Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Which I Am Blown Away

The Allergy Saga continues...

(As always, if you are not up to speed on the events of The Allergy Saga, read these posts:
These posts chronicle everything that has happened in the past month and a half, all of which is relevant to this post. I'm not going to recap anything here, so refer to those posts if you get confused.)

I mentioned in Friday's post that I had an appointment with the Dr House of allergies early next month. To be specific, it was scheduled for October 6th. However, they called me on Tuesday and told me they had a cancellation, and thus an opening, for an appointment on Wednesday. I leaped at the chance, glad to be able to see him sooner, and made the trip down yesterday to his office.

After giving him the whole spiel about how it all started and how I got to where I am, he asked me the same routine of questions I had answered dozens of times before. No, there are no new foods, soaps, or detergents. Yes, I've checked my apartment for mold. My pillow is brand new, there is an allergen cover on my mattress, and I've got a HEPA air filter running non-stop in my apartment.

I told him that I had done the prick test not too long ago, and that I tested negative for anything. To be thorough, though, he re-did the prick test. To no surprise to me or to him, I tested negative again. That put me in the same position I was in after the previous allergist I saw:

Okay, so now what?

Testing negative again to the prick test didn't deter the doctor at all. He left the exam room and came back with a swab, and swabbed my nose. He wiped the swab on a slide and examined it under a microscope. He motioned me over to have a look at the slide, and as I peered through the scope he told me that I had these cells called Eosinophils in my sinuses. Simply put, eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that (among other things) help fight off allergic reactions.

The doctor went on to say that these cells accumulate if there isn't any treatment to get rid of the cells themselves, or if one is exposed continuously to the source that is triggering the production of the cells. Once they build up to a certain point, they will cause the body to react by producing hives and respiratory problems. After giving me a moment to absorb that information, the Dr House of allergies jumped right into his speculation as to the cause for the presence of these cells.

After asking me some other questions, about what I use for pain relievers, and some of the types of foods I eat, he told me that he thinks I have an aspirin sensitivity.

Technically speaking, it's not an allergy. Sensitivity to aspirin means that I can tolerate it in small amounts, but my body will produce these eosinophil cells in response to higher amounts of aspirin once it's introduced into my system.

Now, avoiding aspirin isn't as easy as one would think. Aspirin is, obviously, in a lot of pain relievers, like Bayer, Ibuprofen (Advil), Motrin, and naproxen (Aleve). The category of NSAID pain relievers as a whole should be avoided, as they also contain aspirin. Therefore, pretty much the only thing I can use to treat pain or fever is acetaminophen (Tylenol).

There's more, though.

Those who have aspirin sensitivity also have to avoid other things aside from NSAID pain relievers. Aspirin also occurs naturally in a lot of foods, in the form of salicylates, or salicylic acid. Due to it's chemical make-up, salicylic acid reacts much in the same way as aspirin to those who are sensitive to it. You've probably seen saliclyic acid in the ingredient lists for a lot of foods, as it is most commonly used as a preservative, but it also occurs in various foods as just a natural ingredient or chemical found in it. A list of foods and the level of salicylates found in them can be seen here. It's also often the main active ingredient in acne treatments.

People with aspirin sensitivity also are sensitive to Tartrazine, better known as yellow dye #5. Like salicylates, tartrazine is similar enough in it's chemical composition to aspirin where products that contain it should be avoided as well. To quote the Wikipedia page referenced above, here is a partial list of foods that contain tartrazines, or yellow dye #5:
  • Cotton candy,
  • Soft drinks or energy drinks,
  • Instant puddings,
  • Flavored chips (Doritos, Nachos, etc),
  • Cereals (corn flakes, muesli, etc.),
  • Cake mixes and pastries,
  • Custard powder,
  • Soups (particularly instant or "cube" soups),
  • Sauces,
  • Some rices (like paella, risotto, etc.),
  • Powdered drink mixes or sports drinks,
  • Ice cream and ice pops,
  • Candy and chewing gum,
  • Marzipan,
  • Jam, jelly, gelatins, and marmalade,
  • Mustard,
  • Horseradish,
  • Yogurt,
  • Noodles,
  • Pickles and other pickled products,
  • Many convenience foods,
  • Glycerin,
  • Lemon and honey products.
Here's where a lot of the puzzle pieces started falling into place.

