Monday, 21 October 2013

Topical Steroid Withdrawal: Allergies

When my eczema first began to worsen and become a full body problem I was sent straight to a dermatologist to determine what had  caused this to happen after years of only having had dry and sensitive skin with the occasional rash. After being given prescription after prescription of stronger topical steroid creams, nothing was helping to ease the issue. As the skin first showed signs of inflammation and eczematous skin on my exposed areas (face, neck, chest and arms) it was decided that my problem was down to environmental issues. Blood was taken from me to determine what allergens were prevailing my ailment and the results came back as severely allergic to cats, dogs and dust mites.

Now, the thing that puzzles me most is that prior to this time I did not react severely when faced with any of these allergens. There were cats present in our household before I was born which have still remained to this day (not the same cats as that would be crazy having a cat that was older than 24!) as we are a family who are very fond of them. In a similar vein dust mites were the highest rated of all the allergens which is humourous given that I spent 3 years of my teens working as a cleaner where high levels of dust was present.

My Mum's beautiful mogs

Sure, prior to my eczematous epidemic I may have been a tiny bit allergic to these things, with the odd runny nose and itchy eyes, but this became disastrous. I suffered all summer long with little respite until I left home to attend University in the September, where my condition eased itself to an extent and life became "manageable" again. (Life with eczema is never manageable as even when your allergens are diagnosed the beast still rages on for no real reason, other than "it just does"... or so the specialists like to tell me.) Getting rid of the cats was not an option, and in fact I wanted my Mother to keep more as I didn't want her to be on her own and cats are my favourite animal afterall. When I returned home for a visit in November/ December time, just a couple of months later, all hell broke loose and I was hospitalised with a severe allergic reaction.

This continued until I was given Ciclosporin the following year, which I have previously detailed in this post. When I was forced to discontinue the drug I was back to square one with my allergies. They were still severe and I had to stop visiting my Mum at home; my home. I had to change my position at work; the warehouse and shop floor were too dusty and I was flaring all over the shop, quite literally!

Recently all this has changed.

When I stopped using the topical steroid creams in May of this year I had no idea what would be in store for me. A question on ITSAN's FAQ page struck me, it had stated that:

"Q: Why am I allergic to things that never bothered me before?

During topical steroid withdrawal, your body is very sensitive. After withdrawal, it will return to normal. Allergy testing during topical steroid withdrawal is inaccurate because your system is hypervigilant and reacts more than it normally would."

If this was true it could mean that in the future after withdrawal my life may not be so constricted. I might be able to actually visit friends and family who own pets, be able to carry out routine house cleaning, and generally return to a more normalised lifestyle. It also confirms that my allergies that were only ever mild prior to the eczema break out became severe because of the use of topical steroid creams.

Miss Kitty's blog post entitled "I am not allergic to cats" gave me further hope. Maybe one day I will even be able to own a cat myself.

See! I never used to be so allergic

Last month I visited my Mum. I figured I would probably have a flare so prepared myself for the worst. My skin didn't flare up and I didn't even take my asthma inhaler once! What was this madness, a crazy fluke?! I'm beginning to wonder what is going on.

This week at work a maintenance man took apart one of the tills that had been freezing through transactions to find that it was chock-a-block with dust. I didn't think to tell him that I had allergies and just backed away a bit as he blew it literally everywhere creating clouds of dust that hung in the air and choked me. Do you know what? I didn't need to take my inhaler that evening though my skin did flare later on but I think it was actually more due to the fact I was so dry after work as I haven't been moisturising.

And just yesterday, the very thing that prompted me to type this post... I went to a friend's flat who has the fluffiest cat in history that malts like nothing I've ever seen before, cat fur EVERYWHERE! They'd forgotten to hoover before my arrival, but it didn't matter and it isn't something I'd expect people to do, why should they? Whilst I was there I think I only took my inhaler twice, sure my nose was running by the end of the day and I started sneezing but the fact is I was there from 8am until 5pm. That's an awfully long time to spend with one of my allergens, especially one so fluffy as this beautiful mog.

I will admit that I couldn't stop sneezing all the way home and couldn't sleep last night because my nose was blocked but considering I used to literally have to step into the same room as a cat and end up in hospital with a severe full body allergic reaction, just from having it look at me is saying a bloody lot.

I think withdrawing from the medication that was supposed to treat the eczema is the best thing I could ever have done for myself.

I truly do.


  1. Hi Jenny! My husband and I had adopted 2 cats when we were first married. I became severely allergic to them after a month and we had to find them a new home. I later went to a cousin's house many years later not knowing they had cats....had a major asthma attack. I then became allergic to our dog last year when my TS use started going up. Thankfully we did not give him away! After stopping TS in Feb, I was able to pet him again within a months time! I now can be around multiple dogs all day without a sniffle. I am praying my allergy to cats has also gone away as we would love to get one or two! I will have to go visit my cousin again to see what happens! :) So happy for you! I have heard of a few people that say their allergies did not improve after stopping TS. Hopefully the majority of us who have suffered not only with eczema, but severe allergies can have them go away!

    1. Hey Tracy, thanks for your comment :) So happy for you that you can now pet your dog again! You say that some people have said that their allergies did not improve after stopping TS... had these people always had the allergies or were they like us in that they only became horribly allergic when TS was introduced? I understand that there are cases where people can "grow into" allergies but I sincerely believe that I'm not one of them and that my problems all boil down to the TS.

  2. Woo! You are only a bit allergic to cats! Hurrah! : D


    1. :D I'm still wary of giving them a stroke without washing my hand immediately after but it's better than nothing :) although even when I was severely allergic I would still give them a stroke because how can you not?!

    2. hehe years ago I used to live with 4 dogs and would spend all day trying not to touch them, or if I did wash my hands straight after. And then in the evenings I would get drunk and end up in the dog bed with them all like I love you guys soooo much and wake up having scratched myself to death. One of my 'rewards' at the end of this journey is we are looking at getting a pet. Woohoo!!!

  3. When I went through TSW the first time I became insanely allergic to everything, perfume, hair care products, cats etc. once it was over, absolutely nothing set me off ever again. Until I started to use topical steroids again decades later. Suddenly I was allergic to my friends dog who I always doggysat. It's the steroids.

  4. So glad to see some benefits of TSW coming through for you hun! I've definitely found my "hayfever" that I'd struggled with for the last four years has eased a lot, and the only change I've made is to come off steroids too. I can't wait til someday it's well known that steroids are terrible for you and make atopic conditions worse.

  5. I became allergic to my dog! Luckily she's living with my mom now but it's pretty devastating since I can't cuddle with her whenever I see her :( She probably thinks I'm mad at her lol. I am hoping too have MissKitty's results as well after this is over! But for now, still taking allegra every day.