Lynne Mortimer - I am officially allergic to the 21st century

Lynne Mortimer

Lynne Mortimer - Credit: Archant

When a colleague offered me the headline “Allergic to the twenty-first Century”, I laughed. I’m not laughing now, writes Lynne Mortimer.

Little did I know how prophetic it would turn out to be.

Last week, at the hospital’s dermatology clinic, I was given “patch tests”, 42 of them, to see how my skin reacted to different substances.

This followed the ghastly swelling and peeling of my face that occurred just before the General Election, last year. I don’t think the two events were related. I don’t usually react so badly to politics. I managed to get through the recent budget without an attack of hives.

Initial results from my tests showed a strong allergic reaction to one chemical, namely, methylisothiazolinone... easy for them to say. On the basis that one 21-letter allergen should be enough for anyone, I presumed that the other 41 patches were okay. Nope.

Here is a selection from my A-list (A for Avoid): deodorants; after shave lotions; cosmetics; medicinal creams and ointments; baby powders; sunscreens; suntan lotions; shampoo and conditioners; artificially baked goods and confectionery; cola and other soft drinks; spices eg cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, paprika, curry; Calamine lotion; surgical dressings ; toothpaste and mouthwash; haemorrhoidal suppositories...

That was just one of the lists. A few other problem areas include paints, insect repellents, washing powder, fabric conditioner, air fresheners, cement, boiler linings, bricks, glue, chrome and... foundry sand – I’ve not been too troubled with that.

Perfume is on the A-list. Moreover, if other people are wearing scent it can affect me. My husband is taking this into account: “I’ve put on my Habit Rouge but only a little,” he said. There will be no more luxuriating in a frothy bubble bath with my big toe up the chrome tap. Now, I shall have to bathe in a pool at the foot of a waterfall like a nymph or Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.

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For tooth cleaner, the doctor recommended baking soda. For deodorants, maybe a sprig of rosemary under each arm.

As the dermatologist continued through the seemingly endless list, I considered where on earth I might find a home where I could live untroubled by my allergies.

Then I hit upon the Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow, in Suffolk. I could move in there for respite care, removing myself from the temptations of modern-day chemicals. I could call myself by the Anglo-Saxon name Linn (lives by the linden tree hill) and move in with my choice of companions. I would probably opt for a couple of single guys, maybe Drwyn (friend of the deer) and Ham (hot). On second thoughts, maybe not Drwyn.

I would weave my own simple (yet stylish) garments from wool shorn from the herds of sheep and goats. It would be a simple, if smelly existence.

Yes, a thatched wooden hut and a foraging lifestyle would be almost perfect. I say almost, because I have scanned the A-list and don’t see any references to prosecco or chocolate. These would not have been available in Anglo-Saxon villages but I’ve checked and there is a café on site.

Then there are haemorrhoids, which I would not be taking in with me, however, should they arrive unbidden as a result of sitting on the cold ground during the long winter months as I whittle a stick in my rude, 6th century hut, I shall resort to natural remedies such as witch hazel and apple cider vinegar (I found them recommended on a website).

By now the doctor was listing certain types of antibiotics and then, with a final flourish, she said: “... and treated leather.”

“Our car seats are leather,” I sighed.

“You’ll be fine as long as you’re not sitting on them naked,” she smiled.

“Well, that’s ruined my weekend,” I joked.

I have had an unusual amount of sympathy for this particular allergy. Daughter Ruth emailed: “Sad about the leather, eh?”

It has caused much hilarity with friends suggesting I with have to refurbish the 50 Shades dungeon with faux leather and replace the baby oil with lard.

I don’t have a dungeon.


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