A few years ago, I had a terrible reaction to some penicillium mold on books I was cleaning. I knew I was allergic to penicillin; every exposure since childhood has been near life-threatening. But I failed to recognize the dried mold as blue penicillium, and had to be taken to an emergency room. This last exposure triggered a whole series of allergic reactions to other substances, mostly in the benzone and paraben families. This includes many cleaning products, sunscreen, and fragrances. It also includes some body care products and shampoos. Antihistamine is my constant friend. I developed a companion allergy to dust mites, as well – it’s the mold on their microscopic droppings, and it doesn’t take much. I have to live in houses without carpets, with new or well-cleaned soft furniture, without drapes. I need to launder, vacuum, and dust a lot.
The house we are in is mold-free, carpet-free, drapes-free, and has mostly new furnishings. The cellar is dry. I had to get rid of some of the cleaning products and the air fresheners left behind. I clean with plain soap, scent-free dishwashing liquid, baking soda, borax and white vinegar. We wash and shampoo with unscented bar soaps, or with soaps that have only natural essential oils in them. I use beeswax skin care products. I usually burn beeswax candles, but I haven’t been able to find any locally, so I am using unscented paraffin candles. I hope to find some in Fredericton when we are there next.
I am never tempted by fragranced products, by new cleaners, by the latest skin or hair care items. I can’t expose much skin to the sun, since I am very fair and I burn quickly. Long skirts, long sleeves, brimmed bonnets and wide straw hats are what I have to wear. Since we will be keeping a big garden this year, I expect to wear gardening gloves as well, to avoid contact with molds in the dirt. I may have to occasionally wear dust masks. I know I should take vitamin D supplements!
Homesteading is the best way for us to live outside the usual scented and contaminated environment. The wind here is steady; we get a fair amount of rain. It is cold much of the year, keeping down mold proliferation. We are not subjected to much air pollution. I don’t have hay fever or pollen allergies, so living outdoors in good weather is actually good for me.
Do most people understand how many chemicals they put into their bodies through eating, breathing, and washing? Artificial cleaners and scents are in most shampoos and soaps, and in detergents. Fragrances permeate everything – so-called air fresheners, masking sprays, skin ointments, cosmetics, even stuff that we put on our babies. It is unnatural and unhealthy. I can no longer sit with or stand next to someone wearing perfumes or even sunscreen. I never expected that my allergy would lead to this; I thought I would just have to avoid penicillin antibiotics. But so many chemicals in use today mimic the composition of that common drug.
I used to shake my head at people who claimed to have environmental illness or sensitivities; no more, since I have joined their ranks.
For those with pencillin allergies: Avoid anything with a name that starts with benz- or has -paraben in the chemical formula. Also, avoid blue cheese and Brie – they are made with penicillin molds.