Remember the joint pain I've been having? Some blood work I had done recently revealed that I have Parvovirus. It's more commonly known as Fifth's Disease and mostly occurs in pediatric patients, but adults can get it, too. It can cause arthritis. And of course, how did I treat the joint pain?

With ibuprofen and naproxen.

Way back when I first had that isolated incident, before we adopted the dog, where I had breathing trouble out of the blue? The night before, I had eaten macaroni and cheese for dinner, and I had finished the leftovers for lunch just an hour or two before I had the anaphylaxis. What is one of the ingredients in macaroni and cheese?

Yellow dye #5.

All summer long, I have been indulging a hardcore fixation of Mountain Dew. What is one of the ingredients in Mountain Dew, the ingredient that gives it it's unique color?

Yellow dye #5.

Without even knowing it, I've been essentially poisoning myself.

To put it mildly, with having to avoid salicylates and tartrazines, I'll have my work cut out for me. I'll be examining product ingredient lists like it's no body's business. It will be a huge adjustment, not only in diet but in lifestyle, but if it gets me feeling better, then I'll do what it takes.

The heartbreaking thing is that I really am not allergic to dogs. That means that the adorable and loving dog that The Boss and I adopted didn't have to go back to the shelter. The symptoms I had after exposure to her were just coincidental, and probably triggered by a seasonal allergy to ragweed or pollen. (Ragweed season begins in mid-August; my symptoms started in mid-August.) It breaks my heart to think of all the confusion she must have felt when we brought her back, but these things happen for a reason.

As far as treatment goes, the allergist put me on Singulair to treat the eosinophils in my sinuses. That, in combination with avoiding aspirin, salicylates, and tartrazine, should make my symptoms disappear. When I see him again in two weeks, he'll swab my nose again and check to see if the cells are gone.

If they are gone, well, then we've found our problem. I'll continue the Singulair for a while just to be safe, and keep avoiding aspirins, salicylates, and tartrazines. If the cells are still there, then the diagnosis of aspirin sensitivity gets thrown out, and we'll keep investigating. I do have to mention, though, that the allergist is pretty confident that I have aspirin sensitivity.

After all of this time, waiting and wondering about what is making me so sick, I'm glad to finally have an idea about what may be the source of all this. It's something to work towards, but at the same time, knowing all that I have to avoid to keep myself healthy is a bit daunting right now.

I don't think it's fully hit me yet, but I'm sure it will in time.

47 Comments:

Kat said...

Stiff upper lip for Queen and country...uh I mean....hang in there.

Organic Meatbag said...

Holy shit, man... when it rains it pours...it sounds like you basically have to avoid almost anything that has taste or brings happiness...

minivan soapbox said...

Holy Crap....That's intense...But awesome that you have a Doctor that seems to be DOING SOMETHING. I would have no problem giving up the yogurt....but you would have to rip the Doritos out of my hand.

Megan said...

Fuck. That just blows dirty balls. I hate hate hate when you find out you have been screwing yourself over the whole time. Been there and done that.

Tip: It is very helpful to go see a nutritionist. They have list upon lists of crap you can and can't eat with allergies and yours is actually more common than you think.

Hopefully you will feel better soon.

Mwa said...

Well, I say congratulations for finding out what you've got. And you should move to Europe, because we still have fresh food without colorants. ;-)

Tammy Howard said...

That is a LOT of stuff to avoid - but you have ANSWERS! Knowing is ALWAYS better than not knowing!

Logical Libby said...

Well, at least there isn't yellow dye #5 in bourbon...

Jenn(ifer) said...

Finally some answers! Baby steps and you'll make it.
At least you're not dying!

dsmcaron said...

You will grow so used to eating fresh food! I do agree that a nutritionist can help you get started. I have a blood condition called ITP (blah, blah, blah) and for years I had to avoid aspirin. It is also in Pepto-Bismol, btw.

I am also very bummed about the dog and her confusion. I couldn't even read your post about taking her back. Sorry. I wimped out on you that day as I had tears in my eyes really fast.

Moonspun said...

Wow, wow and mother fucking Wow! That's just crazy!
If I could make a suggestion about buying food...get yourself to the nearest health food store (if you are close to Portland go to Whole Foods). You'll have a much easier time buying food there!
I bet it's good to find out answers and have a doctor who really seemed to listen and help!

