Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ramblings: living with allergies

Yes, I have allergies. Not the most common, nor all that bad, as far as allergies can go, but I still have them, and they still affect my life.
I think allergies seem to be becoming more common. People can be allergic to all sorts of things, to various degrees. I think is something exists, then more than likely, someone in the world has an allergy or sensitivity to it.
The common ones I've heard of are things like nuts, pollen (hay-fever), bee-stings, cats, and dust. I know people who have small irritations, blistering rashes, right down to anaphylaxis.
Personally, I have a few. I have an allergy to pine nuts. Just to confuse things, they're actually seeds, not nuts, so a proportion of those with nut allergies can eat them, but I appear to be the other way around, being able to eat nuts without trouble. Thankfully, they're pretty easy for me to avoid. Generally, if food is bought from somewhere, pine nuts are included in the description of the dish, and with my own cooking, I don't buy them. I just have to avoid pesto, and things with pesto in them.
Secondly, I have a nickel allergy. It's probably one of the more common allergies out there. At the start, I wondered why I would get itchy ears, or weeping bumps at the bottom of my abdomen. It was only when I began to develop blisters from cheap jewellery that it clicked. It was earrings irritating my ears, belt buckles and buttons on jeans on my stomach, coins in my pocket leaving rashes on my hips. You know how in some Hollywood movies or TV shows about vampires (because there's been loads the last couple of years) a silver chain will kind of stick to the skin and leave blistering, weepy welts? That's what my skin was like after accidentally falling asleep with a new necklace on. It was painful and weepy for days, and stuck to the collar of my shirt at the band competition at the weekend. I've been wearing the same pair of sterling silver hoops almost constantly for a year and a half. All my regular-wear jewellery is hallmarked sterling silver. (as a side note: if anyone knows where I can buy a pair of 16g plain titanium studs (ie. no stones), drop me a comment - my hoops are starting to wear out, but I can't find what I want)
Then we have my sensitivity to rapeseed pollen. It bothered me for years, but last year the replaced the field beside my parents house with an experimental GM crop, and my symptoms practically disappeared. Sure, I was all weepy-eyed and snot nosed as soon as I was around the normal stuff again, but that bit of peace was nice. Plus, not being in the country anymore looks like it may just make a vast, vast difference.

Then there's the one thing that makes the biggest difference to my life, because it's practically impossible to avoid: PERFUME! All the other things just take a little bit of preparation, or awareness, to avoid a reaction. Just like anything else, with allergies, preparation,and avoidance are key. I can't prepare or avoid perfume, because I never know when I'm going to be exposed to it. I can never know if the person who is walking behind me is about to top up her perfume. I can never be prepared for the girl that sits next to me in the tiny, cramped lecture hall when she comes in with a cloud of scent surrounding her, and staying well after she leaves. I can't even enter some of the shops I would like to visit. But the thing is, it's not just a case of me moaning about someone spraying a little too much, or about the nasty mixture of different smells in the changing rooms. I have both contact, and airborne allergies. I get rashes if the spray lands on me, I get hives from some, bruise-like marks from some of the strong eau-de-parfums. My breathing gets progressively more uncomfortable, my nose screams, my eyes weep, within minutes I have a thudding migraine. And its not just perfumes. Body spray, deodorants, air fresheners. Even various fragranced cosmetics/body products give me the contact allergy if I use them/get them on me.
What's even harder is that it is not all which do that. It must just be a few common fragrances, because there are two perfumes I have so far not reacted to, along with various cosmetics. But with the lack of specificity on the ingredients label, I can never figure it out.
It's does make me wonder though, how some people with really bad allergies, or even just much more of them, manage. What about people with really severe nut allergies who are affected merely by someone else having touched a surface earlier? I don't think about mine all the time, because a lot of things have become habitual, but that doesn't make things any easier when you can't avoid it.

Anyway, rambling over, though rather conclusion-less. No matter. Speak again soon.

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  1. I love pine nuts but ever since I got "pine mouth" from them last year, I henceforth avoid them. Horrible experience.

    Here in Canada, I sometimes see signs that say, "This is a scent-free building" for people with allergies and sensitivities to perfumes. Do they have such things where you live?

    I wonder if seeing a naturopathic doctor or a homeopath might be helpful in getting to the root of the allergies with which you suffer and finding a way to be free of them.

    1. Oh dear. That sounds like a nasty experience. I hope it didn't last too long.
      I've never heard of a scent-free building before. I wish we had them here. As much relief as I get is at the OTC, because we shouldn't wear perfume and make-up with our combats. Elsewhere, though, people can pretty much wear what they like, and as much as they like.
      I'll look into homeopathy and such. I head there is a homeopathic doctor somewhere in the city, so that's a possibility. If nothing else it could just make things easier to deal with.