Autumn Allergy? Mould Spores Allergy? Dust Mite Allergy? What is it?

My itchy, watery eyes and eczema round them has started when I came to UK, Autumn / Winter months mostly but I may be wrong. This time it has definitely has started during Autumn, in October 2013, we are in 2014 now and the allergy hasn’t stopped yet… My guess is that the mould or the dust mites are the cause.

cold months allergy red itchy eyes swollen eyes eye allergy mold allergy dust mite allergy mould allergy

We have changed flats recently (from London to Brighton) but it did not help, all of the symptoms persisted or even got worse. So I went to the doctor again and as usual (over the last few years) I was prescribed another steroid cream which only helped when applied and then make things even worse leaving skin dry and transparent like tissue paper. My face, especially the eye area, was horribly cracked and sore, I stopped using make up except for the days I had to go out. I could not use even creams made for babies or dedicated to allergy prone skin – it was too painful. I lost hope it will ever get better. I did not feel comfortable getting my daughter from school with my ” lizard eyes” not even talking about meeting my clients or looking for new jobs (I’m freelance photo retoucher).

After reading this article on Lux Life I decided to give a try to Dr. Organic’s Manuka Honey Rescue Cream (I have found it at Holland & Barret). It did not cure the allergy of course or swollen eyes but my cracked skin has almost disappeared… Thank you Catherine!

cream for cracked damaged allergy prone skin manuka honey cream

Except for the Manuka honey cream around my eyes and for the entire face I use only food grade almond oil to remove makeup.

I eliminated all of the colour cosmetics I had and started from scratch. I’m using now only 100% pure mineral foundation powder, eye shadows and mascara from Beautiful Movements Cosmetics, nothing else.

Another thing that helps when my skin is really very sore, cracked and bleeding  is Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment. I love this cream, we have used it for years for all kinds of sores and baby bottoms when they were small, but it is a bit too rich and greasy to use on face on daily basis.

antihistamine eye drops for swollen itchy eyes

Optrex Soothing Eye Drops for Itchy Eyes used to work for me to to relieve itching a bit, I still use it from time to time but  recently I went to the new doctor who gave me no-name Sodium Cromoglicate 2% w/v antihistamine drops that worked miracle for me (available over the counter from many brands, Optrex as well). After applying those drops 3  times a day I don’t wake up with swollen eyes again and thanks to Manuka honey cream my skin got much better as well. I still do take antihistamine pills every morning (Cetirizine Hydrochloride pills, like Hay Fever & Allergy Relief from Boots, seems to  work best for me).

I haven’t got definite answer yet to what causes my mysterious allergy but I will be getting some allergy tests done shortly and will update this post with the results, in meantime thanks to the pills, drops and creams I can keep it under control at least a bit…

UPDATE – 27th February 2014

I have discovered Medela PureLan 100 – a  nipple cream that helped to treat my dry skin almost completely. At first I was a bit skeptic and to be honest I did not feel comfortable using it, knowing that it is made purely out of lanolin – wool wax (100%, nothing added) and was designed for nipples. It is said to be scent free but it does have a scent (of wool). It is also very sticky, to this extend that you have to take a little bit of it on your finger and dab rather than spread… but it helps, much more than any other cream I used. I still do use Manuka Honey cream when I have to wear make up but at home I use the  nipple cream around my eyes (!)

best cream for allergy

I find also that Benadryl Allergy Relief with Acrivastine works better for me than other allergy pills I tried so far and it does not make me light headed / dizzy. It can be taken up to 3 times a day when needed and it takes about 20 minutes for the itching to calm down.

UPDATE – 24th of March 2014

My symptoms got suddenly worse, the allergy has spread all over my neck, face and arms and is extremely itchy. My eyes are better but the rest of the face and body is 10 times worse than ever – I have over 50 smaller or bigger itchy patches like this on my skin. I suspect that the watery eyes (that have stopped with the end of autumn) and the dry patches are two different things…

itchy eczema on hands swollen eyes neck arms

It has been brought to my attention by one of the readers (thank you Stephanie!!) that it may be Methylisothiazolinone (MI or MIT) – harsh preservative and biocide found in many, mostly liquid household / cosmetics products and I’m afraid it might be true. I found this chemical in my soap (Inecto Coconut & Vanilla Shower Crème), liquid laundry detergent (Daz), gel laundry detergent (Fairy), dish washing liquid (Fairy again), fabric softener (Lenor), handwash (Balys & Harding), hair mousse (Asda’s Professional Formula) baby shampoo (Asda’s Little Angels) and baby wipes (Huggies) so far… searching for more. It looks like I need to put all of those in the bin and replace them with natural products to see if it will help. But looking at this Facebook page dedicated to Allergy to Isothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone and Chloroisothiazolinone and reading this CNN articlethis one and this article from Daily Mail I’m almost certain this is it!

