Allergies

By Shamus Posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015

Filed under: Personal 137 comments

People often complain that this blog has nothing to do with its own name. I spend all my time blogging about videogames, when the title clearly indicates this is a site dedicated to tabletop games explaining esoteric health problems. So let’s correct that…

A lot of people – possibly even most people – don’t understand how pet allergies work. Which I understand. I don’t always understand the challenges faced by diabetics, people with depression, arthritis, or other semi-common problems people are afflicted with. The world is big and complex and you can’t know everything. If someone doesn’t understand my odd problems, I don’t get offended. But sometimes people ask me questions and are baffled by my answers and my behavior. So for the curious and the critical, here is a thousand or so words on pet allergies.

Pet allergies aren’t usually a serious health concern on their own. But I have pet allergies with acute asthma, which is a hazardous combination. If I am exposed to something I’m allergic to, then my body incorrectly identifies this foreign material as a serious threat. The body responds by causing a bunch of swelling. It’s this swelling, and not the contaminants, that cause the danger.

This is of course, just a malfunction of one small part of our immune system, a thing so complex I’m shocked that the dang thing works at all.


Link (YouTube)

If someone with peanut allergies is exposed to their allergen, their throat swells until it restricts their ability to breathe. It’s a similar idea here. On the plus side, my swelling isn’t nearly as extreme or as rapid. On the downside, it happens deep in the lungs, where you really don’t want swellingGiven the choice, I think my ailment is less scary. The speed of peanut allergies is breathtaking. Er. You know what I mean..

If my body was calibrated properly it would just ignore this foreign crap, or maybe produce some mucus and sneeze it outActually, it also does that, too.. But instead my asthma becomes inflamed, which makes the airways of the lungs swell, which can be anything from inconvenient to fatal depending on the severity of the condition and severity of exposure. My allergies react to some animals more strongly than others, and the effects become more extreme with prolonged exposure.

People find it really strange that being around something as innocuous as a puppy can kill meFun fact: The header image of this post is actually the first and last time I ever played with a puppy. Twenty minutes after that picture was taken, I was on the way to the hospital.. They don’t understand how it works, but they sort of default to thinking of it this way:

While rarely observed in nature, dog-radiation is always a concern when performing a CAT scan.
While rarely observed in nature, dog-radiation is always a concern when performing a CAT scan.

They think the dog sort of radiates asthma-waves, and if they put the dog in the other room, or put it outside, then Shamus should be fine, right?

Well, no. That’s actually completely unhelpful. The other assumption is this:

THE FLOOR IS LAVA. AND ALSO ALL THE FURNITURE. HARD MODE!
THE FLOOR IS LAVA. AND ALSO ALL THE FURNITURE. HARD MODE!

They’ve heard that allergies come from dust, and so they assume that we’re dealing with a cleanliness problem. This model is more correct, but usually leads to more misunderstanding. When I try to explain that vacuuming won’t help, people take offense. They think I’m saying they’re slobs with poor housekeeping.

But how it actually works is this:

How long can you hold your breath? Technically the answer is 'forever', if you relax the survival requirement of the experiment.
How long can you hold your breath? Technically the answer is 'forever', if you relax the survival requirement of the experiment.

Allergies are indeed caused by dust. But it’s not the dust you see on your window sill that’s the problem. You’re constantly sloughing off skin in the form of microscopic flakes that end up in the air. So is your adorable pet. Dust is all around you, all the time. Most of it is too small to see. If you left your home right now and took all your pets and house-mates with you and then returned in a week, then when you got back the furniture would have a fresh layer of settled dust. That future dust? It’s suspended in the air you’re breathing right now.

It takes ages for dust to leave the air. Let’s say that after you return you dust the house again, taking extreme care to avoid knocking the dust back into the air. (You’ll probably need to use a lot of water.) If you leave and come back in another week, there will still be more settled dust.

The dust is everywhere. It’s inside your vents, and will get pumped into the air when the furnace or air conditioning kicks on. It’s deep in your carpets, so that it’s kicked into the air with every footstep. It’s deep it the cushions of your living room furniture, so that big clouds of the stuff are released when you sit down. It’s in your clothing, your bedding, your drapes, your hair, your stuffed animals, and your towels.

