Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It Was In The Cheese

For a good two decades the mystery has endured. What was I allergic to? Was it penicillin or sulfur? I was in 3rd grade; I woke up; my mouth, lips, tongue, and throat were all swollen. It was a bit difficult to breathe. I was having a reaction, an allergic reaction, and staying true the habit of my family....we did not go to the hospital. (I now realize we were "uninsured" so that was why going to the doctor never made the top ten list when we were sick etc.)

I stopped taking the nasty liquid. My mouth, lips, tongue, and throat returned to their proper proportional sizes. All was well. Well, not really. My mother forgot to write down the medication I reacted too. From age 8 on, whenever I did go to the doctor I just told them, "I'm allergic to either penicillin or sulfur, not sure which one."

The doctors always looked at me hoping they could still write the standard prescription, "Well, what exactly happens when you take medication with either penicillin or sulfur in it?"

"Oh, you know, my airways constrict, and I can't breathe. I almost die."

They promptly found alternative medicine choices. Don't want to chance that reaction.

This allergic mystery only became really frustrating when I started having my baby boys. Being allergic to both penicillin and sulfur wipes out some major groups of antibiotics. Whenever I checked in to the hospital to have my babies, I got to wear special wrist bands warning all health care professionals to tread softly and cautiously. The bands were florecent pink and yellow.

I always scolded my mother for not writing down this very vital and useful information.
It was a glorious Memorial Day. The sun was doing what it does best. All the Oregon green was out in full force. Color spots of spring flowers were showing off. We were with our good friends, and both of us had arranged childcare. The day was ours!

Our friends packed crackers and cheeses and off we went to investigate King's Estate, a vineyard south of Eugene. It was a perfect setting for a day such as this.

We sat out on the patio and basked in the glory. I must try some of this fabulous cheese. Ok. It was pretty fabulous. Could I have some more? It was all gone. It was that good. Some fancy white cheese with caramelized almonds mixed in. The bit I got was about the size of a quarter.

Our kidless afternoon was coming to a close. We headed back, refreshed.

On our drive back to reality, I was feeling like I had a lazy tongue. I kept wondering how my glass of water could have caused this. I kept trying to form various vocabulary words, and nothing was coming out correctly. No one really noticed, just myself.

After we picked up our kids and were headed back north on I-5 I realized that my tongue was littered with sores, my throat was feeling a bit constricted, and the inside wall of my mouth was irritated and swollen.

"Honey, I am reacting to something," I described it all to my husband.

"Well, what did you eat today that you don't normally."

"Nothing," I paused, "The cheese! And you know what, I had similar cheese at a book group about six months ago and had the same sort of reaction! I think I am allergic to the molds they used to make fancy cheeses."

"Possibly. Let me know if you need me to turn the van around and head to the hospital."

My face beamed. I was actually excited. "I know what I'm allergic to! Penicillin, right?"

I went home and took some benadryl. By 11 that night my symptoms had subsided; I was very relieved, relieved that I didn't have to go to the hospital, but also relieved that I had solved my childhood allergy mystery...bummed, that fine cheeses would not become a part of my diet, but also happy to not have to be tempted to eat such fattening fare.

However, I'm not totally confidant in my detective skills. I think I will still tell health care professionals that I'm allergic to either penicillin or sulfur, but that I'm leaning toward penicillin due to a little mishap with cheese.

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