UPDATE – 28th of March 2014

Washing all my clothes and anything I can find to remove any traces of Methylisothiazolinone…

UPDATE – 5th of July 2016

Some time ago I have discovered Doublebase gel – except for the Dr Organic Manuka Honey face cream, the Doublebase is the only cream I use at the moment. The range come in different tube / bottle sizes and include also body wash but I haven’t tried it yet. Pictured below is sample tube I got from the doctor. After that I got huge 500 g package with a pump of the same cream.

Doublebase Dayleave Gel

You can find here updated list of products that contain MIT as well as MIT free products.

Products that help me

  • Sodium Cromoglicate 2% w/v antihistamine drops (two drops per eye, 3 times a day)
  • Hay fever and allergy antihistamine pills with Cetirizine Hydrochloride (one every morning)
  • Benadryl Allergy Relief with Acrivastine
  • Medela PureLan 100 Cream
  • Dr. Organic’s Manuka Honey Rescue Cream on cracked, dry skin (few times a day)
  • Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment (on sore, bleeding skin)
  • Optrex Soothing Eye Drops (when needed)
  • Dr. Organic’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil Monoi Moisture Melt Body Oil (good for skin, hair & nails and smells divine, too)
  • pure, food grade oils such as sweet almond oil from KTC (great to remove make up and moisture dry skin)
  • Hydromol ointment (3 in 1 emollient with no fragrances, colourings, additives or preservatives)
  • Doublebase gel

Things that make my skin worse

  • products containing Methylisothiazolinone and Formaldehyde (read more here)
  • steroid creams (water based ones, lanolin based Hydrocortisone was actually doing some good)
  • petroleum jelly
  • hot showers
  • temperature changes, especially the cold
DISCLOSURE: This post contain some affiliated links. I purchased most of the mentioned products on my own wish except for Medela PureLan cream which I have received as a part of Amazon Vine™ Programme (you can find parts of this article between my other reviews on Amazon website). I was not financially compensated for this post by neither of the named companies. All opinions expressed here are my own.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for information only. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

Your thoughts…

  1. Hello and good morning. I looked at your eye and said wow, I am not alone! I have been suffering from this same problem for 1 year now, finally went to an allergy doctor, and I seem to be allergic to quite a few trees, weeds, mold, dust mites, cat/dog geesh…. so he has started allergy shots for me once a week, however the eyes are still swollen, itchy,looks like crepe paper skin around my eyes, etc. So thank you so very much for the information, I will try to find the cream perhaps from Amazon? since I live in California USA. let me know if you find anything else for relief. Most Sincerely, Joann Marsh.

  2. Hi Joann, thank you for sharing your story.

    I believe that Dr Organic is available outside UK but if you find other rich, natural cream that helps, please do let me know, I would love to hear about it.
    In my case the Sodium Cromoglicate histamine eye drops made biggest difference, they are available from many brands, I don’t wake up with swollen eyelids any longer for the first time in many months. And the allergy pills I take as well.

    p.s. I have updated article with some links to Amazon.

  3. me too ! This started before xmas , and I assumed it was the xmas tree (pine) but I narrowed it down to .. shellac (nail varnish , mascara the lot) ,yankee candles (wax) dust mites (I sometimes sneeze madly in the morning) and oddly enough…humidity…..!

    I love boots own brand tablets & use simple eye roll on too x

  4. Hi Gemma,

    Mine started in October and usually was gone by beginning of Spring but not this year… Sometimes I wake up with skin around the eyes red, dry and very sore. Waiting for the allergy tests… will update this post with the results.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Hi Margot,

    I also suffer with this problem but have yet to be diagnosed and frequently refer to the issue as ‘my granny eye’!

    I read an interesting article on the Independent online about how it’s actually a chemical within cosmetics/house hold cleaners that can cause contact dermatitis called MI (Methylisothiazolinone). I have now been through my house hold cosmetics and found that my hand wash, fabric softener and dish washer liquid contained this chemical. I’ve now thrown them out in the hope that it will help!

  6. Stephanie, thank you sooooo much for sharing this!!!

    This is it, I found this chemical in my soap, washing detergent, dish washing liquid, fabric softener and baby wipes so far… searching for more. I need to put everything in the bin and take a walk to to some health store to get all new cosmetics.

