I should start with a disclaimer: I’m not actually allergic to everything—it just feels that way. I’m far better off than some other people, in that I don’t have to carry an EpiPen (yet), and I don’t have to live in a bubble. I do, however, have to drug myself up every morning just to get through the day—a fact that I like to blame on my mother for not breastfeeding me. It’s probably not her fault, though, given that I wasn’t born with any allergies. Having so many allergies isn’t all bad, however; in fact, it can teach you some things.
1. You can develop allergies over time.
I wasn’t born with any allergies, except maybe penicillin. I was raised around animals, and the first time I lived somewhere cat-free was when I left home for university. In my second year, I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, and immediately adopted two cats who promptly gave me hives. I didn’t believe the cats were the cause until I went and got tested for the second time. Sure enough, sometime between my first allergy test and the second, I’d become allergic to kitties—and a whole host of other things.
2. Being exposed to something frequently doesn’t protect you.
I grew up on a horse farm and rode competitively. My best friends lived on farms too. I was around horses all the time, and had no environmental allergies until I was 10. Suddenly, I was sneezing constantly, and my eyes were itchy, watery and swollen. My mom rushed to have me tested, and we found out I was allergic to everything that had to do with riding horses: grass, trees, pollen, hay, dust and horses themselves.
3. You have to keep changing your allergy medication.
My first regular allergy medication was Claritin. I took it every day for probably close to seven years. It got less and less effective over time, and when you’re severely allergic to the grass your mother makes you cut, that’s a problem. I’ve had to switch several times since then, but I seem to have found my optimal combination now—Nasonex every day, with eye drops as needed to help with itchy eyes. I’m not looking forward to the day when that stops working, too.
4. You feel compelled to warn people about it.
I’ve never had an allergic reaction to nuts, although my latest allergy test showed sensitivity to them. I continue to eat nuts with no problem, but I’m keenly aware of the knowledge that, at some point, I could have a reaction to them. So whenever I indulge, I warn the people I’m with, just in case I start clutching at my throat and gasping for breath.
5. You need to be careful what you wear.
Among the odder things that I tested positive for the first time were sheep and rabbits. I’ve never tried to wear anything made of rabbit fur, so that one’s not a problem, but wool is a fairly common clothing material. From the little of it I’ve felt, it seems scratchy, so I’m not particularly bothered that I can’t wear it, but it does make my knitting hobby a little more difficult than it otherwise would be. When I decide to knit with wool, I make sure the projects are small.
6. It affects your home decorating choices.
I was five when my mom bought the home I grew up in, and the day we moved in the floor was covered with thick, obnoxiously red carpet. One of the things we learned when I developed my allergies was that carpet is the enemy. Carpet traps allergens, even when you frequently vacuum. Luckily, interior decorating styles have been migrating more and more toward tile and hardwood.
7. It’s a great excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do.
“Want to come to my baby shower?” Ah, I would, but my allergies are acting up today and giving me a sinus headache. I’m afraid I would be no fun at all. “Come over for dinner and meet my parents!” While I’m sure your parents are lovely people, I’m afraid even the strongest allergy meds can’t combat your fluffy Persian cat’s dander (they totally can, though). The only one it doesn’t work with is Mom, who continues to make me cut her lawn whenever I visit, even though my grass allergy is the most severe allergy I have. Rude.