>Allergy rab di marji!

>All of us have been reading about the Food Allergy Awareness Month across blogs on the blogosphere. And unlike The Guy, who is allergic to sea food, I have no apparent food allergies that I may be aware of, I have plenty of allergies that equip me with enough experience to contribute my wee bit to this campaign. So when Sue suggested I do a post on it, I came up with a really long one!

I wasn’t born with these allergies and had a healthy childhood. I ate just about everything I wanted to and though I needed them rarely, I popped pain killers when my periods became very, very painful. Despite living in the dusty north Indian plains, I scraped through most of my school life unscathed by all the allergies that various family members on my Dad’s side evinced. My grandmother was severely asthmatic and could not take up a lot of physical activities that would be considered normal even for women her age. R, my cousin, took after her and was also severely asthmatic. Allergens like dust and pollens did a lot of harm to her physical constitution and in turn impacted her school life. Her asthmatic attacks, like my grandmom’s, were often so bad that she had to be hospitalised.

Four years elder to me, R’s life was dictated by these attacks. As a sister, I could only imagine what it must be like. When I suffered my first asthmatic attack in 1997, I knew exactly what it feels like to be panting for breath, to be fighting an inexplicable constriction in the lungs, to be wheezing helplessly. I could not believe this was happening to me, but it was. I suffered three mild asthmatic attacks in quick succession and I was convinced at that time that it must be something else – an allergy that had triggered off this breathlessness. And perhaps it was. I remember trying very hard to figure out in my head what it was that I had eaten on all three occasions that could have caused the attacks. But it became difficult to put my finger on it because the attacks, though mild and manageable once I started using the inhaler, became a frequent feature in my life. I did not participate in the Sports Day at school because I was terrified of all the dust on the field filling up my lungs!

It was the same year that my body began rejecting a lot of meds. I remember vividly the day I sat writing a test in class, convulsed with menstrual cramps. Just so that I wouldn’t be groggy while writing the test, I waited for the class to get over before I popped a Brufen. It wasn’t the first time I’d had that medicine and till that day, it had suited me just fine. But the medicine triggered some strange reactions in my body and within minutes my face swelled unrecognisably, and my eyes were only two slits in my face. I was appalled! I went home and wept inconsolably at these weird things that were happening to me. It took two whole days for the allergy to subside.

Next time I needed a painkiller, I made sure it wasn’t a Brufen. But it didn’t matter because I had developed an allergy to ALL the painkillers that are there. Later, the reactions were different: my body – every part of it – would be covered with red blotchy patches that looked like huge, enormous mosquito bites. And despite the anti-allergics, it took me at least two days to be able to get out of the house without having people stare at me. I even developed an allergy to Paracetamol which means that every time I’m down with fever, I just have to wait for it to go away because no medicine will work for me. I cannot have cough syrups or your over-the-counter drugs for cold and flu either – allergic to them too!

That isn’t the end of it. I realised, much to my consternation, that I was also allergic to severe cold and severe heat and sudden changes in temperatures. On a trip to Chennai in the summers, the air-conditioning inside the shops and the high temperatures outside left me itchy, scratchy and very irritated.

I haven’t had any painkillers in the last 10 years. And in those ten years, my threshold of bearing pain has gone up ten times, because I have no other option. Doctors have been of no help. When they look at my allergic reactions to medicines, they are dumbfounded.

‘But why do you need a pain killer anyway?’ people ask dismissively. All of us feel the need for painkillers at least once in a while. Like when you get your tooth extracted, when you get injured, when you sprain an ankle, when you have a surgery. It’s not easy to bear all those kinds of pains.

Last year, my index finger got caught between the car door and I was in excruciating pain. But I could not have any painkiller; I spent the whole night with my finger dipped in ice cold water to numb all sensation.

On another occasion, The Guy accidentally fell with all his weight on my foot. I thought I had fractured a few bones, it was so painful! Turned out it was only an inflammation and when I applied an ointment to relieve the pain, I discovered I was allergic even to these sprays and ointments! It’s exasperating to have your life crippled only because you’re in some sort of pain.

People suggest getting an allergy test done. R and my father did undergo that test a long time ago. And according to the results of the test, it turned out that my father was allergic to all possible food items except arhar dal and rice. He lived on that alone for one whole year, but it didn’t help him deal with his allergies any better. The doctors also advised against it. So I never got one done.

My pa-in-law recalls what his teacher in med school told him about treating allergies and I think it’s the only thing that makes sense: Allergy rab di marji! You bet.

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33 responses »

  1. >wow D u are BRAVE! no way would i survive without brufen on that one day a month!!! my kudos to you girl. i am awed how u’ve learned to win over pain and continue to do so without giving in. more power to you, D.

  2. >What drew me to your blog was the title “Allergy-rab di marji”-a teacher used to say that. Came and read your post. Yes, it can be extremely crippling to have to think a hundred times before taking a painkiller as in your case, and food as in your father’s case.Guess I would be coming back to read the rest of your stuff. I had stumbled to this blog earlier also, but like all good things, it slipped somewhere in the back of the memory. Wont let that happen this time.:)

  3. >oh… brufen is a strict no for asthmatic’s…. and anyway, i hear its got too many side effects for you good even otherwise…. thankfully i dont have a problem with most med’s… and yeah im back, but curiously, i dont want to blog anymore!!!!

