SETTING UP AN "OASIS" FOR THE CHEMICALLY SENSITIVE PATIENT
WHAT IS AN "OASIS"? It is a chemically safe room where a patient can:
1. Escape to a safe place after being chemically exposed and thereby relieve symptoms without the use of aspirin or drugs.
2. Sleep at night in a safe place away from chemicals indoors or out. Eat in, if necessary - away from chemicals. If seriously affected - to stay in day and night with brief periods outside longer and longer as symptoms improve.
3. To recover from chemical susceptibility. The time spent in the oasis is "rest time" the body has away from chemical exposures thereby allowing the immune system to recover from the sensitivity.
HOW TO SET UP AN "OASIS": Ideally, an oasis preferably a bedroom and bath combination should be set up in the home. Or one room where a door can be kept closed and if necessary a towel placed at the threshold to keep out noxious fumes such as natural gas or formaldehyde. Important Note: If there is a smoker in the house, ask them to smoke outside of the house. A smoke laden house should be aired repeatedly to clear the whole house of the fumes. In fact when the smoker returns, there may be enough toxic fumes in their clothing to cause a reaction to a susceptable person. Have someone other than the patient clean the oasis room and set it up. Remove all furniture and drapes and clothes from the room.
1. Remove rugs, - wood floors are best, but not freshly varnished. (if rugs can’t be removed - nylon is better tolerated than polyesters.)
2. If there is a plywood floor underneath, cover it with a barrier cloth or mylar "space blanket" as plywood is glued together with resins made with petrochemicals. Ceramic tile is best, if grout is old. If it is vinyl, cover it with barrier cloth unless it is old and odors are gassed off.
3. Wash floors with Borax or baking soda and water.
4. Cover vents for hot air heating system with aluminum foil or Mylar and taped with aluminum or masking tape.
5. Cover floor with cotton rugs or cotton sheets or towels.
1. DO NOT REPAINT NOW!
2. Wash down the walls with Borax or baking soda and water.
3. If the room has vinyl wall paper or adhesives containing insecticides, consider another room for an oasis.
4. Bare unsealed pine surfaces should be covered with barrier cloth or consider another room if fumes are too strong and fresh.
5. If oasis is a bedroom - empty clothes from clothes closet (store only clean cotton clothes if necessary). (No wool dry cleaned, as these are cleaned in a formaldehyde cleaning solution which lingers). No polyesters or Polyester blends. Patient should wear only cotton, or material tested "safe" if cotton is not tolerated.
6. Curtains should be cotton only. A cotton sheet can be used if necessary.
WHAT TO PUT IN THE "OASIS"
1. The filter - This is the most important item in the oasis. It should be turned on and left on constantly and the door closed to the oasis. The filter should be a high quality HEPA filter for small particles, with a separate carbon activated charcoal filter for the chemicals.
2. The bed - The mattress, pillow and box springs should not contain sponge rubber, urethane foam or synthetic fabrics. Some mattress coverings have odors from the dyes of their prints. The best is a 100% cotton mattress (several are available, see below). The bed frame should be all metal or wood, cleaned with Borax or baking soda, or the mattress can be placed directly on the floor. Alternatives are enclosing the mattress and box springs with aluminum sheets, or mylar (space blanket) sealed at the seams with masking tape. Blankets and sheets should be 100% cotton materials which have not been "drip dry" or "permanent press" treated. Exclude the use of synthetic fabrics. Dacron (polyester) are especially hazardous. Pillows should be 100% cotton or composed of several folded cotton towels in a pillow case, or freshly laundered feather pillows may be tolerated (unless allergic to feathers).
3. Table and/or desk - Should be of glass, and/or metal or solid wood, not chipboard.
4. Chair - Should be of wood. If not possible, the vinyl area should be covered with a barrier cloth and sealed.
5. Lamps - No plastic shades that will heat up and give off odors. Clean with Borax or baking soda.
6. Clock - Should be hard plastic. Keep at opposite end of room, away from bed, and if it is lighted, keep it out of line of sight while sleeping.
7. Radio and TV - LCD display preferred, older 'thick" screen TV's are high in amounts of electro-magnetic fields. If possible, remove from oasis when not in use.
