View Full Version : Tips For Visiting Someone With MCS

03-02-10, 02:41 PM
Tips for visiting a person with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

This is a set of tips if you are visiting a person with severe MCS, or this person is visiting you.

Interacting with other people is one of the hardest aspects of this disease, as even well-meaning people can cause harm, and it IS hard to understand what our needs are. If you talk with chemical sensitive people, the lost friendships, jobs and even marriages are common. As with all people, it is hard for us to ask other people not to hurt us by using various chemicals that otherwise seem completely harmless.

We are all different, so one person may be more or less sensitive, or react to different things. This is just a general guideline; better ask than assume, otherwise you can easily set yourself up for failure, either by not covering all the problems, or by overdoing it.

Personal hygiene
Simple rules-of-thumb:
a.. If you can smell it, don't use it
b.. If it's not absolutely necessary, don't use it
c.. Even things you cannot smell can affect people with sensitivities

Be aware that the area of cosmetics is very loosely regulated. Read the label of everything; if it has words on it that are long and difficult to pronounce, don't use it. And products do not have to tell you the truth on the label. Cosmetics have exemptions from labeling laws; they are literally allowed to state they are fragrance free, when they in fact do have fragrances in them, as long as it's a 'masking fragrance' used to cover up the bad smell of the product itself. Obviously, fragrance is fragrance, no matter the reason it's in there.

Any brand you can buy in a supermarket has fragrances in it, even baby shampoo. Beware that some shampoos do not list fragrances on their label! Depending on how sensitive a person is, most low-scent shampoos may be ok a couple hours after the last washing. To be safe, buy one from a health store that is marked 'fragrance free'.

Soap is like shampoo. Safe alternatives are available, but usually not in your local supermarket. Prices can vary enormously; I get mine by mail order at a price comparable to regular brands.

Many deodorants have fragrances and other harmful chemicals. A good alternative is the crystal sticks, or any of the chemical free varieties.

Hand crème
There do not seem to be any safe hand crèmes for some of us. I personally react strongly to even special brands made for people with allergies.

Perfumes, fragrances, colognes
Just say no, there are no safe products available. Some are worse than others, but they can all hurt.

Lotions, hair gel, hair spray
Amazing how much stuff we pour on every day, isn't it? Again, try to do without, you may like yourself, despite what the advertising tells you.

What to avoid :

a.. Newly washed clothes
b.. New clothes
c.. Synthetic fabrics
d.. Dry-cleaned clothes
e.. Moth balled clothes
f.. Clothes washed with fabric softener of any kind
g.. Clothes dried with 'anti static' sheets

Just wear old cotton clothes that have been freely hanging for a few days, and you should be all right in most cases. For really sensitive people, do not use any detergent. Wash the clothes in borax and/or baking soda, it works well, and saves you money too.

If you invite a chemically sensitive person to your home
This is a more difficult situation, for both of you. The sick person must leave his safe lair, and is dependent on you to provide a safe environment. This is often not possible; you both need to realize that. People with sensitivities spend years slowly getting their homes safe, which can not be accomplished overnight.

Have a backup plan in case it does not work out. Maybe you can sit outside, or you can go to a restaurant with a good indoor climate, or even sit in her car. Talk with the person about what is necessary. This is hard for us to do, as we do not like to be trouble, and people often do not believe us, so be gentle.

If you intend to go places together, consider that your visitor can not go every place you can. Often people with MCS avoid public places, to limit being exposed to other peoples' perfumes and smoke, or the off-gassing of goods in a store. You also have to consider which vehicle to use; the fumes in a newer car (the 'new car smell') are a problem for many people. A rental car is no good, as they are all new, unless you go to a place that rents out older cars.

Some things may make it completely impossible for your visitor to enter your house, such as:

a.. New carpeting. The problem is the materials; expensive carpets are often less dangerous, cheaper synthetic carpets take many years to gas off.
b.. New paint. It takes weeks or months for paint to gas off. Water based paints are better, but still contain dangerous chemicals.

