AN ACTON florist has been forced to change her business - because she has developed an allergic reaction to flowers.
Jan Wass has run Free Spirit Florists for 10 years. After suffering rashes on her arms and face over the past 18 months, she sought medical advice and learnt she was allergic to at least eight different types of flower.
Jan said: 'Eventually the symptoms got so bad my face swelled up and I looked like I had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.
'It was a nightmare. The doctor told me that being exposed to flowers six days a week for 10 years had weakened my immune system and I had developed an allergy.'
Jan's eyes have also been affected and she has to wash them frequently and use drops to keep them moist.
Jan added: 'I love floristry. I started a shop after doing courses in my spare time because I loved flowers so much.
'I spent a fortune building up the business and when I was told I had to give it up, it sparked a severe depression.
'Paul, my husband and business partner, tried various things to continue selling fresh flowers but my ever-increasing sensitivity, and the huge range of flowers I was allergic to made it impossible.'
Eventually Jan shut the shop and took a month off to consider her options.
'It wasn't just my livelihood, it was my husband Paul's, too, as he had gone into it with me,' she said. 'We decided we would have to change the business and concentrate more on the things which, until the allergy, had been the little extras we sold rather than the main thrust of the business.'
Free Spirit now sells balloons and artificial flowers and specialises in wedding displays and hiring out artificial flowers to businesses.
Jan said: 'So far it is working well and we have had a lot of interest. Our wedding contacts from our floristry days helped and only time will tell if it is successful.
'But it's not floristry.
'The worst thing is I can't garden any more.
'I even had to leave a garden centre because I could feel a reaction coming on.'
Jan can take some comfort from the fact that her symptoms are easing.
'By avoided flowers I have regained a quality of life,' she said. 'I would get no sleep because of the itching. The difference it has made is phenomenal.
'I have had to sacrifice something I loved but sometimes your health is more important.'