Monday, February 19, 2018

Avoiding or Treating Environmental Illness

October 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

environmental illness 1

A boater’s goal is to spend as much time outdoors and on the water as possible. However, there are known and hidden environmental concerns that may cause illness for some. Awareness and eliminating —or avoiding— certain triggers may enhance overall health and well being.

Environmental illness can affect our daily lives and curtail activities. According to Cleveland Clinic,“Environmental illness is a condition in which various symptoms appear after an individual has been exposed to certain chemicals.Symptoms generally occur in the central nervous system, the respiratory system, and/or the gastrointestinal system. The range of symptoms include headaches, fatigue, confusion, itching, sneezing, muscle pain, nausea, memory problems, and cognitive problems.”

environmental illness 2Common triggers of environmental illness are outdoor pollution, swimming in contaminated water, and dirt that runs off into the water from pesticide-laden fields or construction sites. In some areas, this pollution is so bad that it causes beaches to be closed after rain storms; swimming in contaminated waters can cause stomach viruses such as E.coli and result in nausea, fever, and vomiting, especially in children, the elderly, and those who are chronically ill.

Boaters should heed notices of beach closings and avoid boating by those areas or swim off the boat near a closed area. Whether swimming off the boat or arriving by land, choose swim sites with good water circulation, such as ocean beaches, and avoid swimming at any location where you can see discharge pipes. Marinas located in sheltered areas have their pluses and minuses. One downside is that the circulation of water is reduced, allowing waste and environmental triggers to accumulate.

environmental illness 3Dr. Lisa Nagy is a boater who knows firsthand about environmental illness, having developed chemical and electrical sensitivity. Trained and board certified in surgery and emergency medicine, she initially had no idea what was wrong with her when her muscles grew weak, she couldn’t stand for very long, and grew sensitive to fluorescent lighting. After being disabled for a year, Dr. Nagy sought help from an environmental doctor who discovered she was suffering from mold poisoning (primarily due to mold in a fish tank that was built into the living room of her home). The toxins in the air had overloaded her system and a muscle biopsy revealed that she had severe damage to the mitochondria (the energy producer in cells).

Dr. Nagy now works with those suffering from environmental illnesses (her website is advises boaters to be aware of irritants around them and watch for odd smells, especially those that increase with a rise in humidity levels. Such a smell may indicate the presence of mold, which can develop on the inside or the outside of the boat. The cause may not always be evident at first — look for suspects such as an old magazine tucked into a cubby or a forgotten wet towel.  Dr. Nagy recommends that boaters utilize sealable plastic containers for many of the things left aboard throughout the season, such as disposable plates, cups, napkins, reading material,loose papers,and other items that are subject to moisture build up and eventually mold. Replacing everyday boat cleaning products with environmentally-safe cleaning products is also a benefit, per Dr. Nagy, especially in the close quarters of most cabins.

How does someone know that environmental illness might be the cause of his or her ailments? “A person who is continually exhibiting symptoms of environmental illness such as unusual headaches, fatigue, nausea, and food and chemical sensitivities, who has not found the cause after seeking medical help from a physician who isn’t well-versed in environmental illness, should try to move to another environment for four consecutive days,” advises Dr. Nagy.Don’t bring anything that has been in your home, including books, towels, and clothes. “It is not important where you go,” says Dr. Nagy.“You can go to a friend’s house, camp out somewhere close by,or go to a cheap motel.  After four days, return to your home and see if you notice any differences. Do your clothes smell different? Do foods taste different in your home, do you get sick when you go into a certain room? Do you notice any strange smells?”

environmental illness 4Dr. Nagy explains that masking occurs when a person is continually exposed to a substance or chemical,and leaving their environment for four days allows him or her to become unmasked.After returning home, the ill person may become aware right away of the sickness-producing trigger. The home test also applies in boats, offices, or anywhere else a sufferer spends a lot of time.

However, says Dr. Nagy, it’s not always as simple as scrubbing away mold or removing carpeting, as “the longer the person is exposed to the substance, the sicker they become. It then becomes more difficult for the person to be treated.”However, that is not to say that the ailments won’t be eliminated or reduced. Dr. Nagy advises, “Environmental illness is treatable.”

By Jennifer Pollock


is a writer and editor who writes about health, nutrition, boating, arts and entertainment, and water sports. Her hobbies include travel, water sports, and boating, which she has loved since she was a young child.

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