Do You Have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)?
Our modern lifestyle may be one of comfort and convenience but it comes at a high cost to our health. Over the last couple of years, there has been a drastic rise in the incidence of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) and the latest reports show that 1 in 4 Americans suffer from chemical sensitivity. Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is the inability to tolerate a chemical or class of chemicals present in the individual’s environment. Simple everyday items such as perfumes, cleaning products, bug sprays and even synthetic fabrics can trigger an extreme reaction.
How to Tell if You Have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)
MCS symptoms are generally vague and non-specific which poses a diagnostic challenge for doctors. MCS is a diagnosis of exclusion where all other possible causes for the reported symptoms are examined and excluded.
Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivities include:
MCS often results in prolonged lethargy and fatigue which is why it is often confused with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – a condition in which a person experiences extreme fatigue that is not alleviated by rest. The difference is that with MCS, the patient’s symptoms are triggered by exposure and improve when the trigger is removed.
For instance, in one case, a woman suffered from debilitating fatigue for over 4 years before she realized that she was highly sensitive to the fumes from her gas cooker. She stopped using the cooker and her symptoms disappeared within a week.
Nausea and Dizziness
You may have balked at a colleague’s choice of deodorant but if an elevator ride with the individual makes you feel like throwing up, you might be sensitive to the chemicals in that particular deodorant. Nausea and dizziness are among the most common multiple chemical sensitivities symptoms and can even trigger vomiting.
MCS causes respiratory and mucosal irritation which results in wheezing, breathlessness, runny nose, sore throat and cough. These symptoms can be confused for the common cold but in the case of MCS, the symptoms only last for the duration of the exposure to the irritant.
If you have MCS, you are likely to experience respiratory irritation after remodeling your home or office. People whose occupation exposes them to industrial chemicals as well as those who work in offices with poor indoor-air quality are at a higher risk of developing MCS.
Sick Building Syndrome is an emerging problem that is linked to MCS and asthma. As the name suggests, a sick building is one in which people living or working in a building develop similar symptoms of illness due to indoor air contamination. Tightly sealed energy-efficient structures often trap toxins and biological pollutants within the building.
Chronic low-grade exposure to volatile organic compounds from particle board furniture as well as outgassing from building materials is often linked to mucous membrane irritation of the eyes. If you find that your eyes start to water or itch on entering your office, it is likely that you are sensitive to the poor indoor air-quality in the building.
Poor focus and memory problems
MCS patients often complain of neurobehavioral symptoms such as memory problems, poor mental focus and impaired visual motor speed and coordination. Although we do not fully understand the full scope of the neurobehavioral symptoms of MCS, studies revealed that MCS patients experience memory deficits.
How to Manage Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
The prevalence of diagnosed MCS cases has increased by over 300% in the last decade alone and yet, there is still no known cure for MCS. Another potential problem for MSC treatment is that there is still controversy over whether it should be a clinical diagnosis as MSC has been linked to depression and anxiety symptoms.
There are several alternative treatments such as antifungal therapies but most of these have not been proven or accepted by the medical community. The “radical separatist avoidance approach” is the attempt to avoid exposure to all man-made chemicals but this is not always feasible.
As of now, the only way to successfully treat MCS is to identify and avoid all possible triggers. This can be tough for those who are sensitive to a wide range of chemicals. You can keep a detailed journal to track your symptoms as well as possible sources of exposure.
For instance, if you suffer from headaches after entering a recently remodeled room in your house, you should avoid the room for a couple of weeks. This will allow the fumes from the paint and polish to dissipate which will reduce the risk of a negative reaction.
In future, you can use eco-friendly materials for your home renovation as this will drastically reduce the risk of a reaction. Similarly, if you experience symptoms after using your regular household cleaning supplies, you should switch to green alternatives that are healthier for you and your family.