Collecting Obscure Allergies

Although I must have watched every episode when I was a kid, I don’t remember much about the Little House on the Prairie tv series. Except that I think I remember one time Pa warning Ma that pride cometh before a fall. Which is to say, I used to feel so (smugly) sorry for people who had allergies, and for their itchy, swollen, teary eyes and squeaky achoo after achoo after achoo but for the last six years or so, my life has been one discovery after another of all the things in the universe it is possible to become allergic too.

(Before you condemn me as a completely inhumane monster, this was back in the days where hardly anyone had deadly allergies. The closest I can think of was my mom’s best friend’s youngest daughter was allergic to milk for the first few months of her life and had to be bottle fed a soy formula, which is kind of hilarious because nowadays, given her political inclinations, it’s pretty easy to imagine her ranting on about the sorts of people who drink vegetable milks, and my mom was always telling me that you couldn’t bring chocolate treats to school on your birthday because there were children out there unfortunate enough to be allergic to chocolate, and although this was back in the days when carob was sort of hip, I now don’t believe for a second that anyone was ever allergic to chocolate. Although the way my life has been going….)

It all began for me with mold and mildew. Suddenly, one day, they made me wheeze. Next, I collected a very bang on trend allergy to wheat and rye (although not a deadly allergy, just one that makes me wheeze and snore and gives me dandruff, gastritis, and unbearably itchy eyeballs). Then birch pollen, hazel pollen, and possibly also alder pollen joined the team, followed by cross reactions to peaches, pears, nectarines, Cape gooseberries, kiwi fruit, hazelnuts, and………… uncooked carrots! (That last one I really found out the my whole face blew up like a balloon kind of hard way, with my having to beg and plead for anti-histamines through the tiny window at the after-hours emergency pharmacy while the pharmacist stood there trying to decide if she should refuse and send me to the emergency room and then when she asked what I’d eaten that I’d reacted so badly to, I’d had to say… Um, carrots?)

Oh and in between I had an allergic reaction to… sunlight. It hit me on the first day of a backpacking trip along the former West German-East German border on a super sunny week in August and was that ever painful the whole time, all over my calves, like my skin was on fire the whole time, even through long pants. The weird thing was, it wasn’t enough sun to cause a sunburn. But everyone I knew, including my mother and my mother-in-law, was like oh, that’s just a sun allergy! Happens to me, too!! Like, super cheerfully, as if this sort of thing was also supposed to happen to me.

Then day before yesterday I discovered yet another one of those unusual things that it is possible to be allergic to.

I took the dog out for a walk. The day was cold, but not super cold (upper 30’s on the Fahrenheit scale, or about 3 degrees C), but there was no sun and an icy wind. But I couldn’t feel the wind until we’d gotten down to the end of the street and turned the corner, so I’d left the house with an adequate jacket, scarf, hat, mittens, and warm, furry boots but with only thin lycra leggings on my legs. When we were on the return leg of our 2.2 miles, I was like, okay, this is a bit chilly on my legs. But look at me! Not a problem!!! I bet I could train myself to run around in shorts!

Take that, cold weather!

Then, about ten minutes after I got home, I was like, hmm, why is the skin on the right side of my right thigh BURNING. Really, seriously, BURNING, like I’d opened up a battery and smeared the “acid” inside all over my flesh.

I ducked into the bathroom to check it out and discovered I was covered in a prickly rash. And what Dr. Internet said was that this was… an allergic reaction to severe cold.

I mean, honestly, what next? Water?

Then I remembered that I’d had this twice before, once all over my fingertips for months during my first miserably cold winter ever, which was in Boston, and then again the next year during a much less cold winter in England that was still, at that time, the second coldest winter I’d ever had to endure. I’d just assumed I had broken out with a herd of the world’s tiniest warts both times, each one of the dozens the size of a pin prick, and ran around with bandages covering the tips of all ten of my fingers.

But then I flew to Hawaii in February for a work conference and they were gone by the time I reached my hotel room. At which point, I’d decided that, whatever they were, I never needed to have them ever again, since it had to be, on some level, in my head…?

Until now, that strategy had worked perfectly.

But now I know that they could disappear so quickly because they can disappear so quickly. That’s just how it works. Go be warm and toasty and it should go away. So that’s my new strategy… stay cozy!… and I shall pursue it through the entire winter. Although I’m not sure that the dog, who loves nothing – not even dried pig ears nor our neighbor Monika – more than his walks, will be pleased.

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