Monday, October 1, 2012

Health Corner, Edition 1

    As promised, here is the first installment of our Health Corner!  I hope this will be informative, not too over the top, and not boring!  I thought I would start with the thing that has been plaguing me for the longest and is probably the strangest of them all: my allergies.  As I mentioned, my allergies didn't start until I was about 20.  I didn't have any kind of anything allergy wise until then.  Both of my parents and several of my siblings had "hay fever" and had taken allergy shots for years to get over their allergies, but I had never suffered any of this. 
     The first time anything happened was during a summer between college semesters,  I had a headache and had asked someone if they had ibuprofen.  They had Motrin.  I didn't realize it was the same thing and I took the equivalent of 800mg.  Within about an hour, the person I was working with asked me what was wrong with my face.  I looked in the mirror and my face was swollen like Quasimodo.  My mom brought me Benadryl and after about a day, it went back to normal.  During the next year of college, I took Advil, Aleve, and Ibuprofen again not realizing it was all the same, and got the same reaction.  I also took an Aspirin and got a much smaller but similar reaction.  During the same year, I also started having an itchy tongue and swollen lower lip anytime I ate Mexican food or bell peppers.  I finally figured out it was the Avocados in the Mexican food causing the reaction.
    Slowly over the next few years, I started having the same reaction (swelling lower lip and itchy tongue) with more and more fresh fruits and vegetables.  I have had 2 children and after each child, the allergies got increasingly worse.  After my 1st son was born, I finally went and had the skin allergy testing done,  I believe there are 9 areas they test in.  I wasn't allergic to anything in the mold category, but in every other category, I was allergic to everything but 1 item in each category.  I started the allergy shots and allergy medication.  I hadn't gotten very far into them and found out I was pregnant so they told me to stop the shots until after the baby was born.  I started again 6 weeks after my 2nd son was born.  I made it into the 2nd vial before I had my first reaction.  They had me back off and only take shots once a week.  I had another reaction a month later.   The doctor then had me restart from the beginning and then only do one shot a week.  I had another reaction within a month again.  It was at that time she told me I had to stop allergy shots and said I could NEVER do them again.
     6 months later, I went to New York with my husband.  I had a very severe reaction to something while I was there.  To this day, I am still convinced it was the Yankee's shirt I bought to wear for the game, (no offence to Yankee's fans, although I did have to tease my Dad it was because I was unwillingly supporting his team!).  I had hives and swelling all over my body and ended up in the E.R. there and again in Utah when I went to pick up my boys.  Since that event, I have had 14 other similar reactions.  Some of them I know exactly what caused it, like an antibiotic, latex, or laundry detergent, but most of the others I have know idea.  I now have to be on 5 antihistamines a day to keep from having reactions and carry around an emergency kit EVERYWHERE I go, just in case and even have to pack my own laundry detergent and bar soap anytime we go out of town.  I have had to use it on more than one occasion too.  The reactions are very scary, especially when your lips start swelling because your lips are close to your tongue, a tongue swelling could mean anaphylaxis and death!  This has also happened MANY times to me in the middle of the night, when my husband is out of town, and I have 2 young children.  It is VERY scary!
     Over the last approximately 12 years, I have had to give up eating all fresh vegetables, nuts, and fruits (except the berry family).  I have to make sure they are either cooked, dried, or processed somehow before I can consume them and even then, some things like bananas and nuts I just have to avoid.  Just in this last year, I have been introduced to 2 new possibilities, however!  One of them I am still very leery of, but the second one I did and I am happy to say that for the past month, I have been able to eat lettuce again!  This was the last food I had to give up and that was over 3 years ago!  Can you imagine not being able to eat a salad for 3 years!  Can I tell you how foolish I feel at social events when there is nothing but salads and unhealthy foods to choose from!  "Well, I'd like to take the salad, but I really don't want to go into anaphylactic shock, so I guess I will have the jello salad and  . . ."  It is just a bit frustrating!
    The first possibility is sublingual allergy drops.  They are basically the same idea as the shot where you are given very small amounts of the allergens you are allergic to, under your tongue each day, building up your bodies immunities to these allergies.  You give yourself the drops each day at home.  I have been very nervous about these because they are very new in the United States and frankly, putting them right under my tongue when I have had my lips swell so many times before and had an itchy tongue from causes unknown, freaks me out just a bit!  Right now, insurances will not pay for this because it is still considered an investigational drug, so it is a bit pricey too.  (Here is a link to the John Hopkins Center if you want to read more on their page about Sublingual drops:
    The second possibility, I am going to put on hold until the second edition, because it goes hand in hand with the next topic. . .
    Like I said, I hope this was informative in the manner that maybe someone has had similar problems.  I have only met 2 other people since all of this started who have had anything similar to this, and one of them happens to be a sister starting to have the same symptoms and I am hoping I can find a way to save her from going through what I have!  I hope this was not too boring, and I promise to follow it up in the next edition.  Until next time, Happy Health!


Carlie said...

Oh my goodness! That's scary! I thought my unexplained health stuff was bad, but after reading this, I think you have me beat. I hope they figure out what's going on soon! I'm glad you found something that is starting to help!

Dori @ Bell Jar Vintage said...

My son suffers from severe food allergies and could not eat ANY store-bought food for 5 years. He drank goat's milk and ate amaranth crackers that I ordered online. That's pretty much what he lived on for years. It was so sad. He has outgrown most of his food allergies with some exceptions that will probably never happen. And due to his age, he now has major texture issues with food. He does not eat meat because he can't get over the textures. (He was allergic to chicken, beef, pork, and seafood when he was born.) His face would break out when he ate fruit, so now he still doesn't like to try it. And I can't blame him - it's so scary! When food is dangerous, how do you learn to try new things?
Needless to say, I'll be on the lookout for your part 2! :)

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