hardly stand it. Yes I slept in sweaters so I didn’t have the covers up around my face. My niece’s blouse was unbearable during our hour long car ride last week. I am having guests for a week and I request that they use all my body products. Just got back from a weekend at my sister’s cottage and I am still wheezing! Not many understand what this is like!

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