Natasha Coates suffers from a rare disorder which makes her allergic to almost everything — including her own hair. Picture: Barcroft Images
Natasha Coates suffers from a rare disorder which makes her allergic to almost everything — including her own hair. Picture: Barcroft Images

Meet the woman who’s allergic to everything

NATASHA Coates can't cry, grow her hair or exercise without risking death.

The 22-year-old gymnast suffers from immunologic disorder called mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), a rare disorder which causes her body to have adverse reactions to specific triggers.

Triggers can vary from person to person depending on the severity of their condition and can change over time, the New York Post reports.

It is caused when the mast cells - a type of blood cell - in the body react to triggers by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause an allergic reaction.

For Ms Coates, who is from Nottingham in England, it means she has allergic reactions to her own tears, growing her hair, changes in the weather, food and digestion.

"Reactions can vary. They can be anything from just feeling under the weather, itchy, very tired or they can be life-threatening like tongue and throat swelling," Ms Coates said.

Up until she was 18 Ms Coates lived a normal life, but soon after her symptoms started to develop.

It took two years for her to be diagnosed with MCAS.

When her hair grows her scalp develops agonising blisters and burns, when she cries the tears cause a red rash down her face and certain foods can be fine one day and almost kill her the next.

"One day I could eat a cheese sandwich and I will be fine," she said.

"I could eat the exact thing the next day and it could try and kill me.

"And the day after I could eat it again and it will be fine. I don't know what I'm going to react to next.

When Natasha’s hair grows her scalp develops blisters and burns. Picture: Barcroft Images
When Natasha’s hair grows her scalp develops blisters and burns. Picture: Barcroft Images

"There are so many things I react to; changes in temperature, I react to bath products, beauty products, deodorants, sprays, different make-ups, things around the house.

"I am not able to do most things most 22-year-olds do. I can't drink alcohol. I can't even tolerate it on my skin.

"I never know if I am going to make it if I will be sleeping in my own bed or be in a hospital bed. Or even if I will survive, to be honest."

To avoid potential reactions, Ms Coates's mom, Adele, only cooks certain foods she knows is safe, and keeps the house as clean as possible.

She also makes sure anyone who comes to visit washes their hands so they don't bring any infection inside the house.

"To reduce the chance of her having a reaction I tend to be overzealous with the cleaning, dusting, wiping surfaces down, making sure people wash their hands when they come to the house," Adele said.

Despite being allergic to exercise, Natasha has dedicated her time to mastering disabled gymnastics. Picture: Barcroft Images
Despite being allergic to exercise, Natasha has dedicated her time to mastering disabled gymnastics. Picture: Barcroft Images

Ms Coates has multiple reactions a day, typically migraines, itching and swelling.

She has used more than 250 EpiPens and endured countless trips to the hospital due to life-threatening reactions.

But, refusing to let her illness get in her way, Ms Coates is an elite disability gymnast, has competed in the Disability British Championships and is ranked number one in the UK.

"I have done gymnastics since the age of eight, just recreationally," Ms Coates said.

"And when I developed this condition I wasn't able to keep up with the mainstream gymnastics so I switched to disability.

"There are lots of barriers when I exercise because of the way chemicals affect my brain. I lose the feeling from my elbows down and my knees down.

"So when I stand on the beam, I can't feel my feet, I can only look at the beam to know where they are."

This story was originally in the New York Post and was republished with permission.



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