8. Telephone - Cell phones and wireless phones give off electro-magnetic fields, and should never be placed next to your ear. Use speakerphone, or a wired headset. Turn off the phone when not in use. As for older wired phones, it may help to cover plastic mouthpiece with aluminum foil or cotton. an older phone that has had time to "gas out" is better, and hard plastic is better than soft plastic. A good quality speaker phone may help prevent symptoms by keeping a distance between patient and phone.
9. Heaters - Heating in the oasis should be provided by radiant electric heaters, (use fan only if tolerated, because of the lubricating oil used in the motor) or by means of forced hot water heat. No electric element heaters or forced hot air.
10. Keep NO cosmetics, perfumes, after shave lotions, scented powders, other toiletries, potpourri, or plants in the oasis.
HELPFUL HINTS By staying in the "filtered oasis" for a length of time, it is not unusual to become acutely aware of noxious fumes. As the patient comes away from the oasis after several days or nights and comes in contact with certain chemicals, it will stimulate a response such as:
1. the smelling of strong noxious fumes that are not smelled in the oasis; and
2. a return of their symptoms immediately or delayed, depending on the patient. As time goes by, the patient will notice that the symptoms experienced are relieved more rapidly than before, after returning to the oasis. This is a good sign indicating the immune system is rebuilding itself. Try to keep the oasis as sparsely furnished as possible, being careful not to bring in new items without testing first. Allergic to book inks or newsprint? Put the book or newspaper into a cellophane bag and read. Also specially constructed book reading boxes are available. Dust papers & books with baking sodas to gas off fumes. Kindle or I-Pad or Laptop can be substituted if tolerated. Keep wireless connections to a minimum and turn off when not in use. If available, use a wired internet connection to reduce electro-magnetic fields. If printing from your Laptop in the oasis – keep the printer in a separate room. Be careful not to start to accumulate books, papers and newspapers in the oasis. These items give off fumes especially copied papers and newspapers. If there is a smoker in the family or a guest, ask that they smoke outdoors, out of the house. Ask family members not to use scented laundry detergent, hair spray, deodorant sprays, etc. If member of family fouls the house with work clothes such as mechanics, farmers, printers, painters, artists, etc., wash clothes immediately and clean up and air out the house. keep them out of oasis.
OTHER PORTIONS OF THE HOUSE - OUTSIDE THE "OASIS"
1. Remove highly odorous materials such as chlorine-containing bleaches and cleansers, ammonia, detergents, disinfectants, solvents including dry cleaning materials and lighter fluids and any open bottles or cans containing paint, varnish; turpentine or mineral spirits. These are commonly, but should not be, kept in places such as under the sink in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry or utility room.
2. Keep door closed to garage, if attached, and try to open only when absolutely necessary - go in and out through the large garage door.
3. If person is susceptible to propane or natural gas and the fumes are strong in the kitchen and not in the oasis - consider turning off the gas to the stove completely - for a week and then turn it back on again, (remember to light pilot lights if any),.observing closely for symptoms. If greatly improved during its absence, definitely make plans to replace with electric. The same for the gas drier. This also applies to a gas furnace or boiler.
4. Other suspect odorous antigens in the house may includes pesticide residues, sponge rubber upholstery and rug pads, Synthetic upholstery curtains and rugs, solvents and many other odorous supplies or cosmetics, nail polish and nail polish removers.
5. If symptoms return whenever out of oasis and family has a dog or cat - suspect cat or dog danders as possible cause of symptoms.
6. Basements usually have high humidity. Keep a dehumidifier on and check for any musty smell or mold problems. Keep the basement door closed.
TREATMENT: As the home exposures are isolated, one by one, avoid them or get rid of them from the house wherever possible. If an item is suspect, such as carpeting, put a fair amount of the item in a closed room for one week, free of other fumes, then have the person sit in the room for up to 30 minutes and test for symptoms. Once a relatively symptom free base line is reached for the other portions of the home as well as the oasis - an "ecologically safe" home is achieved. When using this information, remember no product is safe for everyone. Each product should be tested first. These are simply suggestions not guarantees.
WHERE TO BUY NECESSARY ITEMS FOR THE CHEMICALLY SENSITIVE PATIENT: An excellent resource book for Chemically sensitive patients is: "The Healthy Household" by Lynn Marie Bower, published in 1995 by The Healthy House Institute This book is available through AMAZON.COM AMAZON.COM