My current relapse is re-introducing me to many of the weird and (not-so) wonderful symptoms that were once a constant part of my life and the most recent to reappear are strange allergies that change from one day to the next. I can't believe I forgot this one. When I say allergy, I guess I mean intolerance; when certain foods or even scents cause a physiological response. For me, certain foods irritate my lips, tongue, mouth and throat; causing swelling, itching and rawness. There are some scents and chemicals that also cause similar reactions; usually an irritation of the throat, nose and ears. I don't know how common a symptom this is with other ME/CFS sufferers, but it is particularly annoying and really sounds like one of those things that I'm just making up.
How do you explain that you can use the same shampoo every day, but on a certain day when you're feeling particularly ill, washing your hair with said shampoo can cause adverse physiological reactions? It can cause your eyes to swell up, and irritate your nose and throat so much it affects your breathing, and that is before you've even lathered up; just the scent of it has caused a reaction.
But anyone who knows about the disrupted immune systems of ME/CFs sufferers would not find these kinds of reactions to foods and scents and allergens even remotely surprising. I have noticed that these kinds of episodes occur at times when I am going through a relapse and I am feeling particularly ill. I remember a time when I used to take antihistamines regularly, especially in the summer months, but it hardly seems suitable for occasional reactions and I know how to handles my permanent ones.
I guess the answer, for me at least, is to limit the amount of allergens in my environment; I used to be good at that and had learned to get products that did not have strong scents or too many chemicals and I only ate fresh home-cooked meals made from pure fresh ingredients. It's yet another reminder of how far I have strayed from the recovery plan, but more importantly, a clear sign stating that the most we can ever hope to do is maintain our symptoms, not remove the illness completely. That may sound defeatist and depressing, but it isn't at all, because looking back at when I was maintaining my symptoms, it was the healthiest and happiest I had felt since I became ill. So it is definitely something I am striving for and all I can hope is that this time I don't become complacent.