Thursday, November 18, 2004

My head has been exploding at random times

The first time was about three weeks ago. It was completely unexpected. I'd just finished lunch (an innocuous organic frozen Indian dinner, microwaved in the staff room) and was sitting quietly at my desk, deleting some of the 1700 emails in my in-box, when the overheated feeling that had been gradually creeping up on me passed some kind of tipping point and I had the distinct sense that my ears and cheeks were on fire. I looked in a mirror (we have bunch of them, cute little Seuss-y things from Ikea) and saw that my face had turned roughly the shade of a stop sign. By this time I was well and truly panicked, and ran to the clinic to get two ice packs, as the burning, prickly sensation had now definitely passed from "uncomfortable" into "oh my god my face is on fire! Can't work! Can't do anything! Help! Help!" Ran back to the staff room with an ice pack on each cheek to see if anyone still there had any advice.

Advice ranged from "maybe you should call your doctor" to "get to the emergency room! Now! Right away! Before your throat closes up and you go into anaphylactic shock!" My bright idea was to take an antihistamine, but no one could find any. Finally we came up with a couple of Benadryl. I took them and sat in the clinic holding my ice packs until the whole itchy-burning-redness thing calmed down, which it did about 20 minutes later.

I called the frozen organic dinner people, not to complain, just to check if anyone else had had something like that happen, and they confirmed that there was no MSG in the dinner, and clucked and were very sympathetic and nice about it and sent me some free coupons. I called my GP and my dermatologist and left messages, and they both called back and essentially said "Huh. Weird. But you're okay now? Well, let us know if it happens again. And carry Benadryl around."

It happened again the next day. Right after lunch. This time lunch was homemade French onion soup with croutons and Swiss cheese. (I made it, I was very proud of myself for actually cooking, but see where it got me!) This time I jumped up as soon as I felt it start--a kind of tight, itchy sensation around the ears and eyebrows--and took two Benadryl, and those little pink numbers pounded it down before it got to the ice-pack stage.

Theories abounded: I was allergic to the staff room. To the microwave. To some unidentified spice that was present in both lunches. To some medication or other. To cheese. To soy. I did controlled experiments over the next several days: sitting in the staff room without eating; eating something unheated; microwaving something that I'd had at home the day before; eating cheese; eating soy. I made a doctor's appointment; she listened to my symptoms and said, "Huh. That's weird. Let me know if it happens again and I'll refer you to an allergist." My co-workers began to perk up every time I came in for lunch, anticipating more excitement. Nada.

About a week later, I took Mermaid Girl out for dinner at the Dragon Restaurant, a cheapo steam-table Chinese joint that we both love and RW hates. I was just starting in on my General Tso's Chicken and Sezhuan Tofu when Mermaid Girl announced she had to pee. Fine. We went to the bathroom together. She's just starting to be able to go into the stall by herself, so she promptly locked herself in and took her sweet time. I heard vague rustling noises. A shoe dropped to the floor. I nagged her to get out. She insisted she wasn't done.

Then... I felt it start again. That burning feeling. That rising panic. "Out!" I howled. "You have to get OUT! NOW! WE HAVE TO LEAVE RIGHT AWAY!" Because of course I didn't have any Benadryl with me, and I was afraid that if it got too bad I wouldn't be able to drive us home.

Mermaid Girl whined. She complained. She dragged her feet and cried that I was bossy and mean and she wasn't even DONE yet, as I rubbed her hands together under the faucet and dragged her out of there, and asked for a to-go container (unable even in that extremity to let yummy Chinese food go to waste), and shoved her into her booster seat. I drove home on side streets, just in case I was too wigged out to be safe with other cars.

When we got home I took two bennies and explained a little more coherently about what was going on, and apologized for scaring her (because of course she was scared), but noted that sometimes there is an emergency, like a fire drill, and I have to be bossy to keep us safe. She finished her sesame chicken, I called the restaurant to check about ingredients (no MSG, again) and things were basically okay.

Then, nothing for over a week. Even after we went to the Dragon restaurant again (for takeout, this time).

Then three episodes this week, all at work, two of them hours away from any food ingestion at all. The latest one was yesterday and was so bad that even with two Benadryl it took over an hour for the redness to fade completely, and I was spaced out from the antihistamine for the rest of the afternoon and did a rotten job with my classes.

I have an allergist appointment for next Tuesday. I've never been allergic to anything in my life before and have no idea what this is. It is the weirdest thing, and more than a little scary.

At least none of the episodes has involved anaphylactic shock. And I don't appear to be allergic to Chinese food. I don't think I could stand that.


Blogger Lilly said...


Poor puppy! Allergies can be so frightening, and my Grandmother had extensive life experience dealing with very complex food allergies, so I am passing along her wisdom here:

* Buy a travel size benadryl and keep it in your purse. Have it with you every day until you are sure this thing is known and resolved. Keep additional ones at home & work.

* Find out who the top allergist is in your area and make sure you see that person. Grandma would do this by calling several area general practitioners and hospitals and asking who they think are the "top 5" allergists in the area. Make a list. The same name or two will soon be obvious. Grandma would say you want the top guy because treating allergies requires special talent.

* Keep a food diary. Every meal, every snack. Write it down and note if you had any reaction. If you had a reaction, note what happened & how long it went on. This is often the most effective tool to tracking down a food allergy.

* To the extent that you can right now, eat only what you know to be safe for you. Allergies sometimes occur because of low level exposure over a long time, building up and irritating you until one day your body hits the point where it can't deal with it anymore. This is called "saturation" theory, and often givig your system a rest by retreating to foods you are pretty darn sure are safe can help your body to once again deal with the sometime irriation.

Yeah, I know this was way long for a comment, but my Grandma & I both care & we both worry. Feel better, Els!!

9:22 PM  
Blogger jilbur said...

Fuckity. That is sucking for sure. *furrows brow* I hope the allergist has some insights for you. Take care xoxox

6:17 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

Dude! Bummer! Wow!

5:22 PM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

At least when I'm having allergy issues I know why!
Sorry you are suffering so.

5:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home