A British woman with a severe immunological disorder claims she’s allergic to many of life’s basic necessities, like food, cleaning products, and even strong emotions.
Gymnast Natasha Coates says that she experiences migraines, body swelling, and rashes whenever her physiology experiences new stimuli. Her rare disorder, known as mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), baffled doctors for years, despite her nearly 500 hospital visits.
“Keeping myself alive is a full-time job,” the 27-year-old woman told the Daily Mirror. “I’m allergic to strong emotions… Any changes to my body’s status quo, whether I’m laughing, crying, sad or stressed, can cause a chemical reaction.”
Coates even joked that she has already planner her funeral because the symptoms are so erratic and painful.
“It happens almost every day. When I feel it starting, I get upset and try to suppress it, otherwise I’ll have a worse reaction. It’s a vicious circle,” she said. “I’m allergic to body sprays, cleaning products and scented candles.
“Eating is also a bit like Russian roulette. A food that’s fine today could give me an allergic reaction tomorrow. My first anaphylactic shock was modern-day torture and beyond frightening, as I never knew what would cause a reaction next. The medics were just as baffled as me.”
Constant allergic reactions means that Coates has to plan her trips out of the house very carefully
Coates also noted that maintaining her health has become a full-time job for her family and friends.
“All my friends and family are EpiPen-trained. It’s frightening for my family, wondering which reaction is going to be my last. I feel like a ticking time bomb. I’ve had to accept that this condition could kill me.
“I do have to avoid social situations sometimes,” she added. “I go on a risk versus reward basis. I study menus beforehand, take extra medication and hope for the best. I need to know where the nearest hospital is, that I’ve got my care plan and enough medication.”
MCAS causes a person to experience repeated severe allergy symptoms which affect several body systems. When suffering from the disorder, mast cells mistakenly release too many chemical agents. As a result, symptoms in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, heart, respiratory, and neurologic systems become evident.
Mast cells are present throughout most of our bodies and secrete different chemicals during allergic reactions. A feature of the immune system, mast cells help fight infections, but they are also involved when the body rejects the presence of another substance, like in the case of allergies. Mast cells live longer than normal cells, and they grow in the bone marrow, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and even the airways of the lungs.