Here is a checklist for things you can easily do:
a.. Do not use a garden grill while the person is visiting
b.. Air out the place prior and during the visit (unless outside pollen is a problem)
c.. Vacuum with the windows open so the dust thrown into the air goes out.
d.. Remove all 'air fresheners' several days in advance, and put them outside the house. Simply closing them up is not enough. It takes time for the chemicals to get out of fabrics.
e.. Remove other toxic substances, such as cleaners, detergents, toilet bowl cleaners, etc.
f.. Do not use any cleaners the last couple of days, both for desktops, floors, etc. A simple damp cloth works quite well in most cases, actually!
g.. Consider using non-toxic cleaners instead, they work just as well as the big name brands.
h.. Do not wash or dry any clothes at least 24 hrs. prior to the visit
i.. Many MCS sufferers also have pet allergies, so keep pets away from the visitor.
j.. See if you can get an air cleaner, which cuts down on dust. It will not help on chemical pollutants; machines that do that are large and expensive and not available in stores.

Overnight stay at your house
Planning an overnight stay can be really difficult, as the person is committed to stay there for the night. A backup plan is imperative here, as the longer the person stays, the sicker she can get if the air is not good enough.
a.. Do the trip in the warm season, so windows can be open, especially in the bedroom.
b.. Use a fan to blow fresh air into the bedroom during the night (unless pollen or molds are a problem).
c.. Wash the bedding several days in advance, and hang it up for airing out.
d.. Wash bedding using baking soda and/or borax.

Backup choices if your visitor can not stay the night
a.. The visitor can turn around and drive home again
b.. Sleep in a tent, at a local campground or even in your back yard.
c.. Sleep in the car, or in the garage.
d.. See if there are some 'safe' lodgings in the area. Regular hotels and motels frequently paint and change the carpeting, so they are generally not usable. B&B's sometimes are.

Hope this short introduction helps pave the way. Like other people, we like to visit friends and family, and we are often isolated by our disease.


03-02-10, 06:32 PM
Good list!

03-02-10, 11:57 PM
Good list!

I'm somewhat tempted to either post this on FB or email it to a bunch of people who just don't seem to get it.

03-03-10, 12:46 AM
I'm somewhat tempted to ********* email it to a bunch of people who just don't seem to get it.

Particularly doctors surgeries and hospitals. The very people who should "get it" but seem to be the least likely to accomodate MCS patients.

03-03-10, 01:02 AM
I'm somewhat tempted to either post this on FB or email it to a bunch of people who just don't seem to get it.
I'm encouraging you to post it! Oh, why not do both!

The site is an unknown quantity and the author is equally unknown. I spent some time cleaning up all the run-on sentences and punctuation errors. But now it's fit to be shared and it's sound advice. Go for it!

P.S. What on earth is a "garden grill"?

03-03-10, 06:22 PM
I'm encouraging you to post it! Oh, why not do both!

The site is an unknown quantity and the author is equally unknown. I spent some time cleaning up all the run-on sentences and punctuation errors. But now it's fit to be shared and it's sound advice. Go for it!

P.S. What on earth is a "garden grill"?

Thanks, I was feeling to bad to bother, lol.

03-03-10, 06:25 PM
I had to take my daughter to get lab work and an MRI and watch the kids this morning. They had the stupid freaking electric air fresheners in the bathroom. You can't spend 1/2 day at a facility with a 3 and 4 year old and not use the bathroom. When I complained I was told how important it is to mask odors!!!!! I was bad enough for a while, I was tempted to go to the ER...but that would just cost ME money.

Ok I posted the intro and link on FB after what happened this morning!!! Maybe even ONE person will read. I hope some of my friends from church read it especially.

03-04-10, 01:15 AM
Excellent article mellowsong! We need to get the word out!

I spent a nauseating weekend working with someone who uses fabric softening sheets. By Sunday I was ill. The smell was so bad that I spent my lunch break suffering. People need to know that the products that they use everyday is toxic to everyone, not just those with MCS.

...I am assuming that the 'grill' means BBQ. Many people do not realize that the smell of a BBQ lingers on their skin and clothing for hours if not days...just like cigarette smoke.

Hope you are feeling better....:)