This is why the “Don’t worry Shamus, I’ll make sure to clean before you come over!” mindset is actually kind of dangerous. We tend to judge the “cleanliness” of a home based on how much lint is on the carpet and how much dust is on the mantle. We’re gauging by visible dirt. But the mostly-invisible dust embedded in the carpet and resting on the furniture isn’t a threat to me. When you clean, a lot of it gets kicked back into the air. So cleaning your house actually makes it a lot more dangerous for a time. You’re removing the visible dirt from the floor and adding tons of invisible allergens to the air.

If I have to go into a house, the best way to make things less dangerous is to bring in as much outside air as possible, as quickly as possible. My usual advice is to put a fan in every window of the room I’ll be in and aim it inwardThis is what we did towards the end in our previous apartment.. Leave the doors open. I try to sit on wooden furniture when I visit, since I don’t want to get too much dust in my clothing. (Even if I don’t breathe it in, it’s still itchy as hell on my skin.) Damp weather is better, since humidity is good for making the dust a little heavy, which makes it more likely to stay out of the air.

Some people explain that their pets are “outside pets”. In which case your house is more like this:

Now with 80% less biohazard!
Now with 80% less biohazard!

You walk your dog. You pet your dog. Your dog rubs against you and your clothing. Over time, that dander builds up in the house. It’s less severe, but I still have to be careful and I’m not going to want to stay long.

The final misunderstanding is that after I explain how dangerous my condition is and how careful I have to be, people are somewhat put off if I show up and don’t immediately begin asphyxiating. When I don’t immediately get sick they assume I’m a big baby or a hypochondriac.

Allergies don’t always attack aggressively and visibly. I can actually hang out in an “outside pets” kind of house for a couple of hoursI actually did this for years when I’d visit my parents for the family Christmas party. with no outward symptoms. Then I go home, shower, and put on clean clothes. And then sometime later the serious wheezing will start.

This is an immune system problem, and the immune system is an outlandish, fiendishly complex contraption. For me, the effects can continue building for hours after I escape exposure, and the effects can linger for a couple of days. This can probably be blamed on the time-delay properties of the immune system. It’s not like the rampaging defensive cells know to switch off the moment I hit the shower. They continue to do their thing until the cells run out of energy, or some other kind of cell is activated to tell them to knock it off. That takes time, and in the meantime I’ve got wheezing, sneezing, headaches, and general foggy-brained fatigue to deal with.

It’s a strange ailment to have, simply because it’s hard to understand and it runs against standard intuition and assumptions.

But that’s what it’s like. I’m sure your pet is really nice, I’m sure it barely sheds, and no doubt you’re a wonderful housekeeper. But I really can’t visit. Sorry.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Given the choice, I think my ailment is less scary. The speed of peanut allergies is breathtaking. Er. You know what I mean.

[2] Actually, it also does that, too.

[3] Fun fact: The header image of this post is actually the first and last time I ever played with a puppy. Twenty minutes after that picture was taken, I was on the way to the hospital.

[4] This is what we did towards the end in our previous apartment.

[5] I actually did this for years when I’d visit my parents for the family Christmas party.



From The Archives:
 

137 thoughts on “Allergies

  1. boz says:

    To reference an earlier post of yours(http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1247), the fact that you are still alive shows how far we came as human civilization. You’d probably be dead by now if it were 18th century.

    1. Sean says:

      Based on what he said about the header picture, he would have been dead then

    2. Dasick says:

      If this was the 18th century, he might also not posses the ailment. We as a civilization have come a great way towards putting all sorts of weird crap in our environment that does not play nice with our organisms. It’s still hard to say how much it is a factor, since assuming appalling medical care, how would you even distinguish the child mortality rate due to asthma as opposed to some other ailment?

