I’ve flushed all my life. I had a look through my photo albums (I don’t have that many pictures of myself as a young child as they were all left at my Dad’s house when my Mum left him and he refused to give me any as they were “his”) but I found this one taken at a wedding from when I was about 3 years old. It clearly shows flushing:
Lots of kids have rosy cheeks and it obviously doesn’t mean they have mast cell disease. I get red faced when I’m hot. My skin is thin due to my Ehlers-Danlos and the capillaries which rise to the surface of the skin to cool body temperature are just more obvious in me than other people. Red flushed cheeks, however, are more dramatic than normal rosy cheeks and I didn’t realize it as a child but episodes of flushing gave me a weird head and made me feel very tired.
Until my MCAD went berserk when I was in my forties my flushing had largely been confined to emotional situations. If I concentrated too hard (during a school exam for example), if I was upset or excited, in social situations eg. when meeting someone new or being around strangers at a party, if I was nervous (I came back from taking my driving test with my face on fire) my chest, neck and face would glow sunset red. I’ve always hated it. It’s embarrassing to look like a lobster and inevitably someone would comment, which made me even more embarrassed so I flushed even more!
The exception to this rule was drinking alcohol, which would set my face on fire, and bathing. I would get out of a hot bath or shower with my stomach, chest and face covered in a blotchy, red rash though it was nowhere else on my body. If the rash hadn’t itched I would simply have put it down to my thin skin showing my capillaries as they rose to the surface to cool me down, but I itch all over after bathing which has to make me think it’s more mast cell related. The strange part is I can sunbathe and be perfectly fine, so I’m not sure why I flush and itch from the heat of a bath but not strong sunshine.
When my MCAD went berserk in my mid forties I started reacting to foods. This is a flush brought on by eating (sorry about the fuzzy picture, hard to do a selfie when you’re shaking from a reaction!):
Thankfully as my low histamine diet brought my mast cells under some sort of control my flushing in general has lessened. Even in emotional situations I don’t flush anywhere near as much or as markedly as I did and strong reactions after foods are now a rare event. My flushing after bathing isn’t as pronounced either.
My Mum flushes, though hers is confined to drinking alcohol. She’s never been able to hide her alcoholism from me when every sip causes her face to glow like the rising sun!
It’s hard to know about the paternal side of my family as we’re not in contact but although my biological Dad and Brother don’t flush my paternal Grandmother did and apparently I take after my Nan physically more than anyone. I only have one picture of her. She’s wearing an Easter Bonnet for a competition (don’t ask!) and the photo is very fuzzy, but it clearly shows flushed bright red cheeks and neck:
My Mum clearly has both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and MCAD. My Dad and Brother are both hypermobile though neither have EDS as far as I’m aware or show signs of MCAD. Or do they?! As a child my Brother had chronic bronchitis, put down to a dust mite allergy which he’s since outgrown and he is strongly allergic to both dogs and horses. My Dad has also always suffered with stomach problems and got diarrhea whenever we went on holiday due to the change of food and water. He would also never allow my Mum to cook convenience foods as they “upset him” so she always had to cook every meal using fresh produce – sound familiar? So from that limited information it looks like I’ve inherited hypermobility and a propensity for mast cell and allergy problems from both parents, and probably a paternal grandparent.
My Maternal Grandmother was neither hypermobile nor had any allergy issues, so which part of her family my Mum inherited EDS from is anyone’s guess. I’ve asked all my 17 maternal cousins and none have mast cell issues. One was a ballet dancer though has never had any issues relating to her hypermobility, and one is hypermobile but doesn’t have the symptoms associated with EDS. Trust my Mum to be the only one of her 7 siblings to be sick and trust me to be the only one of my 17 cousins to be sick!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to look back and see the symptoms of disease and it’s hard not to get angry that these were never picked up on. Actually that’s not true. My hypermobility (called “double jointedness” back then) was picked up on by nearly every doctor I ever saw it’s just that EDS wasn’t known about and no-one thought hypermobility was a problem. Quite the opposite. I was always told I was lucky to have such flexible joints. And MCAD has only been recognized in the past 10 years, so of course no-one was looking for that either. Hopefully today’s children won’t have to suffer quite so long before these “rare” diseases are recognized.