In Which The Environment Is My Enemy

Despite having had allergy problems as far back as I can remember (and further), I’d never visited an allergist until yesterday. In preparation for the visit, they took me off of my regular antihistamines for 72 hours, which, by hour 36 or so, had reduced me to a state of constant post-nasal drip, itchy eyes, and sinus headache. I felt miserable, but, all things considered, it was not a bad state for the allergist to see me in. Still, after talking my history over with me for a few minutes and making a brief physical examination (“It is extremely swollen up here,” he says as he looks up my nose. “The two sides are touching!”), he was rather noncommittal about whether I had allergy problems and if they justified moving to allergy shots. He said that they’d have the nurse do a battery of scratch tests on my back, give me a couple of new medications to try, and then, in a couple weeks, we’d meet again to see how I was doing.

The nurse came in and prepped me for the scratch test–handing me a sheet of allergens she was testing me for and explaining how the test would go. I was given a couple of minutes to change into one of those lovely backless blue gowns that’s only about eight sizes too large for me, and then I laid down while she wrote numbers all over my back in felt-tip pen and made little scratches next to them. “I’ll be back in ten minutes to check on you,” she said, “and ten minutes after that, I’ll grade your reactions on a scale from 1 to 4+.” I settled in with one of my Discover magazines–I’m still three months behind–and tried to ignore any itching sensation from my back. I figured that a lot of the itching was probably psychosomatic, but maybe I was reacting to something. It would be nice to be taken seriously when I say that my allergies are a real issue.

Ten minutes later, I was happily engrossed in my magazine, ignoring any mild burning going on behind me when I heard the door open. Suddenly, I heard “Oh my God!” and the nurse ran across the room, grabbed a tissue, and started wiping the samples off my back. Amidst apologies, she told me that I have to see this, wrapped me up in the too-big gown, and led me to a bathroom next door where I could look at my back in the mirror.

I have a history of having pretty ridiculous reactions to mosquito bites. My back looked like some particularly sadistic mosquito had bitten lines from my shoulders down and then someone had scratched the heck out of most of them. The nurse got me settled back on the exam table, apologized again, and then left me for my last ten minutes.

There were no exclamations of shock when she came in the second time. “Girl,” she said, “there is not a single one of these that you did not react to.” I’d been tested for 56 allergens. Of those, most of my reactions rated on the two highest values on the scale. (“I’ve seen reactions like this before, but never after only ten minutes!”) They’ve scheduled me for a discussion with the allergist next week. I suspect that they’ll be recommending allergy shots.

2 Responses to “In Which The Environment Is My Enemy”


  • Yeesh. That sounds miserable. 🙁 Shots should help though, they gave me a boost for several years.

    And, remember, on the bright side, you don’t react to strong prescription painkillers. 😉

    Also, what’s up with your last entry?

  • Boo! Down with allergies!
    I have pretty stunning reactions to insect bites myself but thankfully not generally when I’m in Ireland. Just during the summer, if it ever gets warm!
    But whenever I go abroad I end up taking double and triple doses of any antihistamines/steroid creams etc that I can find in the surgery!
    What are the shots?

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