NonScents at Number 10!
Thanks for visiting my blog!
I started this blog in November 2018 with one aim initially!….
Simply to share my experiences over the past 3 decades living with and managing my allergies, eczema, Topical steroid withdrawal and urticaria.
Since then it has evolved into something more, a lifestyle blog covering family life, my love of fashion whilst still covering allergies, eczema, and all in between!
Through this blog, I share my life, from attending fashion events to giving allergy advice, genuine product reviews to dairy free recipes, as well as my take on motherhood and daily life juggling three young boys!
If you are reading this and are currently suffering with Eczema, Urticaria, Allergies or TSW know that you are not alone! Despite everything I have learned over the years, my struggle continues as chronic conditions like eczema never truly go away for good… It’s how we manage them that has a huge effect on the quality of our lives!
You may feel like you have tried everything however reading my blog may give you food for thought and give you your ‘lightbulb’ moment which could perhaps change your life!
If you want to find out about my skin journey, read on!
Hi! I’m Jemma, I’m in my mid 30’s and a mummy to three beautiful boys aged 8 down to 3!I’m married to my lovely husband and as you can see I am quite outnumbered! General day to day life is hectic running around after these maniacs (utter chaos and nonsense prevail) but as they grow that bit older, I’m slowly being able to dabble in things outside the realms of motherhood and reclaim a bit of time for me… I felt the time was right to finally start this blog!
Allergies – My background
I’ve suffered from ‘allergic’ skin since a child. I can remember my Mum saying that I used to get eczema in the creases of my arms as a toddler but nothing major. Through my early teens, my skin took a turn and my skin became unbearable. Red itchy aggravated patches of eczema covered my body and face. As you can imagine secondary school was a time of camouflage makeup, cutting this and that out and generally trying to manage my bad skin (which everyone presumed would clear up once those teenage hormones settled).
My Teens – 20’s
Strangely I went through around 3 years of amazing skin! No allergies and the free reign to use any product that I fancied… Sadly, however, it was short-lived!
For the years that followed I tried numerous creams and lotions, avoided certain foods, changed my diet…. you name it I tried it but I felt there was no pattern or obvious cause for my red, itchy sore and irritated skin.
I did manage to ascertain that whenever I drank wine, took anti-inflammatory tablets (like Ibruprofen etc) my skin flared. Guaranteed! Hives covered my face and the itch was unbearable. After more visits to the doctor and after researching online I had a name for what they thought I had … Eczema and Urticaria!
After getting over the initial excitement of thinking that as it had a name, it would have a quick fix or a cure, I came to realise that sadly that wasn’t the case and so got to work ‘trying’ to manage my skin as best I could.
My first pregnancy and the delightful Hormones!
I was now full of raging hormones, not able to take my antihistamines and actively avoiding all my triggers (Pollen! Cats, dogs, sulphates etc and anything perfumed.) I had a glimmer of hope expecting that once my son was born, I’d get back on the meds and ‘Hey Presto’ … have good skin!! But No! After my son was born the bad skin continued. The same happened during my second pregnancy only this time I was offered ‘light therapy’ at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. This worked a treat and had a huge impact on my skin only sadly a short time after stopping the course, the itchy red patches returned.
My lightbulb moment!
It wasn’t until my son was diagnosed with a Cows Milk Protein allergy at 6 months old I had my light bulb moment! He had bad eczema (as well as other tummy issues caused by dairy. ) We switched him to a hyper-allergenic ‘dairy-free’ formula and as if by magic his issues resolved and his skin cleared up… almost overnight!
Was I allergic to dairy?!?
Suddenly it all seemed to make sense…. (Click here to find out about CMPA – Cows milk protein allergy)
…For years I worked in a pizza restaurant (whilst I studied for my Degree), which as you can imagine involved a lot of free pizza! Little did I know those little pans of delight were actually irritating my skin each time. I used to get so annoyed as every Saturday almost guaranteed, my skin would flare up! I assumed it was because I was anticipating a night out/stressed/somehow inhaled some perfume but no… my husband and I would have what we called ‘Chocolate Fridays’. (We knew how to live!) We’d be good all week, eating healthy so we’d have a film and chocolate (a lot of chocolate) which it would, had a detrimental effect on my skin. It’s just so obvious looking back that whilst these aren’t the main cause, they are triggers!
