The MCS House Guest

Last week Mama Grizzly had the following request:

I need some help! A family member with MCS may be coming to visit me and I want to do everything possible to make it a fun and pleasant visit for her (so that I may expect future visits)! I have a guest bedroom that is mostly closed off. I went in there the other day and it smells a little musty. The guest bathroom is the children’s bathroom but it’s also where I get ready every morning. I do use hairspray in there and unfortunately, there is no window. What things can I start doing now to help with the visit? Maybe you could write a series of blog posts on this?

So this is my start at answering her. I’m not sure just how many posts this will actually be. We’ll just see how it goes.

But first, a Disclaimer. (No, not about the fact that I’m not a doctor. Although I’m not.) This disclaimer is about the information I’ll provide and the fact that it is NOT One-Size-Fits-All. Every MCS case is different. There are people with MCS that are just not able to travel. And others that can, but they cannot tolerate many things at all. Indeed, it is a disease that has been known to destroy relationships. BUT, my limited travel experience tells me that if the other party is asking questions, it is likely to go well. My best experience was visiting my step-daughter. Of course, it helped immensely that her husband got migraines from (most) fragrances.

The best advice for anyone expecting a house guest is MCS is to ask them what they can and cannot tolerate. They’ll be delighted that you cared enough to ask.

So – on with the tips.

First, let’s talk about that musty odor. Believe me, there are a lot worse things than a musty odor. A room that’s been closed up will tend to be musty. How to cure that? Wash whatever is washable in a Fragrance Free Detergent. (All Free & Clear works well for many.) Don’t use any fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Baking soda in the wash, and vinegar for a rinse do well. Another thing that really helps is fresh air and sunshine. It’s amazing the odors a day in the sun will do for clothing, pillows, linens, etc.

If you’ve done any recent remodeling, let your house guest know in advance. Paint smells hang around for a long time. And if you have any planned, wait till after the visit.

Regarding the hairspray in the bathroom: Since it’s an aerosol, hairspray goes everywhere when it is sprayed. On the floors, any fabrics (rugs, curtains, towels), into the wood, even plastic will absorb those smells. So, if at all possible, find another place to spray it.

It’s funny how those odors are. You’re not likely to notice them, since you’re around them all the time. But they are there. I once had a not-so-thoughtful house guest who used something with a fragrance in it. Mind you, they were asked not to, but not everyone believes there’s a real health issue here. (Either it’s all in my head, or I just don’t like perfumes. You’ve no doubt met the type.) Whatever it was they sprayed, it hung around for a couple of weeks after they were gone.

The next thing I would address is the use of air “fresheners”. The rule there is – Don’t. Get rid of them now, as in ASAP. As in Yesterday. Your whole family will breathe better anyway as there really isn’t anything healthy in them.

I have to laugh at the managers of the copy franchises around town. They put all these plug-in air “fresheners” in their store because of the chemical smells from the copiers. One near me had 2 plug-in air “fresheners” within 6 feet of each other. What they don’t quite get is this. First, everyone is still breathing the nasty chemicals from the copy machines, even if they no longer smell them. Second, the VOCs in the plug-in air “fresheners” really are just as bad for you. So, they’ve only succeeded in making a bad problem worse.

Hopefully, you don’t use a lot of air fresheners throughout your house. If you do, and they’ve been there a while, then they have probably been absorbed by EVERYTHING. Warn your visitor, please.

An example of how pervasive the odors can be: My father’s house always had a particular odor to it. I suspect that it was some sort of fragrance, likely from a cleaning or laundry product used in the house. Everything that came out of that house had that smell. Clothing, furniture, papers. Literally everything. When I had to clean his house out last year, you could smell it. And realtors who showed his house commented on it. It did finally go away. By that time, the house was totally empty and the carpet had all been steam-cleaned. But it really did hang on to everything.

OK – next week I’ll have some more info. I’ll tackle cleaning and laundry issues.

Feel free to leave questions or comments here.

The MCS House Guest Part 2
The MCS House Guest Part 3


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