Some time ago, I became allergic to everything. I’d always had a few mild allergies to a few foods, things like avocados and sunflower seeds, and I managed just fine (though Southern Californians are forever baffled by anyone who doesn’t eat avocado). Then the food allergies began to grow, in both number and severity, joined by what I surmised was a type of pollen-dust mites-airborne-something allergy that presented itself like a long-lingering cold. At some point, I became allergic to almost every raw fruit, vegetable, tree nut, or seed. Almost every, but not every; the uncertainty made every meal a gamble. Some cooked foods bothered me, too, and sometimes raw foods that had bothered me once didn’t do so again. The hay fever-or-whatever-it-was kept getting worse, too, waking me every hour of the night like a colicky newborn, to swaddle in a pile of damp tissues and nurse my own soggy head.
I mentioned the allergies to my obstetrician again on Monday morning. She told me allergy sufferers should feel better when pregnant, not worse. My own research suggested this was not necessarily true, but I didn’t want to press the point. Instead I went home and ordered a box of Breathe-Right strips that accomplished nothing except violently exfoliating a portion of my nose.
Then on Monday night, I ate a piece of toffee covered in crushed almonds and embarked on one of the most acutely unpleasant nights of my life. I’ll pause here and say, for any worried relatives reading, that I never once felt I was in serious danger. If I had, I would have gone to the hospital immediately, but at no time was I unable to breathe, talk, or swallow. Instead I suffered eight hours of mild but miserable symptoms: my eyes watered and burned; my nose streamed; my throat, my nostrils, my scalp, my gums, the insides of my ears, my entire skull itched.
Tuesday morning, I called my primary care doctor, the first step in the HMO obeisance necessary to see an allergist. My doctor ordered some blood tests and asked me a series of questions. First: When had all this started?
I have no idea. I had been operating under the assumption that this was all caused by pregnancy but now that I really think about it, had the allergies maybe come first? I think they were bothering me in the summer, or the early fall. I know I had some problems with sunflower seeds sometime…