  7. Hello Margot, thank you for the updated information. I will start checking all of my products for this ME ingredient. My eyelid skin will peel and it’s also been bad on my neck and one arm really bad. I am going to an allergy doctor, who says that I am allergic to: all grasses, quite a few trees, cats, dogs, dust mites, mold, mildew. Wow! so I have started taking allergy shots, to help build up my immunity to the above. So far it has not stopped the rash, red skin and itch. So I will check out what you are doing and hope that it helps me. thank you again. Joann :-)

  8. I have too had this problem in the past few months, although my eyes have been itchy since January.

    My eyes go through hellish stages of red swollen, burning (like a prickly heat), and itching like MAD! Mainly overnight. This has also come with coughing, sneezing, wheezing, bunged up sinuses.

    At the moment it’s much better, can’t work out what I’m allergic to but will definitely try looking out for some of the ingredients you mention above.

    Have you tried taking antihistamine tablets? They helped me.

    Becky x

  9. Oh and my doctor warned me to not use steroid creams on the eye area as they thin the skin massively! Tested skin on the eye can lead to infection and swelling near the brain can be fatal!! Moisture based creams only!!

  10. Margot, after searching my symptoms all over the internet since september 2013 (when it began) im so glad ive finally came across this article.
    It explains exactly what ive been going through myself- the steroid creams and other medical creams being prescribed time and time again which just dont work! I cant remember how many doctors appointments ive had in the past year about my eyes & skin and the problem is never solved its always a case of trying another cream then coming back a month later when my symptoms flare up again.
    I was referred to get allergy tested in november last year and didnt get the appointment til feburary so again i was given another cream til then. The allergy test showed that i wasnt allergic to anything but did have a sensitivity to ‘limonene’ which is a chemical found in a lot of products such as shampoos, washing up liquid, deodrants and even some vaseline. I am now constantly looking at ingredients of everything i buy and have stuck to products such as simple and natural ranges.
    For a few months my skin was fairly okay, minus the odd slight swelling of the eyes and red skin that meant i had to be absent from work, but overall i kept my skin moisturized and avoided limonene (as well as MI after, like yourself, realising a lot of products contained this and it is an irritant).
    Anyway, in the past couple of weeks my eyes have swelled up again as well as my face getting red rashes all over and i feel quite hopeless! I hate never knowing when its gonna flare up i can be fine one night then wake up looking like ive been punched in both eyes. I have another doctors appointment booked but after reading your article i am eager to try the products you mentioned and am definitely going to look into this.
    Sorry for the life story but its just good to know im not the only one suffering from this and that there may be some products that do actually help.
    Good luck everyone x

  11. Hi,
    i had the same problem with my eyes. My eyelids and the area below my eyes starts to swell. I also went to many doctors for around 7 years at different countries . Doctors run some allergy tests and came to conclusion that it is mites allergy and i started taking the shots for 3 years but didn’t help much. Now i also take cetrizine almost everyday but the area around my eyes are still swollen although i don’t have much of the itchiness nowadays. But due to climate change or when i have some wines the next day i get swollen eyes too. Another thing i noticed is that when it get worse i feel a little pain at the veins on the side of my eyes ( not exactly the sinus area). Anyway i am going to consult the doctor again tomorrow. I hope it will help :)

  12. I just found this article . I have been suffering with this same ailment for about 7 years. I have been to my eye doctor, dermatologist and my GP. I am supposed to start allergy tests soon but waiting til I meet my extremely high deductible. They told me tests will run about $500 and treatment could be more. The dermatologist wrote me an RX that helps the red, dry skin on lids. I also take Cetirizine once a day and use Almay mascara. Haven’t found an eyeliner that I can tolerate although I’ve tried many. I am miserable with this! I am going to try your recommendations! I live in Arkansas, USA and the symptoms began right after I moved here. Thank you!

  13. Have you looked into Mold ? This can cause a lot of the problems you are facing. My son has the same eye problem and I have bad skin rash all over my left hand with blistering. Anti B , creams etc from the doctor haven’t work. I also live in Brighton and have just moved house and all of these issues have started up. I have skin issues before, so only use natural products on myself and son. But nothing seems to be working. I am currently going to have the house renovated and remove all old carpets kitchens and bathroom, hoping this should help. Otherwise going to call somebody out to test levels of mold in the house. I cant see any mold growing, but in past they had issues with leaks and damp, which is very common in Brighton with the old houses and flats. This might be worth looking into .

  14. Thank you for the comments! :)
    There is update on this article here http://www.coffeeandvanilla.com/methylisothiazolinone/
    My problems turned out to be mostly MI and formaldehyde allergy. I have been tested negative to dust mites and negative to all possible food triggers.

