Living With MCS:
This page assumes you are past doubting the reality that chemical exposures are crippling your friend, spouse, sibling, etc. This page assumes you are ready and willing to learn how to be in their company without harming them.
If you have a very close companion, family member or friend with this illness the best thing to do is to be chemically free in your daily life. This will make all interactions possible with the added bonus of improving your own health at the same time.
The main principle to keep in mind:
This is more involved than it may sound as fragrance is not limited to perfumes, far from it. If you read the list below you will see what you are using daily that adds to chemical exposures for you or people who are near you.
You will need to visit a health food store for safer alternatives to scented products, or look online at Needs.com and click "Unscented Products". Try Karen's Naturals.com or other sites like it by googling for other natural non-toxic personal product sites. Not all alternatives work for everyone with MCS, so you may want to ask them about particular needs.
So here we go...
Eliminating Triggers for the MCSer in Your Life:
When you go to an MCS person's home, please be very respectful of their personal items and their homes. Much time and care have gone into making them safe for this illness. It is very difficult for someone with MCS to find, create and keep a home that has truly clean air that doesn't create pain or other symptoms. You could contaminate the only bit of breathable air space they have in their lives, and you could cause a setback by not checking first about what substances you bring in if you enter their homes. See also the Safe Living resources.
Remember, clean doesn't smell.
Commom Mistakes to Avoid
There is also the option of wearing something that the MCS person has washed for you. Many keep several safely laundered large hoodies and sweat pants in various sizes for visitors.
When you do have some successful outfits for visiting, bag them separately to keep them from picking up fragrances of your "normal" fragrant life you encounter between visits. Make sure you wash with plain soaps when changing from regular outfits to the bagged safe ones, or you transfer chemicals.
Shampoos & Conditioners
Avoid fluoride - it's toxic and doesn't help cavities anyway
Face Creams and Body Lotions
Avoid "Quaternium-15", which releases formaldehyde!
Avoid these, period. Most hair sprays contain nerve gas and propane or butane (yes, the stuff that goes into your gas heater and lighters!) and are VERY toxic.
Here's another explanation of how to be safe to visit someone with MCS:
See also Safe Living for more resources and information.
How to Live with Someone with MCS
My name is John, and I have spent the past four years learning how to accommodate Angela's new condition of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I did a lot to help her stop her initial suffering. Here is a narrative of some steps I took, as a believing and caring spouse to make life easier, healthier for both of us and close friends who began to embrace living without chemical offenders.
The first important thing I did for her, was to belive her. Imagine saying to someone that you have a headache or even cancer, and have that person doubt you. Believing was the key, and then taking action to remove the culprits kept our relationship possible. People who do not have the disability of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities may find it hard to know what might cause distress to someone who does. After all how can you change something you don't see or detect? If you believe and listen, this is a great first step.
I built safe containment areas. Angela could stay behind these, which were absolutely not traveled in by others and would remain totally free of fragrance or chemical invasions of any kind. After trying to make trip outside she could always come back to a space she knew to be safe, to slowly lose the pains of venturing out.
We also purchased Austin air filters for the upstairs rooms which would filter any outside chimney smoke or laundry exhaust from nearby neighbors. I made her food so she wouldn't need to venture out of what proved to be a safe and pain-free breathing space.
After a few months of this, she became strong enough to venture out to the rest of the house.
Then I built some safe boxes for the laptops in the house. Since she was only experiencing small controlled moments in the outside world, the internet brought her the world safely. The box I created was made from a friends gutted airstream trailer's aluminum, with a fan exhausting the fumes out an open window in the back. The finished product is on the Coping page.
I changed all my personal products to fragrance free products. This was just a matter of changing my habits and purchasing a different brand. It is actually easier that it sounds on first read of all the lists above. Now that my world is void of chemical fragrance, I have become VERY aware of the loads of fragrance in the air. Some people have their dryer sheets, their lotions, their make-up and hair products all competing for what we inhale. I have noticed that I get headaches in the presence of fragrances. What started out to be an accommodation for Angie, turned into a benefit for me. I am happy to have made this change for my own health.