Sunday, June 12, 2011

Allergy Testing

Last week I went to the allergist, having been given a referral by my personal physician. I was there for a wonderful three hours, during which I was poked with needles and given injections to determine what I might be allergic to.

They started with the so-called "scratch test". This is a misnomer since I wasn't scratched; they pricked my back with 85 short needles that aren't long enough to cause bleeding, but are certainly long enough to hurt. Each needle was coated in a different common allergen. About 15 minutes after exposing me to the allergens, the physician's assistant came back to check on the results. Reactions were marked by itchy, swollen blotches and were given a rating from 1+ (mild reaction) to 4+ (very severe reaction) based on the size and appearance of the blotch.

Since people don't always respond to this type of test, I was retested on several allergens that didn't cause a reaction during the first test. This time they injected larger doses of the allergen under the skin of my upper arm with short hypodermic needles. This series of tests involved 26 allergens. It's hard to say whether the first or the second series of tests was more enjoyable.

Of the allergens that I was tested with, I responded to six of them. I had a 1+ reaction to alfalfa (something I'm never around), a 1+ with Utah Juniper (one of the most common trees in the area), and a 1+ with dog dander. I got a 3+ (severe reaction) with tobacco (good thing I don't smoke) as well as with household dust (uh oh). Finally, I had a 4+ reaction to cat dander.

I knew I had problems with cats since being in a room where a cat has been (it doesn't even need to be in the room at the same time) causes such a severe reaction that I need to take an inhaler. I also knew that I had problems with dust, although I didn't know that it would be considered severe. Unfortunately, our home is filled with dust collecting surfaces (e.g., dozens of Star Wars Lego sets, seven overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookcases, various flat surfaces) and the mere act of trying to clean them raises a cloud that leaves me wheezing.

Oddly enough, I don't think I know a single nerd that doesn't have at least a few significant allergies.

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