Amy said...

Holy crap badass...no more dorritos??? That blows!

Glad you FINALLY got some answers. What an awful ordeal!

The Peach Tart said...

Well at least you did find what was causing all the problems. That's a good start. The list is pretty daunting so I can understand how you're feeling. Hang in there.

Employee No. 3699 said...

Well, I guess you really did see the Dr House of allergies.

I'm glad you're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

for the love of pictures said...

At least you have answers now, even though they may not be the answers you want - you have a starting point. That sucks though. I guess it's more fresh food for you? So much of what we eat, just has so much extra "stuff" in it. Just hang in there Badass!

Coach J said...

Dr. House is da MAN!

Good luck getting that stuff under control.

Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

Wow, craziness! Looks like you're gonna have to stick to lots of fresh produce...I hope this does solve it all though! And, if in a couple of weeks, all the cells are gone, does that mean you could go back to the pound and see if that adorable dog is still available?

Aunt Juicebox said...

You know, I actually know someone else who is allergic to food dye, but the red one. Makes you wonder about them all, doesn't it?

Salicylic acid is in some dandruff shampoos, so if you use that, you might want to check yours.

LiLu said...

I'm so glad to hear this! It may be a complicated answer, but that is so, so much better than no answer at all.

AND, eventually, this means you can get a pup!!! FTW!

Notes From the Grove said...

So are you going to go back and get the doggie???

*pouty face*

Jewels said...

Woah. That's insane.

Mrs Soup said...

Oh man, I am so glad it looks like it may have been figured out! That is so wonderful!

Even if it is a sucky thing to be sensitive too...

YAY DR HOUSE!

Nyx said...

Man, I'm so sorry dude. At least you can eat some things, right?

Vodka's not off the list. Nor is whiskey.

Good luck dude, fight the good fight. And I agree with Mwa...Europe's food is AHMAZING.

And even though you didn't get to keep your puppy, at least now you and the Boss can save another.

Keep on truckin'!

Chibi Jeebs said...

Glad you got some answers: at least know you know how to proceed. Is it at all possible to get Stella back, or will she have found a new home?

P.S. Salicylic acid is also found in many face washes/spot treatment (although that one's probably more obvious -- you can call me Captain Obvious... )

Rebecca Knight said...

I'm so happy that you're getting help :D! Yay!

Also, I want an update on the dog saga, too. Is the little gal already re-adopted? Would it just suck too much to go back and ask? I get it if it does, but yeah. Sad about the dog.

P. said...

Ho Lee Shit. Dude. I had an exposure to Parvovirus B19 in '03 and the arthritis for a few months afterward. Then after that whole ordeal I became gluten and dairy intolerant so had to really change my diet and read labels, etc., so I feel ya. Dr. House rocks. You'll get through it, day by day, after the overwhelming feeling subsides.

~Jennifer~ said...

Wow, that sounds so hard. Glad you finally have some answers, but it totally sucks about Stella.

Nej said...

I'm so happy that he was able to listen to what you had to say, and find the solution to your problem. People don't really listen enough these days! Yeah Dr House!!!!! :-)

No Mountain Dew or Mac and Cheese. That would have eliminated my two primary food groups!!! :-) :-)

abrandname said...

Oh Thank God!!!!

Be well and read those labels like your life depends on it.....cause it kinda does.

Talk to the shelter and see if that fluffy cuteness has been adopted yet???

She needs you just as much as you and The Boss need her!!!

Amanda

Sandy said...

Wow, don't know where to start here. I guess it's good you are beginning to get to the bottom of this. So sorry about Bella, sorry more for you guys.

Gotta watch the Tylenol though. I had my annual physical this morning (fun fun fun) and the doc told me Tylenol is responsible for more liver failure than anything else, even alcohol.

Stay on the well track.

Natalie said...

Isn't it sooo much better to finally know! I'm so happy for you!

I'm allergic to eggs and it is daunting at first to have to read and reread every list of ingredients.

A point of advice - when you go over someone's house and they make something make sure to ask what's in it. You may forget just because you've had it so many times in the past.

Aunt Becky said...

For some reason, you having a diagnosis makes me want to punch stuff. I don't know why.

Beth said...

At least you got an answer. You can get used to life without Dew or macaroni and cheese, right?

Little Ms Blogger said...

