What happens to people (and pets)

when they encounter cold, dry environments:

I have inherited my Mother’s thin skin. My first job involved handling a great deal of paperwork. The little oil that my skin contains got soaked-up by all that paper, leaving the tips of my fingers cracked and bleeding. Very painful. I also got itchy bumps on the tops of my hands. This prompted me to go to a dermatologist. He explained the rash was indirectly related to the irritation on my finger tips.

Valentino, the kitty with a very bad case of sarcoptic mange, went through something similar. The vet explained that what was eating away at his epidermis was causing lots of internal problems. His whole body was “out of kilter.” Makes one realize what an important job the skin plays in our overall well-being.

I had to wear gloves over my hands until they healed and afterwards made sure I used fingertip grips whenever I handled paper.

(Coincidentally, this lack of oil creates some frustrating moments when using touch electronics, like keypads. Sometimes they just won’t respond!)

Years later, I came down with a bumpy, fluid-filled rash on both my forearms. My regular doctor took one look, pronounced it scabies (a parasitic mite), and prescribed a cream – which worsened the rash. This time I went to a dermatologist (again) and he said I have very dry skin and the cream I was using was further drying it up! Easy fix:  lots of lubricating lotion.

Cut to March of 2017, when I developed small, itchy blisters on just the sides of my face. After much research and careful consideration, I deduced that my leave-in hair product was an irritant. But the underlying problem was that my already-thin skin was becoming more thin and delicate as I got older. In other words, it was losing it’s protective skin barrier. Tying my hair back at night, switching to a facial cleanser specifically designed for dermatitis, and using raw, organic cococnut oil to moisture afterwards finally cleared it all up. I continued to use (and do to this day) the cleanser and worked my daily moisturizers back in one at a time.

No more problems on my face… So far so good, right?

Late last year an itchy rash sprung up on my back. This sound familiar? I tried tying my hair back at night and waited for it to go away. It didn’t. Other rash-like patches began appearing all over my torso, and my arms and backs of my hands got itchy bumps just like that first time way back. Sympathetic rash. That’s what I’ve named it. These areas were so itchy they woke me up numerous times during the night. Sometimes I awoke finding myself scratching them – which just makes everything worse. It creates more irritation. What finally panicked me was when the tips of my ears developed a full-blown case of eczema. Crusty. Oozing. The works!

Based on my previous experiences, I guessed my problem was the dry air here in Placerville, coupled with the cold temps setting in. So I switched to a mild glycerin soap and used the facial cleanser on my back. Instead of the body lotion I had been using, I switched to one specifically created to relieve itchy, dry skin. I also found – at the Dollar Store – anti-itch ointment also formulated for eczema. This I used on the rashes themselves! It’s great stuff. So soothing. Much better than regular anti-itch cream. I also took an anti-histamine once a day to help with the “itch”.

It’s taken months, but my skin’s finally calmed down.

So what does all this have to do with cats? Cats can develop allergic reactions to external irritants just like us. And just like people, the older the animal the more sensitive it may be to allergens. Diego’s going to be 16 this April.

Last summer he started having sneezing fits which eventually resulted in so much irritation his nose bled. The clay litter I’d been using had not caused problems previously, but that was back in the temperate South Bay. So I switched to a non-scented brand and the problem went away. For a while.

Subsequent sneezing fits were directly tied to windy days when I had the windows open. Not all windy days. Just some. (Different pollen here; and as there is no concrete in a rural setting, there is a lot of dirt generated in the air.) Window open – sneezing. Window closed – sneezing stopped. I also got a super-duper humidifier which I run during these cold months. Humidity is good for all living things here – including plants.

Yesterday I noticed Diego wasn’t acting like his normal self. His right eye is slightly swollen but not red, and is discharging clear fluid. Not much sneezing. A few coughs. They are not laboring coughs, but do sound like he’s trying to clear his passages. All other body functions are fine except he’s not as interested in food. (Understandable if something’s going on with his nose!) He will accept treats, though. Yay! He’s sitting in the window and drinking water, but I can tell he’s not feeling 100%. Once again, based on the issues both he and I have had with this cold and dry air, I’m fairly certain it’s a sinus infection – especially since it’s just the corner of one eye that’s super-sensitive. I cannot touch the eye at all. With anything. Not even the tip of a Kleenex.

The soonest the vet could see Diego was this Thursday. If his condition worsens, I will consider it an emergency situation. Right now, I’m keeping a close eye on everything. Keeping my fingers crossed.

ℳ –

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