Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Lourdes Salvador volunteers as a writer and social advocate for the recognition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). She was a passionate advocate for the homeless and worked with her local governor to provide services to the homeless through a new approach she created to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for people with MCS and the medical professionals who serve them. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005 and went on to found MCS America in 2006. She serves as a partner for Environmental Education Week, a partner for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), and a supporter for the American Cancer Society: Campaign for Smokefree Air.
A Warm Thanksgiving
by Lourdes Salvador
The holidays bring many emotions. Most people look forward to sharing joy with children and family. Some feel sad as they remember deceased relatives or a partner from a broken relationship who attended celebrations in the past. Shopping, travel, traffic, and preparations can often add extra anxiety and stress. And it doesn’t stop there.
For an estimated 46 million Americans, chemical sensitivity throws another wrench in the works. Roughly 15% of the population experiences some level of sensitivity to multiple chemicals which reduces blood flow to the brain and leads to various neurological, endocrine, and immune symptoms upon exposure to common fragrances, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals.
The exposure need not be great. The definition of MCS is such that symptoms occur to small amounts of chemicals normally deemed as a safe exposure level. Another person’s perfume or scented lotion, as well as a recent pesticide application, could bring on symptoms.
Of the 46 million Americans who experience chemical sensitivity, approximately 9 million have been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). For those diagnosed with MCS, the condition has generally advanced to a disabling point. Many are no longer able to tolerate work, shopping, school, and church environments.
Thanksgiving brings everyone joy, sadness, stress, anxiety, and other emotions. Besides all of this, a person with MCS also struggles to merely be a part of the festivities.
For those with MCS, Thanksgiving may also bring profound rejection and loneliness. Rejection occurs when family and friends are not willing to make small changes to accommodate a person with MCS. If loved ones are willing to make accommodations, they are not always successful for various reasons. Loneliness occurs, as a result of rejection when person with MCS is not accommodated for one reason or another or is unnecessarily excluded from celebrations.
Sometimes exclusion includes denigration and harsh accusations of making more of exposures than there really is. Many people with MCS recount being told that they just don’t want to attend. Far from the truth, most very much want to participate in life, work, school, and social gatherings.
Ten Holiday Ideas to Accommodate People with MCS
1. Make the gathering a fragrance free event for everyone’s health.
No perfume, cologne, scented lotions, aftershaves, and hair products.
Provide showers and unscented soap for guests in case they forget.
Provide unscented robes or cover-ups in the event clothing is scented.
Remove all air fresheners, candles, and other scented items from the home/facility.
2, Hold the even outdoors if weather permits.
3, Run an air filter to help filter chemicals out of the air.
4, Open opposite windows for cross ventilation and air exchange. Turn the heat up if necessary.
5. Ask the person with MCS what you can prepare especially for them with any food sensitivities in mind. You may find that everyone loves it!
6. Make an extra effort to include the person with MCS and make them feel welcome while treating them normally (they have MCS, but they also have other interests).
7. Do not tell a person to remove a needed mask or oxygen supply for the comfort of other guests. Allow the person with MCS to wear a mask or respirator and alert guests ahead of time so they are prepared.
8. Watch for reactions to chemicals and be careful not to misinterpret the behavior of person with MCS. Nervous appearing behavior, excessive talking, grogginess, repetitive movements, leaving the room, and other unusual behavior may be a sign of a reaction to the environment.
9. If a person with MCS does have a bad reaction, ask what you can do to help.
10. Have fun!
Ten Holiday Ideas for Those with MCS
1. Start planning and shopping early by making a to do list.
2. Avoid the stress, crowds, exposures, and hassles of shopping by employing alternatives such as buying gifts online.
3. Take care of yourself by sticking to your normal foods and routine.
4. When entertaining, stipulate the rules on party invitations.
If no fragrances are allowed, provide safe clothing and shower access for guests to use when arriving.
If you don’t want to entertain all night, be sure to specify the time the party ends.
Ask guests to bring a pot luck dish to reduce energy expended cooking and cleaning up.
Ask guests to help out.
5. When going to a gathering away from home:
If dietary needs may not be met, bring a dish of food that you tolerate to eat and share with others.
Bring your own vehicle and make a short appearance at a gathering if you are unable to stay for the duration or your family wishes to stay longer.
If fragrances are of concern, wear layered clothing or a cover-up and bring a mask. A paraplegic would not show up without a wheel chair. You should not show up without your medical equipment either.
6. Plan to do nothing or lighten your schedule a few days before and after an event.
7. Just say no. It’s okay to pass on activities and outings, especially if accommodations will not be made for you. Your first priority is you.
8. Speak to your friends and family in advance to outline your needs and make plans.
9. Avoid making commitments you may not be able to keep. This will lessen the pressure you feel and you’ll win more points if you say maybe and no show than if you say yes and no show. And if you happen to show up in spite of “maybe”, everyone will be delighted.
10. Pace yourself. It’s better to enjoy only one activity than be in bed for two weeks because you attempted several activities
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2009 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America
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