Catch-UP Monday: Why is that lady wearing a mask? A repeat

Me wearing my mask.

Me wearing my mask.

I have watched as little children innocently ask their mothers this very question. The answers vary from a mother suddenly noticing that I have a mask on and answering I don’t know to a mother replying maybe she is sick and doesn’t want to get us sick. My chemical sensitivities are such that to be able to go into the grocery store for a short period I must wear a charcoal mask to lessen the severity of what I breathe in and lessen my reactions to those chemicals. I have had people see me and suddenly veer off in a different direction for fear that I could spread some dreaded disease to them when in fact they are the ones I am protecting myself from (the cologne, laundry soaps, fabric softeners, etc.). When I was in Dallas in 2003 a friend and I who also wears a mask had made an excursion to  window shop at a store we had seen that had very nice clothes in the window.  We decided to stop because she wanted to see if she thought she could tolerate the clothes or if the store would be too fragrant for her to be able to get the smells out of the clothes.  I write about this in my book. 

By this time Lisa had begun gaining weight and needed clothes.  We had driven by this store that featured clothes in the window that she thought might be safe for her.  We decided to stop by there one morning.  So here we were both in our masks knocking on the door to get the clerk’s attention.  We finally got her attention and asked her to come to the door.  We wanted to ask her if she would be willing to bring something out for us to look at.  She cautiously opened the door; the whole time she kept looking at us in our masks and back to her register.  I think she thought for sure that we were going to rob her.  When we explained why we wearing the masks, she was very accommodating.  There was also a time when we were standing outside another store waiting for a clerk to bring something out and a man approached us and asked why we were wearing masks.  We tried to explain it to him.  So, he said you are allergic to perfume and we just said yes.  As he walked away he asked if we were sisters because we both had on masks.  That generated a good laugh by both of us.

The mask presents many issues.  In winter it causes my glasses to fog up.  In warm weather the heat from wearing the mask is so stifling that I feel as if I could pass out. 

9 responses to “Catch-UP Monday: Why is that lady wearing a mask? A repeat

  1. I can’t wait to read your book!! And I love that you posted a photo of you with the mask. I didn’t know what a charcoal mask looked like! Do they come in other colors?

    • Thank you. I am getting anxious and wish it were already available. I found that the I Can Breathe Company does have lace masks in colors. I have never thought to buy one of these. I guess I just feel I am inconspicuous anyway whether the lace or the style I wear now.

      • Oh – neat! yeah that makes sense. Those lace ones are cool. I’m glad I don’t need them since I’d have an allergic reaction to the fabric!

  2. I have the mask you get at the hospital…nothing fancy, but it helps some. I asked for a few extra while I was there. When I was in for the next hospital stay, some of the staff asked me why I was wearing a mask, to which I had to explain that I was sensitive to fragrances and had gotten VERY sick in the hospital from people wearing their fragrances. A hospital should be fragrance free.
    During my trips to Japan, it wasn’t uncommon to see people wearing masks. They were doing it more out of courtesy so they wouldn’t get other people sick with the cold/flu.

    • I agree that hospitals should be “fragrance free” zones, at least for the employees. You can’t really control all the visitors that come and go. I just posted a comment to The Allergista about colored lace versions of the mask that I wear.

      • Yes, I meant the employees. There was a fragrance-free policy, but obviously not enforced. I was sick almost every day from nurses and other hospital staff tending to me that wore fragrances.

      • I had that issue here at home when I was once hospitalized and when my husband ended up in the hospital from a heart attack and was there longer because of by-pass surgery. It was horrible. I would go in and see him for a few minutes and then have to go outside and sit for a long time before I could go back in. By the time I made the hour-long drive home I was a mess.

  3. As an RN (once upon a time!) we were always told not to wear fragrances, which was fine by me due to my MCS. I found the Neonatal unit the best place to work because people are extra careful with sick babies.
    Alas, the EMF from all the equipment became a problem, along with the phenol used in many of their cleaning products.
    I miss it- it was a great job and a great group of girls to work with.

    • I miss working. I miss the daily interaction and getting up and doing my hair, makeup and getting dressed in nice things. Phenol is so bad and I tested very allergic/sensitive to it. I have been fortunate that EMF hasn’t impacted my life like it has so many others. I have many friends who have it and to varying degrees. I have had some EMF like symptoms when my load was so high and I was so sick. Thank you for commenting on the blog. I look forward to hearing more from you and your experiences.

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