To the allergy free, salute. To the more than 20 percent of you who are allergy sufferers, I can only say that I feel your pain.
My big allergy bugaboo is insect bites. Mosquitoes are my nemesis. A single bite from this malevolent creature weighing less than three milligrams brings on a huge, hot-to-the-touch welt that lasts more than a week, often accompanied by water blisters, nausea, dizziness and a general sense of malaise. It's not fun.
But as much as I hate these little buggers, it seems they love me. I have been hunted down in my own bed, through layers of blankets and clothing and repellents. In February. In Chicago. My blood is the Chateau Lafite Rothschild of the mosquito world — ripe, spicy, with a particular softness, firm yet delicate and supple, developing a great elegance with age (or so claim the tasting notes reported by the Family Culicidae).
I know members of the Mosquito Protection Society will start violent protests over this, but it is my fervent wish that every mosquito will drop dead tomorrow (along with their unwanted, unhatched offspring). I promise the frogs will not all croak and the rain forests will not fall without them. Mosquitoes have been around for more than 30 million years and have killed more human beings than any other creature in history (think yellow fever, malaria). Now we've got to worry about the West Nile Virus and, given how attractive I am to these disease-carrying vermin, it is a scientific fact that I am now a gazillion times more likely to die an untimely death. To add insult to injury, this is girl-on-girl violence, as only the female mosquito stings (bitch!).
As annoying as they are, insect bites are not the only allergy that plagues our family. We run the gamut from dust mite to food allergies, with symptoms that include asthma, eczema, chronic sinusitis and anaphylaxis. Last fall, we discovered that our youngest boy, the family gourmand, is allergic to shellfish. (Could this be a sign that our nice Jewish family should start keeping kosher? Nah.) He was incensed over the diagnosis: "What do you mean, no more calamari? A squid does not have a shell." True, but calamari, squid and octopus all fall under the category of shellfish when it comes to allergies.
Shellfish is an easier allergy to manage than, say, peanuts because it is easier to predict where it might show up, but it's still a pain. We have joined the ranks of label readers and EpiPen® owners, forced to carry it with us wherever we go. We have to watch for cross-contamination and "hidden" ingredients at restaurants. For example, my husband and I recently took this child out for a special meal, just the three of us, at Froggy's. He initially ordered salmon with bell pepper sauce (the boy likes to eat), only to be told that the sauce was made with clam juice. You just never know.
The other day, this same child came to me with his eyes puffed up like a vanquished boxer. He hadn't had any shellfish, so now it's back to the allergist to start the whole scratch-testing process over again.
I recognize that having an allergy is not the end of the world. Modern medicine has given us many ways to protect ourselves and manage these allergies. All except one — my severe allergy to exercise. I wonder when they'll develop an effective immunotherapy for that one. Sign me up for the clinical trial.
So, as long as you're not allergic to a nut like me, why don't you leave a comment by clicking here.