The American Lung Association teaches kids that if they learn to relax, they can ward off an asthma attack – or stop one in its tracks. The following exercise, practiced for five minutes a day, can be ‘turned on’ whenever the chest starts to feel tight or other warning signals arise. And it works wonders for adults, too!
1. Stand up and make all your muscles very tight. Then take a deep breath. Point your chin up to the ceiling and grit your teeth. Hold your arms out straight. Keep your elbows tight, your fists tightly closed, your legs stiff and your toes stiff. Hold for a few seconds.
2. Now, let everything go, like a balloon that’s being deflated. Completely relax all your muscles until you feel like a wet noodle or a rag doll.
3. Flop to the floor in a lying position and stay there. Close your eyes. Keep your arms limp and loose. Your face and feet are limp, too.
4. Picture yourself floating down a river. Concentrate on each muscle and how nice and floppy it feels.
5. Breathe softly and easily, as if you were cosy and fast asleep in your bed. Stay quiet and droopy, and feel how pleasant it is.
6. Open your eyes. Turn on the relaxed, ‘wet noodle’ feeling whenever you feel nervous or short of breath, or feel an asthma attack coming on.
Some of the same preservatives, flavours and colours that cause food allergy when eaten also cause skin reactions when touched – especially in cooks, bakers and homemakers who handle large amounts of food daily. One doctor, for example, found that hand eczema in a salad chef was due to sodium bisulphite -which, like metabisulphite, is used in many restaurants to prevent browning of fruits and vegetables.
It’s not unheard of for fruit and fruit juices, vegetables and uncooked meat to irritate the skin, aggravating allergic hands. If your hands are inflamed, avoid direct contact with the juice of onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits and raw meat.
Many of the remedies and avoidance tactics we’ve talked about in earlier chapters also double as preventive measures against skin allergies. But there are a few additional guidelines you should follow.
1. To keep your skin from becoming dry and easily inflamed, avoid long hot soaks in the tub, leisurely showers or too-frequent washing. After washing, don’t rub vigorously. Rather, pat the skin dry with a soft towel.
2. Use non-alkaline soaps to maintain your skin’s natural acidity.
3. Don’t allow your children to ‘play grown-up’ with your makeup. Early exposure to cosmetics increases the chances that when they do grow up, they will develop not only cosmetic allergy, but other assorted contact allergies, according to Guinter Kahn, a dermatologist in North Miami Beach. Cosmetics marketed to pre-teens are also unacceptable.
4. To reduce the number of potential offenders you come in contact with, use body care products with the simplest, most basic formulas.
5. Be on guard for the smallest symptoms any time you test a new product. If something does trouble you, try to determine from the list of ingredients which ingredient is the problem, and avoid other products containing that substance.
6. Relax! Some people break out only when they’re tired, tense or upset, or under any strain that taxes the body’s defense system.
7. Enlist your doctor’s help to prevent skin reactions. He or she should avoid prescribing topical or oral medications which are known to cause skin reactions – Official-Drugstore.com benzocaine, furacin, neomycin, penicillin, sulphonamides, ammoniated mercury, thimerosal, dibucaine, cyclomethycaine sulphate, wool wax alcohol (lanolin) and turpentine.
8. If you’re facing surgery, tell your surgeon if you’re allergic to nickel. Some nickel-sensitive people react to surgical clips used to close incisions or to metal prostheses (artificial parts) inserted in limbs.
9. Use over-the-counter medicated salves cautiously, if at all. If you’re allergic to a dye or a preservative (like parabens or formaldehyde) in cosmetics, you’ll also react to that compound in medicinal creams and lotions. Also, avoid all of the ‘-caine’ salves and ointments.
Skin allergies, of course, can coexist with other skin diseases, such as acne or psoriasis. If the problem persists in spite of all your efforts to control it, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a dermatologist.