Are you allergic to your anti-perspirant?


It's part of everyday life to wear deodorant and perfume, but according to recent research, you could be allergic to your own toiletries.

The survey called Stolen Lives carried out by the charity Allergy UK, found that more than half of respondents described symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) - a reaction to artificial substances such as deodorants and perfume.

Even more astonishing, most of those questioned didn't even realise they suffered from the condition.

The truth is that hidden chemicals released from common household products which can provoke a physical reaction in humans - are lurking in most our homes.

Classic symptoms include wheezing, breathing difficulties, headaches, memory loss and skin rashes.

Though most assume the illness will cause only minor health problems, Allergy UK report that a significant amount of sufferers are hospitalised each year.

MCS is a growing condition that affects everyone from young children to the elderly, but because it is still unrecognised by doctors, it is still not known how many people actually suffer from the complaint.

However, it is thought that our bodies are regularly fighting more than 300 chemicals - many given off by household chemicals - at any one time.

To help you find out if you are allergic to your home, follow our guide on how to spot the signs and symptoms.

  • What is MCS?

    Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a reaction to chemicals including many common household products. The worst offenders are deodorants, make-up, perfume, bleach, shampoos and air fresheners.

  • What are the symptoms of MCS?

    Classic symptoms include wheezing, breathing difficulties, headaches, memory loss and skin rashes.

  • How does MCS differ to an allergy?

    Unlike an allergic response, when the body produces histamine, our body reacts to toxins contained in manmade chemicals when it enters the blood stream. However, when our immune system is weakened in this way, experts believe MCS can trigger further food and inhalent allergies.

    An allergy is a reaction by the immune system to a normally harmless substance. This happens because the immune system is designed to fight off foreign bodies.

    When it can't find an infection to fight, it sometimes looks for something else such as an allergen to react against. During an allergic reaction, a natural body chemical called histamine is responsible for generating symptoms.

  • Why is MCS a growing problem?

    Today, there are hundreds of chemicals lurking in our homes compared to ten years ago. This is blamed on the growing emergence of household products such as air fresheners, deodorants and a vast array of shampoos and perfumes available on the market.

    'These days children spend 95 per cent of their time indoors playing on computers and watching TV, rather than getting outside into the fresh air,' says Judith May of Allergy UK. 'The problem is our homes become inundated with cleaning agents making our environment more anti-bacterial, thus weakening our immune systems and making us more vunerable to chemical sensitivity,' she says.

  • Can you treat MCS?

    MCS is still an unrecognised problem, because there are very few doctors trained in spotting allergies and sensitivities. In fact, there are less than 24 allergists currently practising in Britain.

    If you think you could be allergic to a specific chemical, keep a symptom diary to track any pattern. If one does emerge, discuss it with your doctor who may recommend you to a specialist clinic for a test.

    However, the best form of treatment is to avoid chemicals that trigger a reaction, but if you can't avoid them altogether follow our top tips below.

    Deodorants: Try to avoid sprays which leak chemicals into the environment and use roll-on deodorants instead. Roll-on deodorants keep chemicals in a contained area, leaving you less likely to suffer from a reaction.

    Perfume: Avoid perfumes if you can. If you can't, choose fragrant-free perfume that have been dermatologically tested.

    Shampoos and conditioners: Look for products that are fragrant-free and therefore lower in chemicals.

    Bleach, toilet cleaners and surface sprays: Allergy UK recommend using eco-friendly products which tend to be fragrant free. Visit, or call their helpline on 0208 303 8583, for a list of recommended products.

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