Coping With Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

People who suffer from multiple chemical sensitivities, also called Multiple Allergic Response Syndrome (MARS), have a strong sensitivity to chemicals contained in all sorts of items that are right in their living or work environment. These can be anything from water, food, paints, gasoline, car exhaust, certain fabrics, cleaning supplies, beauty products, and even medications.

Symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

The effects of multiple chemical sensitivities can appear differently for different people, but some signs include headache, rash, nausea, and dizziness. These symptoms usually occur soon after contact with the trigger.

The Logistics of Environmental Illness

Although chemical sensitivities often look similar to allergies, the way they occur are different. Allergies trigger the immune system to launch an attack against the allergen, but with multiple chemical sensitivities, you'll have an adverse physical reaction to the offending substance but your immune system doesn't go into overdrive like it would with other allergy triggers.

Exactly what causes the reaction isn't completely understood yet, and as a result, many respected allergy research organizations don't officially recognize this type of problem as a true medical condition. This makes MARS and other related conditions very controversial, and can cause added stress for people grappling with the symptoms.

Looking for Explanations

Some researchers believe that people with various immune system disorders (not including allergies) can be more likely to suffer from MARS. While the reason for the relationship isn't completely clear, people whose immunity is compromised may be more susceptible to feeling the ill effects of everyday elements in the environment. Some doctors also believe that the illness can have a psychological component. But further research is needed to better understand the problem and the causes.

Diagnosing Environmental Illness

There aren't any specific diagnostic tests to identify multiple chemical sensitivities, so if you suspect you have this condition, you'll want to see a doctor who specializes in environmental medicine so he can rule out allergies and other ailments. A diagnosis of MARS or multiple chemical sensitivities is often made by the patient's list of symptoms, coupled with any recent chemical exposure. However, it may take some detective work to identify what in your environment is making you sick.

What You Can Do

Once you know what's triggering the problem, you can make an effort to avoid the items involved and head off the reaction. You can also make strategic changes in your environment to minimize your exposure to as many chemicals as possible. If you do suffer from the effects anyway, your doctor can help you treat the symptoms until they subside.




"Multiple Chemical Sensitivities." Occupational Safety & Health Administration. US Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 12 July 2011.

"Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder." Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America., n.d. Web. 12 July 2011.