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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

They're Just Allergies

Okay, so I was thinking about possible topics for this week's edition of WHO AM I WEDNESDAY, and there's only one thing that I could think of that I could think of to talk about.  The thing is that the subject matter might seem a little bit dull and/or nerdy.  But if it helps, I have kind of a funny story to tell that will bring us into the topic.

The year was 1992.  I was eleven years old, and I was at an age in which everything around me made me sick.  No kidding.  My fifth grade year which was 1991/1992 was one of those years in which every possible childhood illness that I could have contracted (aside from the chicken pox, which I had gotten back in 1982 when I was a year old), I had.  I probably had half a dozen colds.  My throat was so sore, it's a wonder they didn't remove my tonsils.  I developed cold sores around my lips (no idea how), and on top of all that, I had a severe asthma attack and was kept home from school for almost a whole week as a result of it.

I don't know how much school I missed that year.  It wasn't enough to justify holding me back a year, but it was enough that I was out for quite a bit.

Needless to say, my chronic illnesses concerned my parents and they were trying to find out why I was always so sick.  It got to the point where they made an appointment with an allergy specialist, just to see what was happening.  They speculated that it was maybe a severe allergy to something either at our home or in the environment that kept causing me to get sick.  An appointment was made during the summer, and when I was eleven, I got the test done.

I have no idea how they do allergy tests in the year 2014, but back in the year 1992, allergy tests were done in this fashion.  The doctor giving the test inserted random needles in your arm.  Each needle tip was dipped in a liquid that simulated a particular allergen (grass, moss, pollen, etc).  Once the needles were poked into the arm, the doctor waited a few minutes, and examined the arm again.  Eventually some of the places that were poked with the needle would swell and become itchy.  The larger the swelling, the more potent the allergy.

This method confused me though.  In fact, I had thought that the doctor had made a huge mistake when he did the test because I thought he had inserted a needle right inside of a mosquito bite! 

Alas, that was not the case.  That particular needle made the area swell up so much that it really did look like a gigantic insect bite.  And boy oh boy did that sucker itch!  It was absolute torture because the doctor told me I couldn't scratch it at all!  That was not a fun experience.

So, what was the #1 allergy that caused such a reaction on my arm?

Well, it happened to be from pollen.  Tree pollen to be exact.  And soon my parents had the answer as to why I was so sick most of the time.  You see, most of the time that I was sick, it was always during the months of April through June - the time of year in which tree pollen is most active.  My asthma attack?  It was at the very end of April.  It all makes sense now, doesn't it?  The reason why I was so sick in the spring months was because the tree pollen was making it so. 

Suffice to say, after the allergy test, I had to take a small dose of Reactine or Claritin or some non-prescription allergy relief drug during the spring in order to manage my symptoms.  And for the record, while it wasn't a perfect solution, I certainly was sick a lot less after the test was given.

So, now you know that tree pollen is my top allergy and that the spring months are quite brutal for me.  But again, with allergy pills, I can now go outside and breathe easy!

But tree pollen wasn't the only allergy that I discovered I had.  Although the tree pollen allergy was the most severe, I discovered that I had at least four other allergies.  Three were discovered during the test - the other one was discovered strictly by accident.

So, what else am I allergic to?


This was the allergy that was not discovered from the test.  This was discovered when I was away at school.  There was a dessert that looked really good.  It was a brownie covered with ice cream and berries.  But after eating it, I developed hives.  Not a pleasant experience.  It took some time and process of elimination to discover that the culprit was strawberries.  Chocolate, cream, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries were all fine.  The last item was strawberries.  That told me that I couldn't eat them ever again.

For the most part, it's more of an annoying allergy.  You try finding a multipack of yogurt WITHOUT strawberry flavour.  It's quite difficult.


Fortunately, this is an allergy that I kind of outgrew (or at the very least, the effects were lessened over time).  If I still had the allergy, I would have never have allowed my beloved Ol' Thum into my life (sadly he passed away four years ago this month).  But when I was younger, any animal that came close to me caused me to sneeze uncontrollably.  It was really a downer when I was a kid, as it seemed that every single kid in my class had a pet, but I could never have one because I was allergic.

Well, okay, I suppose that I could have had a goldfish, kimodo dragon, or a tarantula...but those weren't the same...


I'm not exactly talking about the blue crusty stuff that grows on bread that you could figuratively transform into penicillin.  I can take penicillin just fine - it was one medicine from my childhood that I actually didn't mind taking as it kind of tasted like a banana milkshake. 

The stuff I mean is the black mould that can grow on the walls of a house or abandoned building.  The stuff that appears as a result of water damage left unsupervised.  That stuff is my second most serious allergy, and I'm pretty sure that if I was exposed to that stuff for an extended period of time, it would be my death warrant.  Nasty, nasty stuff.


Yes, believe it or not the doctor tested me for dust allergies.  And surprise, surprise, I have an allergy to dust.  So, basically whenever I have to do activities like dusting, I pretty much have to take an allergy pill.  Otherwise I sound as if someone crammed something up my nasal cavities.  It would be an interesting thing to see, but dust is certainly not my friend.

So, here's a question for you.  What are you allergic to?  If anything?

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