This whole “living on my own thing” while mostly wonderful, has come with a few not-so-great items. Mainly–yardwork. I would rather scrub a toilet, take out the trash, wash the dishes, scrub the entire house, and stick my hand inside a raw bird in order to pull out its giblets rather than work in the lawn. I do like plants, but I like them in tidy little pots. Pots that don’t have to be weeded, preferably pots with self-watering reservoirs so when I forget to water them for a day or two they don’t crumple up and die. Also, shrubs are a favorite of mine. And grass. I like to look at grass. I appreciate a good, lush and lustrous lawn from afar, or while traipsing across it with bare feet and a favorite book at hand.
Until this time in my life, I managed to get away with only having to mow the lawn (read–several acres) a couple of times a season because my dad did it most of the time. My parents have a John Deer riding mower, so while the bucking and spewing of noxious fumes did tend to sicken me, I liked to steer it haphazardly around the pear trees and sewage tank access panels. When I moved in here, part of my lease required me to mow the lawns with the provided mower. Glibly, I agreed, and decided that mowing the lawn would be a pleasant way to get outdoors. Boy was I wrong.
Strike one–the push mower that requires silly things unheard of like “priming”. Strike two–the ineffable ability of the grass to resurrect to full, if not fuller, height a day or two after being mowed. Strike three–the horrendous eye-gushing, nose-dripping, throat-tickling mucus and phlegm and pure unadulterated pain that set on me after the first time I mowed the lawns, moved branches, and worked in the yard. For about a week I was ready to burn the grass to the ground.
Then, this past weekend, I mowed the lawns again. This time I wrapped a giant scarf around my face blocking the airflow to my nose and mouth, wore a long sleeved jacket and long pants despite the sweltering heat, and mowed for a couple of hours. I felt fine the next day, other than a tiny bit off stuffiness and sniffling.
I had scheduled an allergy appointment after the first horrendous attack (and due to a lot of similar symptoms I have always had when spending time outdoors, but refused to label as allergies). I went in yesterday, determined to find some answers. Finally I would know just what was causing these unpleasant reactions so that I could avoid them or take some preventative drugs before being exposed.
The doctor decided to give me the works on basic tree, grass, food, animal dander (including dog, cat, and cockroach), mold and other PNW specific allergies. The nurse came in loaded with little glass vials in a tray and a small metal tool that she explained was for “scratching” the skin. She drew on the underside of my arms with a vegetable dye pen (which I have not yet scrubbed off completely successfully), and then set to work. She put little green and yellow colored dots of what looked to be oil extracts up and down my arms (really the allergens). Then I learned that “scratching” really meant taking the metal thing, pushing it into my arm, and turning it hard. All of the little dots bled a little. She also made sure to use a “control”, water, and a histamine to be sure I had a good test. Then she left me for twenty minutes, waiting for my skin to react and bubble up in little circles of pain. (Oh, yeah, and she came back in after two minutes with some more vials because she didn’t notice that the doctor was going to test me for common food allergies as well. With the thirty-something samples already up and down both of my arms, she was forced to roll up my right cap sleeve and commence with some more scratching up there).
The histamine immediately did just that, spreading out with a bright red reaction in my skin, itching, and a white dot in the middle. I waited patiently for the others, especially the trees or the grass, to follow. She checked on me at five minutes, nothing. She checked on my again at ten, saying we still had time. Fifteen, I was getting depressed. At twenty she shook her head, declared “negative” and went off to consult the doctor.
She came back with some more vials, and these ones had needles. She explained that we needed to move on to pollens, which were more powerful, and these were not scratched. No, these were pushed under the skin using the needles.The nurse took back out the pen, rolled up my left cap sleeve, and began making little bubbly deposits of pollen allergens and the control in my left arm, and I watched as little rivulets of blood were pushed out of the holes. Now I was really depressed.
Fifteen minutes went by, and unlike the scratches, I could not feel any reaction whatsoever with the pollen. The nurse shook her head and went back to consult with the doctor. When she returned she told me just to be safe I needed to sneeze onto saran wrap so they could analyze my snot and see if it told them anything… It took me three tries to summon up enough snot for the nurse, and then I sat there a bit longer. At this point it was just ridiculous.
Eventually the doctor came in to consult, but I already knew what the outcome would be. I, Emilie, have no allergies whatsoever. The doctor surmised that I am probably sensitive to changes in temperature and barometer that induce allergy like symptoms, and are treated with an allergy spray. So I have fake allergies. Allergy mimics. That I treat with allergy medicine. But they aren’t allergies.
Don’t even think about going Adelaide on me and singing about “psychosomatic symptoms”.
So about fifty scratches and pokes and blood drops and snots later we have officially determined that I am a super human with no allergies whatsoever.