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Doesn't a person always know if s/he has MCS?

Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. In fact, I re­cently spoke with a woman who did not have any fatigue, but who was experiencing many CFIDS-­like symptoms (including headaches, nausea, dizzi­ness, sore throat, and pain and numbness in her extremities). She and her doctor were baffled.

Af­ter speaking with her, I suggested that she might have MCS and that she consult a clinical ecologist and the Massachusetts Association for the Chemically Injured. The reason that it is not always obvious that one has MCS is that if a person is reacting to everything around him/her, s/he feels sick all time and might not make the connection to specific exposures. Also, because some reactions to an exposure can be delayed—by hours or even days—it can be difficult to pinpoint the trigger.

Additionally, because MCS is not a well-known or respected diagnosis among the medical community (1), most people do not know what MCS is or what to look for. Finally, the issue of denial can play a role. For instance, long before I realized that I had MCS, I had hints that I was bothered by chemicals (such as perfume). I chose to ignore these signs because the idea of MCS—with its additional bur­dens—was too fearful for me to face.


(1) MCS is even less accepted than CFIDS/ME. Most doctors treat MCS as a hoax or a psychiatric disorder. Even allergists, who may be helpful in identifying some allergens and triggers, are usually not knowledgeable of or interested (in fact may be hostile to the concept of) MCS.