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What is mast cell activation syndrome? Halsey shares health news

Bruno Cooke May 12, 2022
mast cell activation halsey

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Singer Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, known professional as Halsey, has had a tough run of it since giving birth last July – on Tuesday she (Halsey uses both “she/her” and “they/them” pronouns) revealed via Instagram she had been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

Singer Halsey on her health problems following childbirth

Posting to her Instagram stories, Halsey explained to fans she is “allergic to literally everything”.

“Obviously my health has changed a lot since I got pregnant and giving birth,” CNN quotes her as saying. The story in question has since disappeared from the media company’s website.

“I started getting really, really, really sick.”

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Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage for The Recording Academy

Halsey gave birth to son Ender in July 2021 – he’s her first child. Her partner, Alev Aydin, is a screenwriter.

Since giving birth the singer said she has been in hospital several times following severe allergic reactions. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) says most anaphylactic reactions are to food, insect stings, medication and latex.

The conditions Halsey has been diagnosed with are: Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), Sjögren’s syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).

What does a mast cell activation syndrome diagnosis mean for Halsey?

Mast cells are best known for their role in allergy responses and anaphylaxis. However, they also play a role in wound healing, immune tolerance and defence against pathogens.

When you come into contact with an allergen – something you’re allergic to – a mast cell “activates”.

When activated, mast cells release chemicals called “mediators”. These cause inflammation. This is your body’s allergic response. 

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“In a healthy person,” WebMD states, “these chemicals help protect and heal. In someone with mast cell activation syndrome, they have a negative effect.”

People with MCAS can have lots of allergy symptoms and/or episodes of anaphylaxis without obvious cause.

In a recent Instagram story, Halsey stressed she has been ill for some time. The diagnosis only confirms what is causing her illness.

What are her other diagnoses?

Halsey also has EDS, a group of inherited conditions that affect the connective tissues between skin, tendons, organs and bones. People who have EDS often have “overly flexible joints and stretchy, fragile skin”, writes Mayo Clinic.

Sjögren’s (pronounced “SHOW-grins”) syndrome is an autoimmune disease. It affects the entire body, according to the Sjögren’s Foundation, and often causes “dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain”.

It can also cause organ dysfunction and lead to the development of lymphoma. Venus Williams was diagnosed with it in 2011

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Finally, POTS is a condition that affects blood flow. The Cleveland Clinic writes it can cause “lightheadedness, fainting and an uncomfortable, rapid increase in heartbeat”.

Symptoms typically come on when standing up after lying down.

Despite what many people would brand as bad news, Halsey remains in good spirits. The 27-year-old is still “excited and confident” for her next tour, the BBC reports.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.