any chefs/cooks with skin allergies???

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Joined Sep 12, 2003
hello, i'm new here...and i'm not sure if this is the correct place to ask this but...

do any of you have skin allergies? i'm a prep-cook at an italian restaurant, and i just found out that i am allergic to nickel(which is basically all around us in the kitchen, it's in stainless steel and lots of other metals.) and also, latex. i've had these intense rashes all over my hands ever since i started working in restaurants about 3 years ago. the doctor seems unsure if i'm ever going to be able to work in restaurants without this happening. so my question is, do any of you struggle with this? do you think i should just continue on with my dream of cooking or should i start looking at other career options? my goal was to start culinary school at IUP Culinary Academy, but now i'm not so sure if that will be happening. i'm confused, and would appreciate some advice. i hope there's someone out there with allergies! :chef:
 
1,586
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Joined Jan 5, 2001
If it's your dream, then you'll find a solution. Don't give up!

I knew a cook who was allergic to all seafood and nuts. He walked around with a syringe to give himself a life saving shot in case he came in contact with either one. He worked several years like this. Now in his mid thirties, he has a comfortable job as an instructor in a respectable cooking school. Less danger to him there.

Hope you find a suitable solution!
 
3,853
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Joined May 26, 2001
If you'll need to wear gloves all the time, that's the least of your worries. You may have to buy your own non-latex ones, but if it means you can do the work you love, that's a small price to pay.

When I was in culinary school, one of my classmates was allergic to carrots. So when we had knife skills practicals (cut 5 pounds of carrots in 15 minutes), she used turnips. The instructor was more than happy to accommodate her. During regular cooking sessions, she just wore gloves. (Another classmate was legally blind, but that was a whole different set of stuff. :eek: )

And I've worked for several sous chefs who were allergic to shellfish, or peanuts (including the oil we cooked with) -- so they tried to keep their contact to the allergen to a minimum. It CAN be done. But it means YOU have to be vigilant, and not take any guff from classmates or coworkers who don't understand.
 
732
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Joined Dec 12, 2000
I have a seasonal allergy, during the winter, if my hands are in water for a continuous length of time, they split like crazy and turn all red and they burn, which is a lot of fun lol :), considering that I don't get the luxury of having a dish person on my shift, I am the kitchen crew on the graveyard shift.
 
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Joined Sep 12, 2003
thanks so much guys, you made me realize that i need to just stick with this.

my doctor told me to take 2 weeks off of work(oh BOY was my boss happy! hehe) to let my hands just fully heal, and then go back to work and just be extra careful to not come in contact with nickel or latex. he sounded very doubtful though, but...i think i can do it. the problem now is that, i DO wear non-latex gloves(they're vinyl) but these rashes being closed in with no air, is really not a good thing. it just makes the rashes worse, but i think once my hands clear up, i should be okay. i'm hoping for the best... hey, at least i get a 2 week vacation, right?


...i know, that's not the right attitude. lol.
 
618
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Joined Jul 18, 2000
ah yes, the dreaded atopic dermatitis.

there are a few things you can do for it. With your vinyl gloves, make sure that they arent powdered. The reason for this is that when you wear the latex ones, the powder rubs on your skin. Being a contact dermatitis, this creates a sensitivity. Add to that when the powder is added into the gloves, latex proteins bind to the cornflour (in a slurry solution) and voila - double whammy of a latex allergy with a corn allergy.

you can use barrier creams, i use a fermented papaya ointment (works very well, cleans up cuts and scratches very quickly)

now, another thing to do is cold compresses of cetaphil cleaning ointment, and to moisturise with nutra - d (cetaphil moisturiser).

Im sure the good Dr would of given you a prescription - from knowledge, i used diprosone, diprosone ov, panafcort (prednisone) and a few others. Slight problem, corticosteroids (topical) will thin out your skin, leaving you prone to break outs. Prednisone is much worse, although more effective and faster working, as it can cause stomach ulcers and osteoporosis. One thing that i have heard of but havent used is tacrolimnus - supposedly very good due to its lack of long term side effects.

another thing that you may be able to do is to use cotton liner gloves (but very hard IMHO) .

Ive actually gotten to the stage where i dont take any prescription drugs for the dermatitis anymore and it seems to be in a stage of remission - anyway feel free to ask me any questions on this anytime.

Nick
 
4
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Joined Sep 12, 2003
wow, thanks!!! that's some really good info. i've been researching and i came across the tip to use cotton-lined gloves, and thought that would be a really good idea? are they like rubber gloves with cotton on the inside? or all cotton? i think i may try those. the doctor prescribed me Zithromax...an antibiotic. i think it helped a little. he also told me to get Theraplex emollient cream, which is definitely helping me. and he gave me this foam stuff to wash my hands with, because i wash my hands so much during the day that the protective layer of my skin is getting stripped down. so my hands are looking 98% better than they were 2 weeks ago. we'll see after 2 weeks of not working.

where do you get papaya ointment?! hehe

thanks again!
 
618
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Joined Jul 18, 2000
im not sure whether it is available in the US - however, the name is "lucas' papaw ointment", you may be able to get either it or a close alternative, most likely at a health food store.

Antibiotic huh?, sounds like a secondary staph infection. Not much joy, but if you can control that, it will make your life a lot easier (and less frustrating!).

The cotton gloves are a pure cotton glove that you wear under the vinyl gloves (somewhat like the ones that little old ladies and butlers wear heh).

my allergies pretty much started with the nickel and latex thingy, especially latex production chemical sensitivities - i.e the aromatic chemicals used in latex production - stopped eating dairy too often and it seems to ease up

go figure huh?

Nick
 
4
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Joined Sep 12, 2003
wow, small world...you sound like you have the same exact problem as me.

i've never thought about dairy being a problem, but that makes sense...i should really cut back on it anyways since i'm mildly lactose intolerant. ah yes, allergic to everything i am! i'm a walking allergen! :)

i'm gonna get some of those cotton gloves, it will be annoying to wear them all the time but...i'd rather have that than have to change careers. thanks for all your tips!
 
618
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Joined Jul 18, 2000
another tip to bear in mind, is that if you can control the itching, your doing well - that is where the bacteriostat comes in - with a secondary staph aureus infection, the itching is much worse, try not to dry hands with tea towels - instead rinse with water, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Another tip is to try to avoid direct contact with acidic preps, such as vinegars, food acids etc (thats where the gloves come into play)

Even though you might have a secondary infection, it also pays to avoid antiseptic washes.

i know that this can be hard, but give it a go, and see how it works out.
 
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