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Why would the four of these things make up the title of a blog post? They’re the latest things I’ve suspected and determined were causing me to have allergen exposure issues. I’ve felt better since dealing with each of these things, so chances seem high that these really were issues, but knowing how crazy these things seem, I’m still a little skeptical. Time will tell.

One day, I was sitting at my desk at work. Something seemed off, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. I took a look at my cup of water sitting on the desk. Did I remember to wash it the last time I had an exposure? I only use it for water, so I’m not in the habit of washing it regularly. When I do wash it, it’s usually after I’ve had an exposure, and I want to wash all traces of it from my water cup, at least from the rim and the inside. It’s possible I may have forgotten to clean it. I decided to take my antihistamines and noticed them helping. I also went ahead and washed out my water cup, and I refilled it with fresh water from the water cooler. I continued using the water from the cooler and noticed my symptoms returning. Could it have been from the water cooler itself? The water is in these huge jugs that are turned upside down, after removing a seal from the opening, into a certain spot on the cooler, which goes into the unsealed opening so it can pull water from the jug. Could someone have inadvertently gotten residue into an area that would have caused it to leach into the water, perhaps when he or she was cleaning it? It seemed like a crazy idea, but I could think of nothing else. I decided I had to stop using the water from the water cooler just to see what would happen and began thinking of alternatives. One thing that I enjoyed getting from the cooler was hot water for my oatmeal and tea. I ended up finding a small, four-cup electric kettle on Amazon that has worked out wonderfully for getting hot water. (In fact, I love it so much, I bought another one to have at home!) Thankfully, I had alternatives for both cold and hot water.

I decided to switch to using the water fountain out in the hall to get cold water. Things seemed fine for a short while, but then symptoms seemed to be returning again. Custodial staff probably wipe down the water fountains regularly to keep them clean, but it’s possible they may use residue-infested rags or cloths to wipe them down. I wondered if that might be the issue with the water fountain. I decided to stop using the water fountain as well and try using the sink inside our office area. I could easily clean the faucet with soap and water before using it so that no residue would end up in my water cup. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now and have not noticed further issues. It could very well have been a coincidence with the water cooler and water fountain, but since unexplained symptoms have not returned while at work, I highly doubt it.

I’m not sure why it’s become such a problem lately because I’ve been flossing my teeth after putting topical cream on my face for years without issue. However, lately, I started having more and more problems with my fingers touching my face while trying to floss, and then my fingers would end up getting in my mouth, causing me to develop symptoms. While the cream itself may be problematic because it contains xanthan gum, the residue was most likely coming from the outside of the tube where I’d handled it with unwashed hands. However, I noticed problems even when I didn’t touch my face with my fingers, and I wondered if it could be from the mouthwash that I always used after I flossed. I decided to start washing the cap of the bottle of the mouthwash prior to pouring the mouthwash into it and putting it into my mouth to make sure I don’t inadvertently ingest residue. In addition to the change with the mouthwash, I decided that I would put the topical cream on my face after I floss. So far, doing these things has prevented the symptoms that had been developing at bedtime and early in the morning.

A few months ago, before the issues with my topical cream and mouthwash surfaced, I’d feel unwell in the morning. I would even wake up in the night and not feel right. The next day after that happened, I asked my sister, who, with my nephew, had gone into my bathroom the previous day to get something, if she or he had touched or handled my retainer case. She said they hadn’t. It had been a short while since a family vacation we had taken, and I wondered if the staff who had cleaned our hotel room may have handled the case without me knowing, and symptoms just developed over time. It’s also possible that various things might have touched it, grazed it, or otherwise came into contact with it without me thinking anything of it at the time. I decided to give the case and everything sitting around it a good cleaning. I cleaned that area of the sink really well also, and I brushed my retainers as thoroughly as I could. Doing that seemed to help with the issues I was having during the night and early in the morning, at least until the issues with my mouthwash and my flossing surfaced. I’m now very careful with my retainer case, making sure nothing that may have residue on it comes into contact with it. I wash it off when I feel something has come into contact with it or could have come into contact with it. It seems that dental appliances and their cases can become problematic for someone with food allergies. It’s not just keeping them clean. It’s making sure that nothing comes into contact with them directly or indirectly, through mishandling or through using a toothpaste or other cleaner that has an ingredient you may not think could be allergenic, like xanthan gum.

Taking care of each of these issues has helped a lot, although it has introduced new difficulties and new things of which I have to be careful and mindful. I will probably have to avoid public water coolers and water fountains and just use vending machines or other means to get something to drink when needed. I would prefer not to risk a reaction, however slight, if it’s not necessary to take that risk. I’ve also had to take extra care that my retainer case and mouthwash stay free of contamination, and I’ve learned to be more careful when I floss by keeping my face “clean” until after I’m done. Dealing with issues like these is definitely an important step in feeling better and preventing symptoms from allergen exposure.

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