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Monday, April 28, 2003  

Allergy Whiz

Over recent years, the more I became aware of the prevalence of allergies in the population, the more I appreciated not having any. I’m glad I got to enjoy it for a while.

I should have known they were coming. Both my dad and his dad got allergies after they were thirty. In Grandpa’s case, his environmental resistance went south after an occasion on which he mixed up a potent, home-brewed weedkiller recipe—equal parts DDT, jet fuel, mercury, and water from the cooling tower of a nearby nuclear power plant—and carried it in a five-gallon bucket that sloshed over and soaked the leg of his pants as he walked. This was before anybody knew how dangerous that stuff was, of course. I guess he figured he’d get rid of that black nightshade in the south forty if it was the last thing he did—and it nearly was. He recovered, and lived a long and healthy life after that, but he continued to present allergy-like symptoms when doused in deadly chemicals for the rest of his life.

When my dad was a few years older than I am now, he got sick when he was out of town on business, and he got a shot of some bad penicillin. I guess it was moldy or something. He instantly contracted serum sickness and swelled to a size that required him to be flown home in a cargo plane. He also recovered, but now he’s off all forms of penicillin for good and will cross the street to avoid a tablet of Erythromycin.

I envy them both. I don’t have a history that sounds like an origin story from Marvel Comics. All I have is a nose that feels like somebody buffed it with thirty-grit sandpaper and then detonated a tiny frag grenade in it.

There are several factors at work here, all of which tie into the fact that it’s spring. I have two cats who are doffing their winter coats, and one of them thinks my face is his closet. I’m spending an unaccustomed amount of time outside trying to get grass to grow on the uncooperative cookie sheet that is my back yard, and all the raking and bagging and gathering and trimming is kicking up enough dust and pollen to construct an allergen Golem.

I know, I know. I’m thirty-three years old, and I should suck it up. Other people have lived with allergies all their lives and you don’t see them standing out on a ledge (unless it’s to get away from the pollen and cat dander inside). But that’s exactly my point. I’m not a mature allergy sufferer who has made my uneasy peace with the world’s microscopic spikies and the suffering they cause me; I’ve only been doing this for a year. So I’m going to kick and scream and bitch about it like the one-year-old infant I am in this department.

Here’s something I’ve learned: allergies are worse than a cold. If you have a cold, you can take a couple of days off work, sleep sixteen hours a day, and marinate your brain in buzz-inducing cough medicine. If your allergies are acting up, too bad. When was the last time you heard of somebody being laid up with hay fever? I’d like to think that the social contract gives more leeway to sick people because…well, because they’re sick, dammit, and they’re going to get better, and their symptoms affect their whole bodies. Whereas those of us who can’t hold our histamines have woes that are confined to one small area—the nasal area, in this case, and if I just wait for them to go away I won’t be going to work until June. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the real reason is more insidious: allergies, unlike cold and flu and SARS, are not contagious. The social contract can be a self-serving, cold-hearted bastard when it wants to be.

I wouldn’t even mind being at work if I didn’t have to be awake the whole time. If I could take a nap, that would at least be a temporary break from the cycle I’m currently trapped in: the nose itches, which causes a sneeze, which causes post-nasal drip, which requires me to blow it, which triggers another itch, and repeat until I look like a drunk Michael Jackson.

So it’s clear what I need to do. I’ve made a plan of escalating measures, each step of which I will implement only if the previous step fails to work.

Step 1: Complain until nobody wants to be around me any more. Done and done.

Step 2: Dip more assertively into the huge stash of (entirely legal) allergy medicine that Girl Detective dropped on me last spring. I’ve been taking a Claritin a day, but the only satisfaction I’m getting there is from the sugar coating on the outside of the pill. Mmm, tasty.

Step 3: Buy a neti pot.

Step 4: Shrink-wrap myself until July 4. I think I still have that chemical suit lying around somewhere…

Step 5: Shrink-wrap the cats. Remember the coffee filters.

Step 6: Go to the doctor and see if I can’t get my upper respiratory system replaced.

Step 7: Use the neti pot (shudder).

I can tell things are getting bad when I’m actually considering the idea of pouring saltwater up my nose. Do you suppose I could get anesthetized for that?

Better yet, do you suppose I could get anesthetized until summer? Thanks, that’d be great.

posted by M. Giant 3:21 PM 0 comments


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