How You Can Protect Yourself From MCS

Are you wondering how you can protect yourself from MCS? So are millions of people who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). MCS is a debilitating disorder caused by adverse reactions to pesticides, scented cleaning and personal care products, artificial fragrances, vehicle exhaust fumes, and many other chemical substances.

Even though the term Multiple Chemical Sensitivity has prevailed, names such as 

  • environmental illness 
  • total allergy syndrome
  • 20th-century disease
  • chronic candidiasis
  • immune dysregulation, and 
  • idiopathic environmental intolerance 

are also used to describe the syndrome. 

People with MCS are constantly bombarded by chemicals in the air, in food, and in everyday household products. This results in a wide range of symptoms that make everyday life a real struggle. 

While there is no known cure for MCS, there are ways to manage the condition and make it easier to live with it.

After we explore the disorder and talk about its symptoms, we’ll show you how to protect yourself from MCS, what to do if you think you have the condition, and where to find more information on living with MCS.

What is MSC?

According to scientists, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is “a chronic and recurrent condition characterized by somatic, cognitive, and affective symptoms following exposure to chemicals whose concentrations do not correlate with toxicity in the general population.”

Although its prevalence is not well defined yet, it primarily affects women between 30 and 50 years with no variations in ethnicity, education level, or economic position.

According to MCS sufferers, 

“it is a medically unexplained but devastating chronic disorder that causes them to experience adverse reactions triggered by exposure to low levels of chemicals and manifest symptoms that can range from mild to debilitating.”

The condition impacts every aspect of their lives including productivity in the workplace and interpersonal relationships. It also affects the ability to participate in group activities and enjoy public places.

What are the Symptoms of MCS?

Symptoms of MCS can vary from person to person and can depend on the level of exposure to the trigger chemical.

People with MCS often report symptoms including but not limited to: :

  • headache
  • fatigue 
  • dizziness 
  • nausea 
  • congestion
  • itching 
  • sneezing 
  • sore throat 
  • chest pain
  • heart rhythm changes
  • breathing issues 
  • muscle pain and stiffness
  • skin rash
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • confusion
  • concentration difficulties
  • memory problems and 
  • mood changes

Studies have proven that MCS can result in severe anxiety and depression, negatively impacting the sufferer’s psychological well-being and social life.

woman feeling depressed how to protect yourself from MCS

How You Can Protect Yourself from MCS

Living with MCS is a continuous struggle. 

Even though modern medicine can neither cure MCS nor suggest any treatment, there are ways to protect yourself from the harmful effects of chemicals. 

By becoming more aware of the products and chemicals around you, you can take steps to avoid them and lessen your symptoms. 

Additionally, by making some simple changes in your lifestyle and being aware of the products you use, you can help reduce your chances of having an MCS reaction.

Here are some tips: 

Identify and Avoid MCS Triggers

The best way to manage MCS is to avoid the chemicals that trigger your symptoms and to avoid exposure to them as much as possible.  

Are you wondering how to do that? 

Here’s how:

Keep a journal of your symptoms and when they occur. It will help you identify what chemicals or situations trigger your symptoms.

hands writing in journal for how to protect yourself against MCS

Once you know what causes your symptoms, do your best to avoid those triggers.

Know the Difference Between “Unscented” and “Fragrance-Free”

There is a clear distinction between unscented and fragrance-free products. The former contain a chemical that masks the fragrance in the product while the latter do not contain any fragrances at all.

Choose the kind of product that does not trigger reactions in you.

Avoid Using Scented Products to Protect Yourself Against MCS 

Perfumes, colognes, and scented soaps all fit into this category. So do air fresheners and scented candles. The chemicals used to create these fragrances can be highly potent and even a small amount can trigger a reaction in a person with MCS.

bottles of lotions and soaps unscented to protect against MCS triggers

Choose Safe Cleaning Products

Most household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can trigger an MCS reaction. Consider using natural, fragrance-free alternatives to common cleaners and open windows for ventilation while you clean your home.