Will you ever be able to re-introduce these things back into your life?

I've heard people go cold turkey on things they're allergic to and then slowly add them back to a manageable level - will that be the case with you?

Sorry about the dog...Get better first and then get another one.

It must be a relief to finally know. I know it would be for me.

LilSass said...

hey kid, I'm still here and I've been reading along. I am actually in the middle of studying for a big pharmacology test and I'm reading ALL about aspirin toxicity!!! A couple entries ago, when you were taking all those steroids, I was really concerned and was going to say something about how FUCKING DANGEROUS steroids are but I don't want to be that guy who's all 'oh I'm so fancy and I know shit' (cause I don't)... so I didn't and it sounds like you're on your way to finally getting better. But sometimes I do know stuff and I am here to help. For reals. Don't ever hesitate to contact me and say "WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?" (Or just keep posting about it and I'll silently diagnosis you).

blah blah blah, I'm SO glad you're on the mend (not to mention, all that shit you need to cut out of your diet is truly shit. Crap. All of it. You're better without the Yellow Dye #5). Um, I just had a brilliant idea ....

Remember how Sus created a milk carton when Aubry disappeared? I think you should add a tombstone graphic to your sidebar with Yellow Dye #5 on it. Good riddance YD5!!!

Lola said...

See, now I think this is good news
-- well, except for the dog allergy you thought you had ;(

You've got some answers. All of that shit is bad for you anyway, and you might just find that if you cut it out of your life that you will feel incredible!!! Think positive, my friend.

Mrs. B said...

Yeay for (tentative) answers! In the last few months I have cut out most fat from my diet. So I know what it's like to look at the labels of your favorite foods with disapointment. It's not so bad, though, once you try new foods, you'll probably find things you like and can live with. I eat a lot of fresh fruit.

Plus, if you do get a dog, some cuddle action will make you feel all better!

Laura said...

Wow I am so sorry you are having to go through all of this. Atleast you are starting to get some answers. I guess there's no chance that dog is still looking for a home? Hopefully you will start feeling better. And just look at it this way, the foods that you are sensitive to, are not necessarily the most healthy foods for you, so now you will have to eat healthier, which will just make you healthier. That's not so bad... although a pain in the ass.

Badass Geek said...

To All: This is a tough diagnosis, but like so many of you said, it will force myself to become healthier. It will be a major adjustment, and I'll have to keep my guard up when eating at restaurants or at friends or families houses, but in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse.

Also, because I'm only sensitive to these things and not full-blown allergic, there is a possibility that I can be inoculated to them. I'm going to approach the allergist about it when I see him in two weeks.

At least there is an end in sight now. Knowing is half the battle.

mumma boo said...

Thank goodness you got some answers. Good luck with the de-tox. I imagine the Mountain Dew would be the toughest to let go. :(

Stereos and Souffles said...

Can you get your dog back?? Might make you feel better.

mommygeekology said...

Well THAT's interesting. Geez!

Glad that you have a potential answer on this, must be relieved! Any chance of getting the dog back? Probably not. Anyway, I hope this is it and that you can figure out how to adjust your diet.

Sounds like it's going to be hard, but health comes first I guess! That's why we're trying to lose some weight over at our house, and that kind of diet change isn't easy either; boo! But we don't want to die of a heart attack or get diabetes, so there we go.

Mad Woman said...

Well that SUCKS about the dog, but at least you have some answers right? And you can maybe look and see if doggy is still there?

Badass Geek said...

Unfortunately, Stella was adopted by another family shortly after we brought her back. We probably won't try to get another dog for a little while.

Chris Mancini said...

Wait, you were drinking Mountain Dew non-stop and you DIDN'T know you were poisoning yourself?

Glad Dr. House figured it out. Go with the "white cheddar" mac and cheese from now on.

Jodey/Fat Chick Biker said...

Check out the feingold website if you need more info. http://www.feingold.org/pg-faq.html

While it's geared toward kids with ADHD, there's some good info there that may assist you.

PastelGuy said...

Giving up Mountain Dew sucks, but marzipan? Not a problem. What seems like a daunting task now will become second nature after a while. My better half was diagnosed with celiac disease where she can't have wheat, rye, or barley. What was a MAJOR paradigm shift is now status quo. Find other people out there with the same diagnosis. Pick their brains. And good luck!

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