Today I went to see an allergist. I had that infamous skin allergy test, where they poke holes in your skin with little needles and fill them with all these allergic toxins. My idea of a wild afternoon, I suppose. I do realize everyone else in the universe did that when they were 12, but not me…I guess my allergies came late. Around 14 I started getting itchy eyes after I played with my friend’s cats, and it’s been nothing but downhill ever since.
Anyway, so they punched 20 holes into the soft skin of my forearms and told me to go sit in the waiting room near the window to the lab, so they could see me just in case I passed out. Comforting. I tried to read a magazine but I couldn’t concentrate on it because the pricks on my arm were so blindingly uncomfortable. Itch wasn’t even the word really, it was more like the searing burn of a thousand cat scratches (which, by the way, give me an allergic reaction). Then I didn’t want my arms to touch anything because the solutions were forming beads on my skin that I didn’t want to end up on my clothes. So I was holding the book awkwardly above my legs, and my skin was so itchy that it took a fair amount of willpower not to yank myself to the floor and writhe around, rubbing my forearms on the coarse carpeting like a dog with an inflamed rear end.
After fifteen minutes the lab tech, Ursula, a soft-spoken Haitian woman with motherly eyes, calls me back in to review my urgently spreading welts. She props a measuring tool over several spots and writes some numbers on a sheet of paper behind her.
“Ragweed is bad, birch, oak, grass. Cats and dogs…some. A lot for dust mites. Do you have carpeting in your bedroom?”
“Yes,” I reply.
She shakes her head disapprovingly. “Can you get rid of it?”
I don’t answer, I just stare at her. Truth is I want a house with all hardwood floors, but we are waiting until we have our “forever” home to shoulder that expense.
“And does your dog or cat sleep in the same room as you at night?” Her once pleasantly lilting Haitian accent is starting to get to me now.
“Yes. The dog sleeps on the floor beside my bed.”
“Can you move him to another room at night and close the door?”
Then she proceeded to give me a list of preventative measures to curb my allergies, like pillowcase covers, an air purifier, washing my sheets in hot water. Then she moved on to further instructions like keeping my windows closed and the A/C on all summer long (except between grass, trees and ragweed seasons – July 15th – August 5th), driving with my windows up, exercising indoors…
…yeah, and that was where I stopped listening.
I mean. You’ve got to be freaking kidding me, right? What, am I supposed to live in a sterilized bubble? Run in the gym all summer? Keep my dog out of the bedroom all winter? THAT’S the only way you’ve got to help me control these horrible allergies (which, the British-accented allergist later informed me, keep me in a constant state of low-grade sinus infection)? Whatever happened to becoming immune to allergies by exposure? Dealing with some things and controlling the rest? My allergies are caused by naturally-occuring materials that just exist around me, no matter what. The whole world is made up of nature, and being out in the world makes me my happiest self. Trees are majestic and protective creatures that line the paths on my favorite runs. The wind blowing through open windows makes me want to dance. My dog and cat? They’re my answer to children. Give all that up for the possibility of a few less sneezes and watery eyes? No way!
What the heck to people with worse allergies than me do for fun?
At any rate, it turns out that I’m not being forced to give up my entire life and live in a sterile bubble…yet. When I got back to the allergist’s office she recommended a CT Scan of my sinus cavity and a visit to the ENT. This would be because, according to her, my sinuses are 75% blocked, and no amount of air purification would help me at this point without first performing some sort of “reset” to get rid of the blockages and inflammation that my many years of untreated allergies have caused. Oh, my poor nose and face. I apologized to them on my way back to work (yeah, I really did).
Huh. And I thought I was having a “good” sinus day today.