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  • Why Does Your Massage Therapist Need to Know About Your Allergies?

    Woman with allergies

    An Allergy Story

    If you’ve ever gotten a massage from me, you know that the paperwork you have to fill out includes information about your allergies. A couple years ago I had a client who didn’t list any allergies. No big deal, a lot of people don’t have allergies. So, I’m doing my massage thing and she starts telling me a story that involved her having an allergic reaction to a food she had eaten. Well… turns out the oil I had just applied to her body contained, among other things, an extract of that very food. YIKES! I immediately informed her about the oil, got a towel out, and wiped it off while checking in with her about whether she had any discomfort or felt any allergic reaction symptoms. She said she felt fine, and thankfully she was, but the whole thing gave both of us a scare

    That prompted a discussion about allergies and the need to disclose all of them to your massage therapist. Turns out she didn’t think any of her allergies were important because they were to food and seasonal allergens. Once I told her what I’m going to tell you, she totally understood how important that information is to us.

    Once the session ended, I checked her chart while she was getting dressed and found that she hadn’t even checked the box that would indicate that she had any kind of allergy. So, I brought her chart and a pen out to the front desk, made her check the allergy box, and had her fill in all of her allergy info, which she happily did.

    Whew! I love a happily-ever-after ending don’t you? (I was gonna say happy ending, but we don’t say that in the massage profession for obvious reasons)

    Why We Need to Know ALL Your Allergies

    I promise you we don’t ask questions just to be nosy or because we like extra paperwork. Honest. We only ask about things that might have an impact on which techniques we use, the amount of pressure we use, or the products we choose to use.

    And yes, when I say we need to know all your allergies, I do mean ALL.

    Food Allergies

    Many products contain essential oils or herbal extracts of herbs, spices, or other foods. Your food allergy might be triggered by a topical application of a product that contains an extract of your food allergen.

    A few food allergens that might be in products your massage therapist will use are:

    • Ginger – It’s a common ingredient in massage creams and oils.
    • Citrus fruits – Lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange are common ingredients in “tropical” themed products and are used as scents in many others. Lemons contain a bioflavonoid that helps maintain your skin’s elastin (responsible for it’s elasticity) and stabilize the collagen (which helps it maintain it’s integrity) and so is in a lot of products that are supposed to be good for your skin or give you younger looking skin.
    • Peppers – Capsicum and capsaicin are common ingredients in topical analgesics. Capsicum is a genus of plants that includes spicy chile peppers as well as milder bell peppers. Capsaicin is a compound found in Capsicum plants.
    • Mints – Menthol is a compound found in plants in the mint family and is found in almost every topical analgesic there is.
    • Nuts – Many massage oils are nut-based or are blended with nut-based oils
    • Seeds – Many massage oils are made from seeds like sunflower, safflower, and sesame.
    • Fruits – Many massage oils are made from fruits (or their pits) and legumes like apricot kernel, olive, and soybean.

    Outdoor Plants and Seasonal Allergies

    Many essential oils are made from plants that cause outdoor or seasonal allergies. Sometimes extracts of those plants are added to products as well:

    • Trees – The various pines and conifers, as well as cypress, cedarwood, and sandalwood are often found in products that are scented for men. The essential oils made from the various pines, firs, and spruces are excellent to diffuse during cold and flu season for their antiseptic properties.
    • Flowers – Essential oil shelves are full of floral oils like lavender, geranium, ylang ylang, neroli, jasmine (actually an absolute, but used just like an EO), chamomile, and rose. These essential oils, as well as herbal extracts of these and other flowers, are often used to scent products we use in massage.
    • Ragweed – I singled this one out because Roman chamomile is related to ragweed and is in a lot of products that are labeled as calming. 40% of people who are allergic to ragweed are also allergic to Roman chamomile.

    I hope this sampling of food and seasonal allergens that end up in massage offices and the products we use convinces you to tell us about ALL of your allergies. It truly is better to be safe than sorry.

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2 Responsesso far.

  1. Many years ago I used a new oil recipe I had just made up on a semi-regular client. Somehow it caused her bring up that the ONLY thing she is allergic too is black pepper. Guess what there was a small amount of eo in this blend? Yup–I grabbed a towel and started wiping. Fortunately it was a small amount in the blend and I had just started with it but it gave me a fright.

  2. Yes! It’s almost heart-stopping, isn’t it? Thank God both our clients said something just as we had begun to apply our respective oils.