TT: Scratch, Scratch

ALAN: Now Jane, you were going to tell me about the course of injections (or “shots” as you called them) that you were offered to combat your allergies.

JANE: Don’t Brits use the term “shots”?  Interesting…  But too much of a tangent.  I’ll stick to the point.  Get it?  Point???

Prompt and Response

ALAN: Ouch! Nice bit of blunt speaking there…

JANE: Very punny…  Right!  Now to the topic.

After the test I mentioned last week, the doctor suggested I try shots.  Since I was hoping to avoid taking daily medication and I’m not at all worried about shots, I agreed.

I went in for my first shot the day before leaving for World Fantasy Con.  I mention this because this was late October, considered an “off” season for allergies.  I was astonished how little material was in the syringe, and therefore dismissed the fact that I felt a little “off” as trip-related stress.

When we came back, I went in for my second shot.  That evening, my arm started itching, deep down, almost as if under the skin.  I ran my fingers over the surface and felt a bump forming.  I was breaking out in hives.

ALAN: Oh, that sounds ominous. Were the hives particularly bad?

JANE: Oh, they were very bad.  I ended up with hives everywhere on the exterior of my body except for the insides of my mouth, my eyes, and my privates.  They lasted for five and a half months, during which time I also ran a constant low-grade fever.  Except when going out – which I did as infrequently as possible – I wore loose baggy clothing.

Probably the only good thing to come out of this was that I learned which allergy drugs worked best for me, because I could count how many new hives formed if I changed to a less effective drug.

ALAN: That sounds like a very severe reaction, though I do know from personal experience that very small amounts of allergens can cause reactions out of all proportion to their size, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

JANE: No one knows for sure why I reacted so intensely.  The best conclusion I was offered is that, unlike most people, I basically don’t have an “off season,” so the level of allergens in my system is always high, and the shots – minute as they were – were enough to kick my system over into a severe reaction.

ALAN: Since I get allergy attacks all year round, I suspect I don’t have an “off-season” either.

JANE: Needless to say, this reaction meant no more shots for Jane.  I manage my allergies with a careful routine of pills, drops, and inhaler.  (I have allergy-related asthma.)  Most of the time I’m fine, and very, very grateful to live in the twenty-first century.

ALAN: I do pretty much the same. When I get the first symptoms of an allergy attack, I take anti-histamine pills and use a nasal spray. They don’t have much effect on the first day, which is often quite severe. But eventually the drugs kick in and the second day is generally quite mild by comparison and by the third day I’m usually back to normal. But that first day is always a killer. I quickly get dehydrated because I never stop blowing my nose (you wouldn’t believe how much tea I drink) and I stagger through my day like a zombie.

JANE: Your dog, Jake, has allergies, doesn’t he?  How is his treatment going?  He gets shots, right?

ALAN: That’s right. I noticed that he was getting lots of rashes on his tummy and between his toes and, of course, he was constantly licking them (because they itched) which just made things worse. Generally the rashes ended up infected and he had to have antibiotics for the infection and steroid tablets for the rash. Very unpleasant for both of us.

Eventually, at a cost of nearly $500, I got him allergy tested. It’s a similar procedure to what you and I went through except that it involves taking a blood sample which is then screened against a range of allergens. Apparently it’s quite a complex procedure. There aren’t any places in New Zealand that can do it – his blood sample had to be shipped to a lab in America, one of the very few in the world that actually offers the service.

Just like you and me, Jake turned out to be very allergic to pollen, mainly from grasses and daisies and also something called Mugwort, whatever that might be.

JANE: Mugwort?  Aren’t those people who can’t use magic?  No, sorry.  That’s “muggles.”  How are you treating Jake’s allergies?

ALAN: For an extra $300 the lab formulated a vaccine specifically tailored to his allergens and he is currently in the middle of a course of injections which will go on for another four months or so. There is no guarantee that this will work – the success rate is only about 65%. But since the alternative is a lifetime of antibiotics and steroids, we decided the risk was worth taking.

JANE: I think you made a well-reasoned choice.   I hope Jake is in the group for whom the shots – I mean, “injections” – work.

I’ve only had one pet with allergies, my very first cat, Gwydion.  I acquired him as an amiable nine-month or so old stray cat.  After I got him to my apartment, I realized why he didn’t have a home.  Anything he ate came out liquid, including what should be solid.  At that point, my former roommate, Kathy, was working for a kind vet, who sent a device to take a stool sample.

Never having had a cat before, I had no idea how solid a cat’s stool should be, and tried to take a sample of the stinky, liquid goo.  Eventually, we got enough for a test which confirmed no worms or other parasites.  After other tests, the conclusion was food allergies.  Eventually, we found that Gwydion could eat only two foods without bad reactions.  And so that’s what he ate until his death at nineteen.

Have you had any experience with food allergies?  Human or otherwise?

ALAN: Yes – I am strongly allergic to a common food group and highly intolerant of a very common staple food item. I’ll tell you about them next time, unless an allergy attack gets in the way.


6 Responses to “TT: Scratch, Scratch”

  1. James M. Six Says:

    I seem to recall hearing the term “jabs” on British TV shows and/or movies to refer to shots, but they were mostly older shows and movies. Has that term fallen out of fashion?

    • Alan Robson Says:

      Yes, “jabs” is a perfectly acceptable British English equivalent to the American English “shots”. I don’t think it’s fallen out of fashion — certainly it’s a word that I’d use quite happily.


  2. futurespastsite Says:

    What do you call those things “Bones” McCoy used to give on Star Trek? Air puffs?

  3. henrietta abeyta Says:

    Allergies, and plight which isn’t familiar, pleased you survived Jane. My apologies about your hive trouble though, they’re an issue my grandma has when too stressed as well. From watching Grandma struggle with hives when stressed more than we can tell it’s clear they itch painfully. I’m sure hives are harder to leave alone than a small bug bite is.

  4. Talk Hay Fever Says:

    I often look around the internet these days looking solutions to my hay fever. I like to read about new ideas, techniques that I may not have tried before. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your site. Thank you for sharing.

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