June 5, 2017
Ahhh…summer! The season we, in the Midwest, wait for all year long…UNLESS YOU HAVE MAST CELLS BEHAVING BADLY!
There are so many traditions, foods, activities and holidays that make summertime, summertime. It is a time for relaxation. The days are longer, giving us more time for flitting and frolicking in the sunshine. Which is all well and good, unless you happen to be allergic to flitting and to frolicking…and to sunshine. Sigh.
This is a list of 5 things that go wrong for people who have a type of white blood cell, called Mast Cells, acting up, getting aggravated at everything and causing misery in the Good Ol’ Summertime.
- MOST MAST CELLS HATE HEAT. Yeah. You can begin to imagine the party the months of June, July and August are for Mast Cell peeps. What problems does heat cause? Well, anytime they get into a hot car, do any activity on a warm/hot day, do any outside chores, do any outside sports, there are usually problems. Cars have to be cooled down in advance to avoid symptoms like hives and nausea. We have a cold drink in an insulated cup and a cooler full of cooling towels at the ready. I try to plan most activities for earlier in the morning or at dusk, for the least stomach-turning results.
- MOST MAST CELLS HATE SUNSCREEN. Since Mast Cells cause a reaction to random things, many chemicals in sunscreens can cause a reaction, over and above the reaction to heat. Getting an all natural product isn’t necessarily better either. Mast Cells react to natural ingredients as well, especially ones that are also eaten on a regular basis. These buggers couldn’t care less if your product is Organic or Cruelty-free. Oh, and to insult to injury, if they are to get a sunburn, that causes a Mast Cell reaction as well. Wahoo! Good times. -_-
- MOST MAST CELLS HATE EXERCISE. Part of summertime is sports and outside activities. Not only are these activities usually outside in the heat, the very acts of running and exertion cause Mast Cells to react. No playing a game of Frisbee with the neighbor kids or even helping a friend move their belongings from one house to another in the heat of the day. There are some people who actually have anaphylactic reactions to exercise! I always said I was allergic to exercise. Now I know it is an actual thing!!! LOL!
- MOST MAST CELLS HATE BUG SPRAY and if anything is plentiful in the summer, it is bugs! DEET and anything with an aroma is a no-go. Mast Cells react to scents, and even all natural essential oil bug sprays have a scent, so that isn’t an option either. Some peeps with Mast Cell issues can have anaphylactic reactions to bug bites/stings. Even without a life-threatening reaction, most of them have a problem with inflammation. When my daughter would get simple mosquito bites, they would swell to the size of an orange and she scratched them till they bled:( I knew, however, that her reactions to bug spray would be far worse. So being out at dusk and in the evening, takes care of the “heat” problem but instead replaces it with an “avoiding bugs” problem.
- MOST MAST CELLS HATE CHLORINE. A fun-filled day at the pool, for someone with Mast Cells behaving badly, can be a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned earlier, heat, sunshine and exertion can cause symptoms like nausea and hives but it can also cause a spike or plummet in blood pressure, shortness of breath and fainting. For many, adding the chemical, chlorine, is too much for an already aggravated body. I have heard that some of us do better with salt water pools. If you have tried them, please comment below and let me know how you did with that kind of pool.
So what can Mast Cell people do to still enjoy summertime?
There is still fun to be had in the summer, friends, we just have to think outside the box. We can still go places, just plan ahead to cool the car down before you get in, park in the shade or go closer to dusk. Movie theaters during the week at the matinee time is a good summer activity for us. It is cool and not usually crowded at that time of day. My Mast Cell kiddo can do pools for between 30 minutes to an hour, and she does much better with outdoor pools. If we go closer to dusk, I don’t have to put sunscreen on her and usually bugs don’t bother her while she is swimming. We do need to shower off right after she gets out of the pool to get the chlorine off. Another idea that lets you avoid chlorine all together is spray grounds. Kids can get wet and play and there aren’t the concentration of chemicals that pools have. We have also learned to enjoy cookouts from inside the house or screened-in porches and fireworks from the backyard of a nearby friend.
Let it go!
There are some summertime activities I haven’t been able to work around. Fairs are a big deal in the great state of Indiana, where we live. We have local fairs and a state fair. I tried, you guys. I really did. But for our little Mast Cell girl, it was always too much. Too many animals. Too much dust and exhaust. Too much walking. Too much food she can’t eat. Too much heat. I have had to make peace with the fact that I cannot medicate, control or replace enough to make this anything other than an awful experience for her. It literally takes a week to recover from a few hours at the fair. I have had to just let it go.
Another activity we have tried, but it has proven to be a huge, nasty train wreck, is camping. It is great for family bonding, they say. It helps you to get in touch with nature, they say. I say, unless the camping experience involves a Holiday Inn, it is a heck-naw! You are probably brighter than I am and you probably already thought through the challenges that come with camping and having an immune system that over-reacts to the universe. But I wanted to bond with my family and with nature, and all my friends were doing it (insert whiney voice)! Let me share with you the things we found to be plentiful when camping: BUGS. HEAT. EXERTION. POLLEN. AND WEIRD BODIES OF WATER WITH GREEN SLIMEY ICING! No. Just no. Don’t even try.
So, I am hoping no one repeats my mistakes. Pretty much everything I know about Mast Cell do’s and don’ts is because I have made choices that I thought would be ok, but ended up being very.not.ok:( The gist of the matter is, it doesn’t matter what you are “supposed” to do in the summer and it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. What really matters about summertime is making memories with the precious people in your life. In truth, that can look however you need to. Others go to ice cream stands after an evening walk, you can make homemade popcicles and have a monopoly marathon. Others can do the camping thing, you can grab you kids or grandkids and do a living room camp out, complete with tent and smores! Other people might be playing outdoor games and playing with sparklers, but you can go for a drive to whatever area is beautiful near where you live and you can watch fireworks from inside your cool, comfortable, bug-less car. When we focus on what we CAN do, instead of what we CAN’T, I think we might be surprised at how our cup runneth over.