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Last week, we received a truly incredible story from Renee, a long-time sufferer of eczema with a chronic allergic reaction to latex. She thought she had been avoiding latex for years, but discovered she’d unknowingly been exposing her body to latex in two hidden ways. Her story is quite shocking! See for yourself.
“I’m 60 years old. When I worked in an OB/GYN lab in my 20s, there were no nitrile gloves, only rubber. I became allergic to latex and so learned to stay away from rubber products, even supposedly latex-free elastics, and bromeliads (cross reactive with latex). In my early 40s I began to have joint pain and skin rashes. The joint pain was so bad. There were nights where I had to stop on the way to the restroom and just breathe, to try to let the pain ease a bit, before continuing on. Eventually, my breathing became an issue as well and I was diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease and exercise-induced asthma. The joint pains were never definitively diagnosed and I went on the usual merry-go-round of diagnoses, e.g. lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. But then suddenly, in my early 50s, the problems disappeared. The joint pain left, the breathing was no longer a problem, and my skin improved. I didn’t understand why, but I was so grateful.
In my late 50s, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. 2016 was full of stress and sadness. My skin problems returned with a vengeance and I found I could not eat many foods that were rich in hevein and its cousins. Hevein is the protein responsible for latex allergy. If I ate coconut, palm oil, nuts, etc, the eczema patches flared and oozed. The itching was non-stop, in spite of a daily regimen of antihistamines. It was torture. Everyone said “Stress!” and I thought it was as well, until the symptoms got even worse after my husband passed. I was only able to eat 17 things and realized I had graduated to a full latex food allergy. Any other food made my eczema and itching flare. There were patches of infected skin all over my body.
A few weeks after the funeral, I had a molar pulled. The oral surgeon showed it to me, saying yes, there had been a hairline fracture just like a previous molar he had pulled when I was in my 50s. The tooth that he showed me had pink stuff in the root canals and I asked what it was. He said, “Oh, it’s a resin from a tree called gutta percha. It’s used to fill in the empty canals after the tooth’s roots are removed in a root canal job.” I looked at that gummy resin and asked if it might be related to the rubber tree? The oral surgeon suddenly looked really shaken and went to his computer. Sure enough, gutta percha is related to the rubber tree. I was being poisoned by my own tooth? Incredible.
So looking back, my first autoimmunity started after my first root canal and resolved after the tooth was pulled, and now my second bout of autoimmunity started after the second root canal and would resolve just as quickly? Sure enough, by that evening my inflamed skin and itching were about 1/2 of what they had been. But even so, my eczema did not fully resolve and I was not able to add any foods back. I thought okay there must be something else inside of me that is overstimulating my immune system. The more I thought about it, the more I suspected a trans-urethral mesh, the “Sparc sling” that had been put in during my hysterectomy in 2004. It’s the one you see on late-night TV, with lawyers asking if you’d like to join a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers. I had also suffered some of the symptoms they said on TV but it was the suspected autoimmunity that bothered me the most.
So on October 9th of this year, during abdominal surgery, the surgeon removed the mesh. She was able to get it out totally, fortunately. The rest of my skin began to clear on the operating table – seriously. The head OR nurse had been watching the eczema patches on my arm and chest because of the fear of my reactivity to their tapes, adhesives, etc. Those things, especially the “inert ingredients” are all partially sourced from coconut and palm oils, and they were concerned of anaphylaxis. Since I had told them that the patches would flare bright red if I were reacting to something, they were using those patches as their ‘canary in the mine shaft’. After they wheeled me into PACU and I came out of anesthesia, the head nurse said, “Mrs. McMurray, look at your arm!” It was totally clear.
The next day, a hospital official came to my room and asked to see the arm and my chest. Both were totally clear. Then the surgeon sent her Nurse Practitioner the day after that – it was still clear. Everyone said the same thing – that in all of their years of working on patients, they had never seen an allergic reaction, especially something as tenacious as eczema, clear so quickly.
I am home now, three weeks later, and am a little bit red. No eczema, but just a tinge of redness and a small amount of itching. This is due to the corset I must wear. Try as I might, I can’t stop the elastic bits from touching my skin. But let’s put this in perspective – when that mesh and gutta percha were in my body, elastic sent me into absolute misery. My skin would become red and weepy. The sores itched like crazy, usually for 24 hours per day. At night I’d wake up in respiratory distress because the swelling would reach my neck. I slept with a rescue kit. A little bit of redness and mild itching is nothing. I am so, so happy. I have to wear this corset for two more weeks and then I can take it off for good. Then, after a few months, maybe I will start to experiment with slowly adding foods back.
I feel like I have a future now. Frankly, when I was in the middle of the misery, I could not see me lasting 30 more years like that. I did not want to live with that misery. Life is good. There is hope.”
Today, Renee’s skin is clear and healthy. She’s working every day to introduce foods back into her diet, but still experiences hives here and there from negative reactions. Although a nuisance, as she states, they are in no way as intolerable as her chronic eczema was. She also does not need to take as many antihistamines as she used to. By sharing her story, Renee hopes that she can help someone else suffering from a latex allergy.
For ideas to soothe your skin, start here for eczema relief!
Do you suffer from eczema as an allergic reaction to latex? We want to hear from you in the comments below!