  4. >@Roop: I’d rather be not brave than allergic :(@Mampi: Hope to see you around here more often :)@Rhett: Hey, you’re from Lko too? Excellent!@Avaran: Really? I had no idea Brufen and asthmatics had some bad connection. And anyway, I also didn’t have any idea then that I was asthmatic! The rest of the painkillers also didn’t do me much good.

  5. >No Painkillers? Wow! I can imagine, that must be tough. Way to go brave girl. And just as a tip… please try a hot water bag fomentation on the lower abdomen for menstrual cramps, its uncannily effective. Nice post!

  6. >I can only relate too well to the mosquito bite-like big rashes and the slit like eyes in my swollen face!!Those are bad memories for me D. I used to suffer an attack every month and for a long time we did not even find out what was causing it!The only thing to do is to avoid the allergen and be prepared for it. Sigh 😦

  7. >oh that can be painful…have u tried alternative medicine? Homeopathy or something? And do a allergy test no harm..you dont HAVE to follow it but maybe it will gv u an insight…,

  8. >@Unsung: Yeah, it’s depressing. And The Guy discovered his allergy after a just a bite of the yummy prawns. Thankfully, he’s okay with fish.@GM: Actually, that’s all that works for me.@Jira: So what was it that was causing the rashes in your case?@Chakli: I’ve gotten used to it by now. But sometimes, when the pain is too much to bear, it is very frustrating.@my space: I dig alternative medicine. I survive on it.

  9. >We never really found out what was causing it every time. But by process of elimination we found out that I am allergic to white pumpkins!! In the US I have developed pollen allergies 😦 I should have gotten an allergy test done, but my parents weren’t aware of food allergies etc.

  10. >ohhh…kudos to you on bearing all the pain…I had an allergy once which i realised very late – as you mentioned – i had a swollen face, was itchy all over – so much so that i had to be put on a dose of steroids for 3 days…those 3 days were one of the worst for me as i had water retention and my face was swollen up so much so that it was straining to keep my eyes open…funnily I still dont know what caused it and luckily have not got it again…

  11. >I did not even know my runny nose was a result of allergy. How could common cold be allergy! No doctor said anything about allergy, either. Painful throat was another symptom. Now I use homeopathy as and when required, did you try that? It has been miraculously effective. I think a lot more people are allergic then is understood in India.Don’t forget allergies might leave the way they came! I could not wear jeans with metal buttons, without stitching a cloth on the inside, but somehow this allergy disappeared on it’s own.My best wishes to you, not being able to take painkillers must be really difficult! You are very brave, and I hope you are able to find some painkillers and required medicines that do suit you. – Hugs, IHM

  12. >That has got to be rough…not being able to take pain meds.My mom is allergic to iodine and even though she forewarned the medical team that was doing an MRI on her, they ignored her and gave her the dye anyway.Immediately her whole body bloated up like a balloon and she was gasping for breath.If they hadn’t administered the anti dote when they did, she probably wouldn’t have survived.

  13. >@DeeplyDip: I think the doc gave me steroids too the first time. And I hated the thought when I realised that’s what it was.@Nisha: I hope I’ll grow out of it someday.@IHM: Homeopathy has been helpful, but in an SOS situation, I still wish I wasn’t allergic to all the meds.@I love Lucy: That’s scary. In fact, there are so many scary allergy stories that force one to think that allergies are more serious than they may seem to be.

  14. >Its absolutely terrifying to even think abt allergic reactions and knowing it is one dead end situation with no cure… but Kudos! as they say its all in the Mind… being determined to fight the situation with ur mind can work wonders even against allergies. 🙂 Intersting Read!

  15. >WOW! Never knew that folks cud be allergic to a host of medicines.It’s likely u’ve had several discussions with doctors on how to possibly remedy the situation; what have they said?Do u react the same way to homeopathy and ayurveda?

  16. >whow! cant take no pain killers? thats terrible. but you a brave woman!This allergy awareness week ahs been an eyeopener for me and lotsa people who think allergy is a firangi thing! and i am allergic to prawns. get rash all over.cheers!abha

  17. >@Elixir: I wish!@Stray: They can’t say much, which makes really disheartens me. Thankfully, I’m quite okay with homeopathy and ayurveda. Better still, I survive on energy healing. It’s my saviour.@Abha: On the contrary, docs say that for people like me, moving to a place with lesser allergens would be better. India is high on allergens!

  18. >youuuuu lucky you. i am allergic to eggs. have to always be careful while ordering chinese food and when eating cakes. i love cheese cake but can never have it :(The Guy falling on your foot was hilarious :D, sorry for laughing about your pain ..but when i was reading it, i had this picture that flashed in my head 😀

  19. >ive an ulcer prob n i cnt take pain killers too .. sometimes wen have unbearable pain i do take half a crocin but then die in stomach ache tht later i decide any pain is better than ulcer pain 🙂

  20. >thats a serious allergy in its own.. Allergic to even pain killers and ointments.. Girl, I must say that you are really brave to put through all this.. Hats off to you..

  21. >Oh, you should have said, no? I was saying I should’ve seen this earlier so that it could have been included.BTW, did you read the other posts? I think it was a pretty good initiative of Tharini’s.

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