Monday, May 08, 2006

Something Fishy

My apologies to all people with peanut allergies. The lactose and gluten intolerant. Sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I have considered you malingerers. Mocked your conditions as psychosomatic. Blamed you for the proliferation of soy products and the absence of decent snacks on airplanes.

I take it all back.

On Friday night, I was trolling celebrity web sites and contemplating whether or not to polish off the last spoonfuls of French vanilla ice cream. Dave was watching “Cops” or the Cubs, the former being a guilty pleasure and the latter a fool’s errand. I heard him say my name in that tone of voice that means “the rest of the evening’s going to suck.”

He had brought home Chinese for dinner—rice with vegetables and shrimp. Lately, he’s been complaining that shrimp makes his tongue itch. But with beef off the menu thanks to a recent diagnosis of high cholesterol, he was trying to work healthier proteins into his diet.

On the night in question, the shrimp did not make his tongue itch. It made it swell, along with his lips. His face turned red and he broke out in hives on his chest; his entire back looked like a third-degree sunburn. It appears the boy has developed an adult-onset food allergy.

I clicked off and Googled “treatment for shrimp allergy.” At, I learned all about the way the immune system creates antibodies to ward off harmful substances. I was also given a run-down of potential symptoms, in addition to swelling, hives and itchiness:
* difficulty breathing
* vomiting
* abdominal cramps
* diarrhea
* loss of consciousness
* death

Death. That’s one way to get a non-believer’s attention. I started scrolling faster looking for anything with the heading “treatment,” which is what I had asked god damn Google to search for in the first place.

Ah, here it was. The best treatment for a food allergy: strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food. Um, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh. And a little too late in the game to be effective.

Oh, I’m sorry Google. What I meant to ask for was information on the treatment of an allergic reaction. That would be epinephrine, a.k.a. adrenaline, available by prescription as a “self-injectable device.” I imagine Dave and I had a fair amount of adrenaline on tap Friday night, alas none of it in a syringe. We debated a trip to the emergency room but settled on a drive to the drugstore, where we purchased some Benadryl. For the record, not a single web site I visited mentioned Benadryl. I’d be happy to consult with the company on a new ad campaign.

The rest of the evening’s entertainment went as follows:
Me: Are you having trouble breathing?
Him: No.
Me: Are you feeling nauseous?
Him: No.
Me: Are you dead?
Him: No.

We watched the migration of the hives as they traveled from Dave’s torso down to his feet. Because his tongue was still swollen, I tried to get him to say words that ended in “-st.” Just for kicks. The next morning, he was right as rain, but the leftovers were marked for the dumpster.

So it’s good-bye to shrimp, lobster and any other member of the shellfish family, which I’m sure I and the airline industry can accommodate. But the second he comes down with an aversion to wheat, I’m outta here.


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