Be Picky about Personal Care Products

Like cleaning products, many personal care items such as shampoos, conditioners, and lotions contain chemicals that can trigger an MCS reaction. When shopping for personal care items, look for products labeled “fragrance-free.”

Avoid Synthetic Fabrics

Clothing made from synthetic materials can trap chemicals close to your skin. This can increase your risk of an MCS reaction. When shopping for clothing, opt for natural fibers such as cotton and wool.

how to protect yourself from mcs woman shopping for clothes

It’s also important to wash any new garment before wearing it.

Why? Because fashion and textile industry use harsh chemicals like dispersal dyes, formaldehyde, and finishing resins to improve the looks and the durability of clothes.

How does all that affect you? 

Researchers have discovered that those compounds and chemicals are present in significant amounts when you buy the clothes.

Besides triggering MCS symptoms, some of these substances can irritate the skin. They can cause red, itchy, dry patches, and even an allergic reaction similar to poison ivy in those with sensitive skin. Symptoms may appear within hours or a few days after wearing the garment and can last for weeks. 

Dermatologists call this condition textile contact dermatitis, and the best way to prevent it is to wash all new clothes before wearing them.

How to Protect Yourself Against MCS: Respirators and Protective Clothing


If you can’t avoid chemical exposure, wearing a KN95, N95, or washable mask with a replaceable filter can help minimize or even eliminate toxic inhalants.


Protective Clothing

Anyone who has spent time outdoors or in a busy restaurant knows it doesn’t take long for clothes to pick up fragrances. Smoke, fumes, and fragrances can quickly permeate hair and clothing.

Covering as much of your skin as possible and wearing protective clothing over your regular outfit can help prevent an MCS reaction.

Hair coverings like chemo caps or those made for rain will also keep your hair from picking up toxic fragrances from the environment.

Protect Yourself Against MCS While Out in Public

Whether you’re catching a movie at the theater or riding the bus to work, it’s always important to be mindful of your personal space.

One way to do this is to carry a barrier, like a cushion or a raincoat, to protect your clothes from scents that may be on public seating.

Not only will this help to keep your clothing uncontaminated, but it will also prevent you from coming into direct contact with any germs or bacteria that may be present.

Be Prepared for Unexpected Exposure

Whether you’re shopping or having coffee with friends, it’s all too easy for your clothing to become infused with scent. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a change of clothes in your vehicle.

That way, if your clothes start to smell like air fresheners or fabric softener, you can simply change into something clean and fresh.

To ensure your contaminated clothes don’t end up triggering any MCS symptoms, be sure to keep them in a large resealable (Ziplock) bag until you can wash them.

Take Immediate Action to Chemical Exposure

If you have been exposed to chemicals, it is important to take immediate steps to protect yourself:

First, remove any contaminated clothing and seal it in a bag.

Next, take a shower and wash your hair thoroughly.

Finally, wash your clothes in hot water with detergent. If you are unable to wash your clothes immediately, seal them in a bag until you can get them home and wash them

 By taking these simple steps, you can minimize your exposure to fragrances and chemicals and avoid any symptoms.

Be Conscious of Your Home Environment 

Dust, mold, and other pollutants can trigger an MCS reaction. To help improve the air quality in your home, regularly clean surfaces with a damp cloth.

Open windows when the outside air is fresher than what’s inside.

Use houseplants and air purifiers to help clean the air. 

Avoid using candles and scented products.

Use an Appliance to Clean the Air

There are a lot of devices that can remove chemicals and other pollutants from the air and provide you with cleaner, safer air to breathe. 

From ionizers and Hepa or carbon purifiers to ozone generators, the market offers a variety of appliances that can minimize scents at home and in your office.

We will explore all types of air cleaners in a future post and present you with the information you need to choose the best appliance for your needs.

How You Can Protect Yourself Against MCS

Using the suggestions listed above can help you protect yourself against MCS.

But educating yourself is most important of all.

The more you know about MCS, the better equipped you’ll be to protect yourself from triggers. 

