UNLUCKY Vicki McNamara is the most allergic woman in Britain she is even allergic to herself.
The 41-year old suffers life-threatening violent reactions to almost everything, including her own sweat. Her devastating condition triggered by a wasp sting 15 years ago has left her a virtual prisoner in her own home. When she does venture out, she has to wear a protective mask and gloves. Single Vicki, from Dumfries, said: "I'm scared one day my allergies will kill me. It's too dangerous to let anyone in my house, as even the slightest smell of perfume, smoke or aftershave will leave me ill for days.
"I'm allergic to hundreds of things it's easier to tell people what I'm not allergic to. I'm allergic to modern life."
A sign on her front door says "Callers by appointment only" to warn off unexpected guests. Even family and friends have to stand outside and talk through the window. Vicki said: "Even at home I'm at risk. I have to keep my windows shut most of the time in case someone walks past smoking a cigarette. I'll immediately start feeling sick and dizzy."
Food poses another problem, since almost everything she eats gives her a rash or makes her sick. She survives on fruit and veggies grown in her garden and eggs from her hens. And she has to use prescription-only toothpaste, soap and deodorant free of formaldehyde.
Vicki's rare condition means any one of her allergies can trigger a deadly anaphylactic shock and it is getting worse. She has already been rushed to hospital twice this year. In January, she ended up in Accident and Emergency after reacting to anaesthetic while having a filling at the dentist. Last month an ant bite triggered another attack. Ironically, being in hospital can make Vicki feel even worse because she is allergic to the detergents used to wash the bed linen.
She said: "The sheets make me burn and itch. I feel like I want to rip my skin off."
Describing a typical reaction, she said: "The fumes from perfume can hit me in seconds and I feel so sick it's like glass moving around in my stomach. My blood pressure drops, by head feels heavy, my heart starts racing, I struggle to breath, then I collapse. I feel like I'm suffocating, like someone is crushing all the air out of my chest. I usually wake up a few days later. But I'm frightened one day I might not come out of it." Vicki lived a normal, allergy-free life until a seemingly minor incident when she was a student at university. She was hanging out washing when a wasp stung her left foot. She recalled: "There was a terrible burning feeling and I started to feel ill immediately.
"I crawled into bed crying and three days later I woke up. During those three days I remember I kept opening my eyes, looking at the clock, then bang! I was out again. It was frightening. It felt like flu. My foot was hugely swollen and throbbing." Vicki went to see her GP, who said she had had a severe allergic reaction to the sting. Then came the terrible news. Experts at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary revealed the sting had inflamed her immune system, making her allergic to a vast variety of everyday things.
She said: "It turned out I was allergic to almost all chemicals. Have a look around at labels and you'll see there are chemicals in almost everything."
At first Vicki had no idea how badly her life would be affected until she ate an ice-cream. She said: "I started sneezing, which went on for about an hour until my eyes were swollen shut. Then I just lay down on the floor and passed out." Vicki's parents, Veronica and Joseph, and a small group of close friends are the only ones who understand her condition.