Cindy vs. The World: A Testimony of an Environment Allergy Scratch Test Panel

NURSE

“Cindy, you can’t anything, and you can’t go anywhere. What do we do?”

Flash back to twenty minutes earlier…

I had my scratch today. I was so beyond excited, if for no other reason than it meant I could go back on antihistamines. I was fine on Shabbat, but as soon as Sunday aka Day 2 rolled around I was done with the world. I felt like a junkie, counting down the hours until I could go back on Zyrtec.

After a pretty horrific drive in the LA rain to the doctor’s office (thank God his office is a mile away, in practically a straight line. Because some of us had questionable eyesight and reaction time this morning and all of us in this city drive like morons in the rain), it was time for the test. We tested 72 different environmental allergens. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of having a scratch test, what happens is the nurse pricks your arm with a histamine to make sure your skin reacts in general. Then, she pricks your back with a series of little white plastic things that just tap an allergen to your skin. Each plastic bracket is marked to indicate a different allergen. After 25 minutes (or less but usually not), the nurse and doctor return to evaluate how big the bumps get. You may have no bumps. You may have 72. The severity of the allergy is indicated by a number 1-4 and a letter A-D, referring to the scope of the redness and the height of the bump (ie swelling). Imagine the worst mosquito bite possible. It’s like 50 times more burny and itchy than that.

Anyway.

The nurse said she’d come back after 5 minutes, instead of 25, since my history is you know, severe and I react quickly. She came in after 2, but we still had a ways to go (I mean, I was in pain, but we weren’t finished yet). Then she came in at 5 and called the doctor in. He waited a couple more minutes and at minute 8 came in and sighed. I asked him to take a picture. He said I wouldn’t want to see it. Then he got out the sheet and started noting things. Forty seven things, to be exact, many with a 3C, some 2Bs, 3Bs, a 4B and two 4cs.  I was allergic to 46/75 foods, so I guess this is just my ballpark lucky number range. If only roulette went up to the forties…

I don’t know what half the things I’m allergic to are. The names are all scientific. But it’s every tree and grass and dust, some weeds, some mold but not most, cats (like astronomically) dogs (which is preposterous since I’m around dogs all the time and I’m fine), goats (but I loved Elvis my zoo goat!), rabbits (guess I won’t get a pet), not horses (thank God!!!), and not cottonseed (which is a lie, since that was all anaphylaxis-y when I ate it). These scratch tests aren’t 100% accurate. But they are accurate enough that shots will help.

Anyway, I got some cream, some antihistamines, and spent the rest of the day like a worn out zombie who needed to soak in a tub of oatmeal. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to just scream. My clothes hurt. I had to wear a skimpy dress that’s basically too big on top and backless with a comfy loose sweater over it so that nothing would hit my hives. I’m glad I work in an environment where that’s okay, because if I had to dress up for work I’d have stayed home. One zyrtec, one claritin, a bunch of steroid cream and vaporub later, and it’s time for my Zyrtec. As I write this I am trying not to scream. I screamed earlier, when I was doing the math for the Scoggins Report (which, ps, ya’ll should subscribe to, because it’s awesome and also SpecScout is awesome), and realized that I’m sick of movies being action thrillers. Somehow, I think I’m more mad at the hives and expressing it poorly. Either way. Yelling is cathartic.

The bright side, though — because bright sides are the only sides I like to see — I now know why I can’t eat on certain days, I know why I don’t feel well often, and I’m finally going to get shots to fix it. I can’t believe what my body fights through every day, and I feel so beyond blessed that I am as healthy as I am. I hope in 3-5 years when the shots do their thing, I’ll be able to stand a lot more foods just by virtue of the fact that my body won’t be fighting the outside and the food at the same time. Just one demon at a time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go lather more cream on. Maybe rinse off the hives, too. Rap til I feel better. Or, sing Christina Aguilera’s “Keeps Getting Better” because that song helps everything.

Emmys! (and some hives)

It’s the superbowl of TV…the Emmy Awards! Only, there’s no typical food for this major American holiday, which is a shame. It’s my turn to host the Emmy’s “party” this year (read: a few friends in sweatpants sitting on a couch watching the show), and I decided to cook what will maybe become an Emmy’s staple menu.

Main Dish:

Homemade pizza — for recipe, see here.

Side:

Fried zucchini — essentially, zucchinni fried with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Dessert:

Strawberry chocolate oat muffins – a twist on my pumpkin oat muffins (vegan! gluten free! nut-free! woo-hoo!) only with pureed strawberry and some chocolate powder instead of pumpkin…or cherries

It all would have been an absolutely SUPERB dinner to accompany a really incredible Emmy show (Homeland! Homeland! Homeland!) but I erupted into hives for a reason I simply can’t understand.

Or maybe I can understand it. Last Monday, on the second night of Rosh Hashana, we had the traditional new fruits to make a blessing for the new year. I am allergic to most fruits, certainly exotic fruits, so I didn’t eat them. No one anticipated an airborne reaction, because there was no horseradish involved. And yet, I broke out into hives for a few days following that meal. My guess right now is that I had an apple that was right next to the fruits, and as with the horseradish incident of Passover, I think the apple absorbed some of the other fruits’ essences. Apples are pretty absorbent — they’re known to absorb most of the pesticides sprayed on them, for instance — and since I had definitely not overdosed on apples and that’s what I was eating when the hives began, I can only imagine they are the culprit. It’s been under a week, and I haven’t been strict about my Benadryl usage, but these sorts of hives can reappear for days. So I’m betting it’s that. Or I overdosed on wheat, with it being in the pizza, and having challah pretty regularly as part of all the ritual meals. Not that I’ve been eating a ton of challah, but I’ve had less wheat over more time than in most weeks (most weeks I eat wheat only on the weekends, in huge amounts. This week, I’ve had bread at many meals, but in small amounts).

Either way, my traditional Emmys meal was slightly marred, but very delicious, so here’s to hoping that next year:

a) I’m closer to winning an Emmy

b) my allergies are in check enough to eat the above foods totally 100% safely