In addition to reading articles like this one, talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional about MCS.

What To Do If You Think You Have MCS

MCS is a complex condition and is usually diagnosed after self-report by the patient. 

If you think you have MCS, it’s important to see an open-minded and compassionate healthcare professional whom you trust to help you deal with the situation.

Doctors (primarily allergists) have developed during the last few decades a clinical ecology medical specialty to treat people with MCS.

A chemical exposure test can diagnose MCS. Specialists consider it the most reliable way to detect the condition. 

How to Protect Yourself from the MCS Controversy

Unfortunately the medical community as a whole is skeptical about MCS and reluctant to treat it as a disease.

Therefore, be prepared to deal with controversy as you seek help managing your symptoms. Try different doctors if you need to and don’t be discouraged by the general medical community. 

More Ways to Help Yourself in Dealing with MCS

  • Inform your family and friends about your condition. They will be more understanding and supportive if they know what you are dealing with.
  • Find a support group. Talking with people dealing with the same issue as you can be an invaluable resource of tips, solutions, and encouragement.
  • Start eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. 
  • Try stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or gardening.

Where to Find More Information about MCS

If you are living with MCS, it is crucial to learn as much as you can about the condition and how to protect yourself from exposure to triggering chemicals.

The following resources can help:

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine: This organization provides information on environmental illness, including MCS.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: This government website provides information on the health effects of chemicals and other environmental exposures.

The Environmental Protection Agency: This government website provides information on protecting yourself from environmental hazards, including chemicals.

The Mayo Clinic: This website provides information on MCS and other health conditions.

Living with MCS: Follow our blog for information about the latest developments regarding MCS and ideas to help you cope with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in daily life.  

Living with MCS

MCS is a severe condition that can be difficult to live with. 

However, by educating yourself about the condition and taking steps to protect yourself from exposure to triggering chemicals, you can make living with MCS much more manageable. 

smiling woman in blue blouse

We hope the resources provided in this article will help make your everyday life easier. 

We will continue to provide information on MCS here on our blog, so check back frequently for new updates.

2 thoughts on “How You Can Protect Yourself From MCS”

  1. Was surprised to see this was released today, as it seems a bit incomplete.

    I have been following this issue for at least 30 years, and read the books and work of Debra Lynn Dadd, who covered exposure to toxic chemicals quite thoroughly. She discovered over her 40 + years of living with the condition, that it could be mostly cured (over many years!) by avoiding exposure completely – though certainly that can be challenging, and require changing one’s life completely. You can certainly reduce reactions by practicing great care as to what you have around you, eat, inhale, or touch.

    She also emphasized eating only organically-grown, natural unprocessed foods, especially lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding sugar, except for minimal amount of local honey, maple syrup, dates – more natural complex sweeteners. I personally gave up any caffeine or alcohol 40 years ago, as my system did not process these well, and I would be either unable to sleep if I had coffee in the morning, or tired the next day if I had a glass of wine with dinner.

    The article does not specifically mention our common laundry products – detergents and fabric softeners, which for me are the most problematic, as I can smell them in the air after the UPS man has left a package on my front porch and returned to his truck. I have been successful at eliminating reactions most of the time – but I still can smell and strongly dislike all the scents most people have in their shampoo, deodorant, or clothing!

    My daughter got sensitized spending time in friends’ homes in high school, where they used common cleaning products to excess, and living with friends burning scented candles in college. She started having issues by age 16.

    There are also ways to reduce the toxic load in the body by following common detox protocols, as if one had been exposed to too many heavy metals or any toxic substance – using anything that encourages the body’s natural elimination system, especially the liver. Generally recommended things like eating cilantro, parsley, lemons, wild blueberries, spirulina & chlorella, bee pollen, drinking lots of pure water (no chlorine nor fluoride, so get a good filter), and getting gentle movement/exercise and enough good sleep and rest. Find a good Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doctor to guide this.

    • Thank you for your input. There is a “share your story” link on the webpage if you feel inclined to submit yours. I think you may have insight that could help many people.

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