Living Dairy free!
Despite being a massive chocoholic, at that point, it was never a question of ‘would I give up dairy?’. It was a case of ‘can I live on a dairy free diet?
From then on I’ve lived a totally dairy free life. My skin flare-ups went from 3-4 per week to 1-2 per month!
It was that simple!
Don’t get me wrong I was also back on my antihistamines and avoiding my other triggers (perfumes, pollens, etc) but the difference it made was huge. My two other boys were also born with allergies to dairy. (My eldest two have since grown out of it, and we are currently at the stage of introducing my youngest to it slowly!)
Allergies and Medication
Back in 2016, after numerous visits to the Gp and Dermatologists and with my wedding approaching (not sure why at the time we decided to go for an outdoor festival wedding in the peak of pollen season) I was left with little choice but to go on a short 2-week course of low dose Prednisone. I really wasn’t happy about taking them but I’m so pleased I did. For the short two weeks that I had them, I was able to put all my efforts into my wedding and the preparations for it. We had family over from Australia and for once I didn’t have to worry whether or not my skin would flare up on my big day. I was up the ladder in the trees hanging decorations, out in the gardens setting up the ceremony chairs etc, hugging family (wearing perfume) something I know I’d not have been able to do due to my allergies without the use of the steroids. (I know steroids are essential for some and equally just not an option for others! (This is something I will cover later!)
It was at this point a close family member (who trained and works in the medical field) suggested a drug called Montelukast – used for children with asthma. I knew I was soon to finish the steroid course, so was even more eager to find something else to help! Off I marched to the specialist again and pretty much demanded they let me try these. Surprisingly without much hesitation, they prescribed me 5mg daily, however, I didn’t get a chance to use it for long before I got pregnant with my third baby so had to wait to use it.
During my final pregnancy, my skin flared and got worse once again. This could have been due to not taking the antihistamine or the Montelukast, plus not using any steroid creams …added to those delightful hormones!
I am currently one-year post baby and have been on the Montelukast since. Personally, I feel it’s had a huge positive impact on my life and has drastically improved my allergies ( and the amount I react to things). I do have to add that they do come with side effects!
Discovering TSW (Topical Steroid Addiction/Withdrawal/Red Skin Syndrome!)
Steroid creams were once my friend, or so I thought, however, having read a little online about TSW and since discovering the TSW community on Instagram I quickly learned about how some people had become addicted to using them topically. This was definitely something I had!! ANOTHER LIGHT BULB MOMENT!! It was like reading about my own skin. The cycles of getting eczema, using the creams, stopping the creams, red skin starting then having to reapply the cream was oh so apparent!!
I stopped using the creams! Controversial to some but having stopped I noticed a great change in my skin. It went through days of what I’d call ‘withdrawal’ but slight improvements were being seen! Smooth! Not red, not itchy and also less patchy! If you are reading this and think you may also have Topical steroid addiction, read my blog on What is topical steroid withdrawal? (TSW) here. If you can have withdrawals from taking steroids orally, surely its possible to withdraw from the creams being applied topically?!
How is my skin today?
Today I’d say my skin is 90% better… fairing a little worse during the winter months! Every day that I’m not using the steroid creams, I am seeing improvements in my skin. As I can see an end to it all, I’m happy in myself and feel I’ve got to the stage where I can confidently manage it. I am in control of my skin and despite the odd flare up, am living my life with (almost) normal skin!
Having gained a fair amount of knowledge throughout my own personal journey (and with my sons also suffering with allergies), I felt now was the time to share this with others who are on their own tough journey towards managing their skin and allergies effectively. Anyone who has suffered from Eczema, TSW, Urticaria and Allergies will know that sadly there is no ‘quick fix’ however if we build a community, we can help each other get good skin and perhaps that little bit faster too!