How I found out what I’m allergic to (and what I’m not)

When I was a teenager I had a rash on my back. I swapped from Dial to Ivory soap and switched shampoo and it went away.

Then when Charlie was young she got a horrible rash on her hand, and so did Ian. We discovered pretty quickly that it was due to soft soap. We use Dial and Ivory at our house, which are fairly chemical free, but once they started going to school their hands looked like this:

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Since it’s hereditary and one of my aunts asked about it, I figured I’d share what I experienced and how I solved it.

How I solved it

I had been grumpy, in pain, and tired for 2 years and was literally leaving bloody fingerprints around… and it was completely unnecessary.

I tried 13 different doctors and had a number of misdiagnosis. First they thought it was shingles or herpes (which apparently isn’t just on your face, go figure). The first doctor said keep it wrapped up and put bacitracin on (which it turns out I’m allergic to). The second doctor told me I had a staff infection and it should never have been wrapped. They gave me Amoxicillin (which it turns out I’m *also* allergic to, which they should have known because I’m allergic to penicillin). The next told me that staff infection doesn’t mean anything and I didn’t need antibiotics, but it’s true I should keep it uncovered and I should see a dermatologist who gave me shots and creams that didn’t help. Same with the next dermatologist. The allergist told me I’m allergic to ragweed and dust mites and no longer allergic to cats. He put me on a regime of shots I’m still on (he literally drives a brand new Porshe to the office) which may or may not be helping with my allergies, but AFTER I did all the tests he told me he doesn’t really deal with contact alleges (WTF?).

I tried a homeopath that was highly recommended… that didn’t work which isn’t surprising because apparently the way homeopaths work is they sit in a room and ask you questions about your life, and then give you herbs at such a low potency that there’s no way they can affect your body.

Then a few others, more dermatologists, etc.

Next I tried Dr. Bayuk. I call him the witch doctor. I have to say out of everyone I’d seen up to this point he’s the one I really respected the most. He had (gasp) a scientific method he followed to diagnose the problem.

Here’s how it worked. he had me lay on my back, and had me hold up my arm at a 45 degree angle. Then he pushed down on my arm to “calibrate”. Then he put different “things” on my stomach and pressed down on my arm.

It was really freaky. When some of those things were on my stomach I was weak as a kitten and my arm just collapsed. Others I became stronger.

He basically identified a number of “bad things” and a number of “good things” then sold me a few hundred dollars of chemicals and told me to stop eating certain foods.

I did this for about 3 months. By the end of 3 months I had removed wheat, dairy and soy from my diet. I was grumpy as hell and $1,500 into this process (counting rental cars to go to his office, visits and meds) and there was absolutely zero improvement.

I do know other people that swears by Dr. B, and I’d be open to trying him again, but he really unbalanced my nutritional system in an effort to balance it.

Luckily I went to Dr. Wayatt.

Dr. Wayatt is probably the geekiest doctor I’ve ever visited (I say that with love). Instead of normal crappy magazines in his waiting room he has things like popular science, and when I bring him a problem that’s hard to solve he gets EXCITED. Like a little kid excited. He explains things in english without talking down and he recommended a patch test.

To do a patch test he basically taped about 45 different common “bad things” on my back. I’m really glad it was wintertime because I had to leave them on for two days without showering and they got kinda sticky and nasty.

But at the end he told me I was allergic to 5 major things:

  • Wool (I know that already…)
  • Bacitracin (this explains why many things I tried to make it feel better made it worse)
  • Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
  • Methyldibromo Glutaronitrile (commonly called phenoxyethanol)
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone

Each of them has about a dozen other names (which I’ve listed below in case anyone cares) but the big one seems to be phenoxyethanol.

It’s in most shampoos and soaps, even ones that don’t list it! It’s in Huggies baby wipes (which I was using many times a day at the time) but not in Pampers. It’s in the 99.9% “pure” aloe I got from the hippy store, but not in the “90% gel” aloe that I bought at Stop and Shop. I’m allergic to the pad of *some* Johnson and Johnson bandaids but not others.

So I test every chemical

I know my friend Ben Herman doesn’t agree with people self diagnosing anything, but this one is easy, and Dr. Wyatt told me that he can’t test in any more detail than I could myself.

Here’s how I tested it (hint it’s basically what he did on my back):

  1. First off I have a roll of medical tape which I’ve tested and I’m *not* allergic to.
  2. Every time I find a chemical to test (sunscreen, deodorant, those nasty antibacterial gels that are messing up the ecosystem, whatever) I do the following steps:
    1. Take a shower (because I’m not going to be able to for a couple of days)
    2. Put a little of it on a the medical tape
    3. Leave it on for 2 days
    4. Draw a map of my back (or upper arm, which works fine too)
    5. Have Christine draw in sharpie around the pad and mark on the paper what I’m testing
    6. Pull off the medical tape
    7. 90% of the time if I’m allergic it will show up immediate.
    8. But then check again in two more days. Some things (J&J baby shampoo) only have minor results, but those results persist.

The other summer when I was at Christy’s house I stole samples of both of her hippy laundry detergents and found that I’m NOT allergic to one of them (“Rockin’ Green” which we buy in bulk right from the makers).

We found an organic, biodegradable one here in Italy.

I stick to Dove soap. It smells like flowers here in Italy but at least I’m not allergic.

I use white vinegar for shampoo (which apparently is a thing, two of the first three people I mentioned my allergy to do that anyway).

I have deodorant I use and the only cleaning supplies we use in the house or office are vinegar and Simple Green.

I hope this helps someone…

The complete list

Because the labels are so inaccurate I always test anyway. I usually just look for phenoxyethanol and if it’s there don’t even bother testing.

  • Bacitracin
  • Bacitracin zinc salt
  • BRN 1210149
  • BRN 2248232
  • 2-Bromo-2- (bromomethyl)pentanedinitrile, mixt. with 2-phenoxyethanol
  • Butyl-3-iodo-2-propynylcarbamate
  • butyl-3-iodo-2-propynylester
  • Carbamic acid,
  • Caswell No. 501A
  • 5-chloro-2-methyl
  • 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
  • 1,2- Dibromo-2,
  • 1,2-Dibromodicyanobutane
  • 4-dicyanobutane
  • Dibromodicyanobutane
  • EINECS 215-786-2
  • EINECS 247-500-7
  • EINECS 259-627-5
  • EPA Pesticide Chemical Code 107801
  • Euxyl K 400
  • HSDB 6418
  • HSDB 7314
  • 3-Iodo-2-propynyl butyl carbamate
  • 3-Iodo-2-propynyl butylcarbamate
  • Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
  • 4-Isothiazolin-3-one, 5-chloro-2-methyl- 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
  • 3(2H)-Isothiazolone, 5-chloro-2-methyl-
  • Kathon CG 5243
  • Merquat 2200
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methyldibromo Glutaronitrile
  • Methyldibromoglutaronitrile Tektamer 38
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Mycitracin
  • neomycin frequently cross-reacts with , so usually advise to avoid
  • 2-Phenoxyethanol
  • Tektamer 38
  • USAF CB-7