I’m a dork, so I took pictures of my allergy tests. Some of you are dorks, so I know you want to hear all about it. (I know you want to hear about it not because you’re a dork, but because you emailed to say, “Please, I want to know what happens when you go to the allergist.”) So consider this a chapter in “It’s Not So Scary.”
Here we go.
These are my arms. This is what it looked like before the tests started. I should mention that I don’t have a fear of doctors. I’m not trying to avoid going because I have a phobia, I avoid going because I often think of myself as too busy, because that makes me feel like it’s okay I’m not going to the doctor. It doesn’t make sense, I know. One of my doctors scolded me today for not coming often enough, joking that she had to move her practice closer to my house. The thing is, I totally scheduled my appointment once I saw she moved her practice closer to my house. What? Encino is far!
Anyway, my allergist is a really nice guy, who started with lots of questions that were reminiscent of a scene from House. He wanted to know what my living conditions were like, how old my house was, what happened when I ate jam. He asked about my parents’ allergies, anything I reacted strangely to as a child, including inoculations, and then asked if I’d ever had any surgeries or blood transfusions. Then it was on to blood pressure (diagnosis: awesome) and pulse (diagnosis: even more awesome) and weight (which he said was good and then i argued with him because i’m neurotic). One thing I do like about seeing the doctor is when I get praised for things I’m doing well that I don’t even think about, like my blood pressure or my resting pulse. He said the low resting pulse is probably due to all the running I do, but the freak in me is sure it means I need to ask my primary care practitioner about my thyroid. Anyway, the doctor said, “You’ll live to be a thousand,” which is also what Josh told me last week, which makes me immediately think, “God, I hope somebody’s there with me.”
So. Back to my arms. By the end of this week, I’ll have had 220 different drops of goo on my arms and we will have narrowed down the allergy field from everything on the planet to a ridiculously long list. After that it should go down from a manageable amount of things to avoid to finally, this is what was making me feel like shit.
The first day I was selective about what I wanted on my arms. I’m not doing that any longer, as I learned that some of the things I didn’t put on the list because I don’t think I eat them very often are what caused an allergic reaction. I only eat those things occasionally, so if I felt sick afterwards, I didn’t connect it to a food allergy because I’m so used to having allergic reactions to lots of things in my life (perfume, cold air, cats, chin stubble burn).
Here are the drops of food essence (Take that, Lucinda, “I am waiting here to swell. I am waiting to itch like hell…“). After each food is dropped on the super-scientific chart they’ve drawn on my arm in red pen, they prick the bubbles with a syringe, thus exposing my raw skin to the food.
Then, I wait for twenty minutes.
And then it happened.
That red swelling on the lower left hand side of my arm happened almost immediately after the scratch test started. It felt like I’d been stung by a fire ant. I had to sit there for another twenty minutes, not scratching and not moving because I couldn’t disturb all the little food bubbles sitting on my skin. The doctor wiped away the drop, but the damage had been done. My face started itching, the roof of my mouth was itching, and I could feel my eyelids starting to swell with irritation.
This is me trying not to chew my arm off. Everything in my allergist’s office looks like it was snatched off the set of The Cider House Rules. While I was waiting today I heard them typing on a manual typewriter. The kind that dings. From the past.
Yeah, it really sucked. But it’s one welt closer to finding out what’s going on.
So, I tried to distract myself from the itching.
I remembered that this is all for my own good, and I’m very lucky to have health insurance. So here’s my brave face.
The doctor then wipes off all the food dew and feels each place to see how much of a reaction I had. He puts a corresponding number based off of the size of welt that formed. That big, angry hive on my arm wasn’t from wheat. It was red bell pepper, an item I didn’t even ask to test at first, until the doctor asked how often I ate salads.
At the end of day two of testing, here are the list of things I am to avoid for the next three weeks:
wheat, in all forms (including fillers, which means no hamburger, sausage, or meatloaf.)
soy bean (yeah. now you try and eat. no wheat, no soy. i have nothing left in this world but brown rice.)
green olive (so much for my vodka martinis)
[no Mexican food or Indian food. this is very sad. everything with the word “pepper” in it got a reaction.]
Back at Mencia, when the allergies were so bad that people were actually calling me “Miss Blotchy” (yes, they love me), I thought it was due to the large amount of wheat we had to eat every day with our two choices: pizza or Chinese food. But when I was trying to avoid all of that so I didn’t get Office Ass, I would grab the only healthy snack in the building — a handful of trail mix. In that trail mix was almonds, walnuts, cashews and raisins. It is possible that I was giving myself a shock of nut allergies every day (because I don’t usually eat trail mix in my life), and that’s what was causing my body to revolt.
If the “coffee” bubble had caused a welt I would have thrown myself out the window. Other good news: not one meat (other than turkey), seafood, fruit or dairy item made me itch.
So, the doctor said to me today, “This doesn’t mean you’re allergic to all of these things. Your skin reacted to these things, so that’s how we know it’s something to look at. We’ll slowly put these things back into your system after you haven’t had them for a while and we’ll see what it is that triggers a reaction. You might not get hives after eating asparagus. You might get an asthma attack after eating buckwheat crepes.”
More tests on Thursday, which will include pollens, pet hair, insects, and all things nature. Looking over the list of allergens I’ll be getting made me have to say this unfortunate sentence: “I don’t want to know how you got the essence of cockroach in that bottle.”
But after all of this, I’ll be feeling better, which means I won’t look like this:
Dr. House would be so proud of me.