A prison of al­ler­gies


Imag­ine be­ing al­ler­gic to al­most ev­ery­thing.

Un­able to give some­one a hug be­cause they’re wear­ing per­fume, have to take a shower af­ter a trip to the su­per­mar­ket and find it hard to find a suit­able home.

This is what Auck­land res­i­dent Sab­rina Paige has suf­fered from for al­most 20 years.

Paige has mul­ti­ple chem­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity syn­drome (MCS), a dis­or­der trig­gered by low level ex­po­sure to mul­ti­ple chem­i­cal sub­stances com­monly found in the en­vi­ron­ment.

Her symp­toms started around 1996 while she was liv­ing in Glen­dowie where she be­lieves she was ex­posed to white moth tus­sock spray. ‘‘I was healthy be­fore then and I came out in a rash, found it hard to breathe and for three months I couldn’t use soap as my whole body was burn­ing.’’ Over time Paige be­came sen­si­tised or al­ler­gic to a num­ber of com­mon chem­i­cals.

When the 41-year-old comes into con­tact with these prod­ucts she finds it hard to breathe, her eyes burn and has dizzy spells.

‘‘I’ve lost con­tact with friends be­cause it was too hard for them to not wear per­fume, it’s iso­lat­ing,’’ she says.

Paige’s con­di­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated and four years ago she also de­vel­oped fi­bromyal­gia, a chronic mus­cu­lar pain and com­mon among those who have MCS.

Dr Sandi Roberts is the chief ex­ec­u­tive at the Na­tional Col­lege of Tra­di­tional Medicine in Aus­tralia.

She says many peo­ple are present with MCS symp­toms. How­ever it is a syn­drome, not a con­di­tion, that can be ra­tio­nalised.

Roberts says the re­ac­tions can be var­ied from mild to ex­treme.

‘‘I have seen peo­ple faint when a cer­tain per­fume was sprayed and many other ex­am­ples.’’

For Paige, even the sim­ple task of go­ing to the su­per­mar­ket is tough. She has to re­turn home and shower so as not to con­tam­i­nate her­self or her home.

The task of find­ing a home is hard as she has to con­stantly move around due to be­com­ing sen­si­tised to dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments.

Paige had to give up her job and is un­able to find work as most work in­volves hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

Paige has cor­re­sponded with oth­ers over­seas and is keen to hear from suf­fer­ers in New Zealand.


Sab­rina Paige has mul­ti­ple chem­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity syn­drome and has been left iso­lated with limited hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

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