By Josh Saunders
A mum is battling bizarre reactions that leave her looking like she has had ‘dodgy lip fillers’ – and make her terrifying to her own son.
Kelly Marsh, from Canvey, Essex, couldn’t recognise herself when her lips, eyes and face doubled in size during her first reaction seven months ago.
The 33-year-old was diagnosed with chronic spontaneous urticaria – a debilitating disease that causes an allergic reaction without any known cause and starts as a small rash – after her second bout in December.
The mum has since avoided shampoos, fragrances and washing powders, restricted her diet to rice, vegetables and plain chicken and more – all without any resolution.
The concerning reactions have left Kelly unable to work due to the itching and burning pain, as well as scaring her ten-year-old son Jack.
Kelly, a make-up artist business manager, said: “I don’t even know myself what causes it, but it’s affecting everything, it’s like I’m a prisoner in my own skin.
“I literally can’t find anything, I changed the washing powder to Fairy Non Bio, went on a diet of bland food but what causes a reaction one day isn’t the same the next.
“It’s hard to explain without bursting into tears, you just sit here itching and burning, unable to go anywhere, to eat or even sleep – I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
“I take a lot of pride in how I look especially for my job I need to look nice and I worry it’s affecting my relationship.
“I don’t feel like I’m attractive to my other half, even though he tells me it hasn’t affected him at all.
“To get through it, we try to make jokes when my face swells up, we say it looks like I’ve had a ‘glorious lip job that’s gone wrong’ or ‘dodgy plastic surgery’.
“It’s the only thing you can do – you either laugh about it or cry.
“It’s honestly awful and embarrassing having to call-in sick so often, people struggle to understand why doctors can’t just cure it.
“The antihistamines make me so drowsy that when I take them I sleep for half of the day and then can’t sleep at night, it just takes everything out of you.”
Kelly initially dismissed her first reaction, upon noticing a small rash develop on her skin – but the next morning her face had swollen out of recognisable proportion.
Now, every time she suffers a reaction she is forced to seek hospital treatment for steroids and an IV of antihistamines, which she must also take a heavy cocktail of at home.
In a bid to return to a normal life, the mum is making a diary of her symptoms, which can last up to two months at a time, in the hope of getting an expensive but effective yearly injection to treat her.
Kelly said: “The first time it happened, I had a couple of blotches on my arms and legs but didn’t think anything of it, the next day I woke up unable to recognise myself.
“Suddenly my lips, my eyes and whole face had swollen up, I sent a picture to my manager to explain why I couldn’t come into work and she asked, ‘Who is that?’
“My lips were huge, I looked like I had dodgy lip fillers, it didn’t look like me at all.
“After it went down in a couple of days thanks to antihistamines, I didn’t think anything more of it, but then in December it came back with vengeance.”
After more of the small blotches appeared on her skin in December, she believed it was an allergy to dust rustled-up by Christmas decorations.
But when her lips started to swell once more, she has hospitalised on Boxing Day and later given an EpiPen in-case her throat began to close.
The reaction lasted for two months, with her struggling with itchiness from the welts and burning pain that could only be relieved with an ice-cold bath.
After being told the next available appointment on the NHS was in June, she paid £200 for a 45-minute private health care, receiving a diagnosis and medication to try to relieve her pain.
Kelly said: “I was in a raw state every day from itching, with my skin completely raw, nothing helped other than taking a freezing cold bath.
“I tried everything I could from not washing my hair with shampoos, avoiding perfumes, scents and altering my diets.
“I’m worried I’ll run out of sick pay soon and am about not being able to afford our mortgage.
“I knew others had to be suffering out there too and it shocked me how many there were.
“Some people have had it for 25 years, I don’t want to deal with it for that long.”