    Chloe, I have actually appointment at the Brighton General Hospital this week to discuss results of my blood tests, I have been tested for dust mites, mold (I think), wheat, eggs etc. But as far as I can understand the result myself, it has all been negative. My biggest problem were definitely chemicals, since I only buy natural cosmetics I don’t have problems with the eyes, only patches on the skin from time to time but mold allergy would not surprise me… there is a lot of mold here, we live in the ground floor flat. Thank you, I’m going to make sure the doctor will take this into account.

  15. Hello everyone,

    I recently moved house in July 2015. By October I started with itchy swollen eyes in the morning. Then my eczema came back terribly all round my eyes (as you describe) eyes are bright red, I have patches on my head and cheeks and in inner elbow. I also have it all under my nose.

    I had terrible eczema like all through my childhood and into adolescence until I moved into draughty Victorian house at about 22yrs old. Since then I’ve not suffered at all with my skin and I’m now 35! Amazing. Anyway I’m not in a horrid state with it all over again.

    The previous owners of our houses had dogs and there are these wool carpets everywhere. I recently paid to have skin prick tests and I came up badly to dustmites (as badly as I did to peanuts), grasses, dogs etc… Since then bought allergy bedding, I’ve ripped up carpets in the house and I have been hoovering all remaining carpets like mad. I’ve just had yet another attack so feel very sad that all my efforts have made little difference. I just wake up with weeping skin that is right red, cracked and sore; bright red dry eyes as well as the other patches. It’s soul destroying. I’m living on fexodenadine (prescribed antihistamine) which is great as it can also be topped up with piriton etc…I’m now waiting to be referred to another allergist who can hopefully help further. I just find it so strange that I’ve been completely fine for over a decade – I move house and I’m in a total mess! I’ll keep you posted if I get any further with it

  16. Sarah, have you been tested for MI as well? I posted more about it here: http://www.coffeeandvanilla.com/methylisothiazolinone/ , it is in house paint often and I had reaction after moving the house as well, for several moths.

  17. This is me too.

    I moved to a new-old house and within two weeks of full time exposure to the house the skin around my eyes turned red. Every morning I wake up swollen, like I have been punched.

    The antihistamines don’t appear to be helping much as I am still having drippy nose and runny, itchy eyes on the medication – and they seem to have side effects that make it all feel worse.

    The chemical tests I had done last week showed no allergies to any chemicals. I had blood work done and only have a few food sensitivities, no allergies. I have several environmental allergies including pets, dust, and feathers.

    I put dust mite covers on the bed, got a HEPA filter and changed my diet taking out every food that I showed sensitivity to in an effort to bring down my allergic threshold level.

    I still look awful. :-(

    I am starting to thing the creams for my eyes are teaching my skin not to make it’s own oil!

  18. Amy, can you get hold of Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream? Amazon should have it. It really helped me… I can’t leave without it still, months after most of my allergy is gone. I used it twice a day on my face and I put generous amounts on my eye lids at night… If I would not use it my eye lids would be all sore and cracked. Only yesterday I got two new jars in my local health store, it was on sale ;)

  19. Thank you Margot! I will google and see. If not, my husband travels to the UK regularly for work. Maybe I will have him pick it up for me if I can not find it state side.

    Thank you!

    Also, I had the chemical tests and everything came back negative except for a small reaction to black/blue disburse dye. I think it is wrong – when I go through my products here at home I don’t have ONE that doesn’t have MI in it. Its even in my mouthwash, toothpaste and soaps at the laundry/kitchen sink.

  20. Amy, yes, MI is in everything. I only buy detergents in health store… and also some there have MI in them, have to read labels. Haven’t been able to find any liquid soap that would be ok, I use soap bars. Anything in liquid or lotion is very likely to have MI as preservative.

    If your husband travel to the UK he will be able to find Dr Organic’s products in Holland & Barrett stores. They are on all high streets all over the country.

  21. I am so glad to find this page. I have suffered with eczema my entire life. I am allergic to wool and lanolin. I tested positive to MI several years ago. My dermatologist told me he had not seen a reaction to it before. I had a very strong reaction to it. Many things I used for years all of sudden added it. It is added to products to extend the shelf life. I also have suddenly started experiencing eye exzema in the last couple of years. I found Seba med products to be very good along with a cream called Tri Derma.Seba med products without fragrance are best for me. The body wash calms my skin. All of my life I have used cortisone products in one form or another or had cortisone shots for my constant eczema. I was tired of both. Sulfates in many forms are also in many creams and shampoos for dry skin and can cause a reaction along with drying of skin/scalp. Many great suggestions here! Thank you!

  22. Thank you Vicki! I think companies started putting more and more harmful chemicals in our products. I’m using only green pure olive oil soap bor to bath at the moment, and then Double-base as lotion and Dr Organic Manuka cream for face. I use also Burt’s Bees products nowadays… I will update this post soon with more info about them.

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