      My own reading into the topic suggests a more favourable health situation than the Dung Ages scenario. Even then, we’re talking about a historically brief time, very local in scope and a down-turn following an economical collapse of a major superpower (Dark Age Europe was the post-apocalyptic version of the Roman Empire – why don’t we use that as our baseline?). Then you add the fact that historical accounts aren’t free of bias, and quite a few “common knowledge” portrayals of the Middle Ages (such as their love of sadistic contraptions) were slanderous fabrications made to look people bad either by their descendants or contemporary enemies. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but in no ways a fair one.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        People do so cling to the myth of old fashioned living. Here we have a very clear instance of someone benefiting from living in the modern world. There’s medicine here to help him and ye olden times had plenty of the allergen thats threatening to him. And someone still tries to insist that he’d have been better off in ye olden times.

        This is frustrating. I hope some day we can manage some kind of farm colony for the people who want to live these pure authentic lives.

        1. Michael Watts says:

          Sorry? The suggestion that, if you had grown up in the 18th century, you would never have developed pet allergies at all, is an incredibly mainstream one. It’s known formally as the Hygiene Hypothesis.

          The modern day is better than the past in a ludicrously large number of ways. Asthma and allergies are not among those ways.

          1. thomas says:

            The hygiene hypothesis is a good if unproven idea.

            There’s also the idea that less robust individuals -such as those with wonky immune systems – just died to random infections.

            The rise of insane numbers of people with peanut allegies with no definite genetic marker would suggest that there is an envrionmental factor however. The parts of the immune system involved are adaptive and need training, so the idea that they might need to learn to ignore harmless antigens is a reasonable idea.

            1. Jakale says:

              Linked with the hygiene hypothesis is the presence of worm infections where the worm appears to put out chemicals that make the immune system leave it alone. There’s been research that suggests it could be a factor in the lower cases of allergies and autoimmune disease in less developed nations. Research is being done on it as a potential treatment. There are some people, currently, that will sell or just give you worm eggs so you can infect yourself to ease your allergies, but I don’t think any of them are approved by the medical community.

              The Radiolab podcast had a hookworm segment with one of those people on their episode about parasites.

            1. Dasick says:

              I’m kinda ashamed of myself for not getting that one, especially considering I’ve used that one myself to argue against a Pinker article. I blame the fact that the term “head wound” applies both to people who lived through one or who died to one and he gives no indication that there’s a distinction.

        2. Dasick says:

          It is also frustrating that unless my post is a massive disclaimer people will still argue in bad faith and completely misrepresent my sentiment. This is doubly frustrating because we’re in one of those few corners of the internet where it’s a reasonable assumption that the comments should be taken in best faith possible. So, I’m going to assume that you’re not an ignorant jerk, and you should probably also assume the same with me (otherwise, what’s the point?). Perhaps I should have put up more disclaimers, or written less to avoid getting sidetracked – I don’t know, you tell me.

          My post was not meant to suggest that Shamus or anyone with allergies would be better off in any different time period. It’s incredibly hard to say if someone would be better or worse off in any different time, and we don’t really have a means of measuring that accurately anyways, so this kind of comparison seems silly to me.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        Well, if Shamus had been born with this condition in the middle ages or at any time before that, he’d have likely been born into some place with a few animals, and tied at a very tender age, at a time when half the children used to die at a very tender age. This means he would probably not have registered as allergic to cats and dogs.

        Although: Yes, early exposure to potential allergens does reduce likeliness of allergies, so there would also have been a chance that he wouldn’t have the problem.

        So … I don’t think there’s really a way of knowing. But I do think it’s pretty nice that there is a way of dealing with it these days — as well as the option to let you children play outside and get dirty, as well they should be allowed to.

  2. Heather B says:

    I’m sure with allergies as severe as yours you’ve tried a large number of the treatments available, but I just wanted to share something that worked pretty well for my husband, who is highly allergic to dust mites.

    wearable nose filters

    It takes a little experimentation to get the perfect fit, but they’re nearly invisible, and pretty comfy. Of course, if you’re talking or eating, some stuff will get into your lungs regardless, but reducing the exposure is always helpful

  3. Paul Spooner says:

    So, if you wore a disposable Tyvek coverall and a full face gas mask with a sub-micron filter (P100), you’d be mostly fine? That setup would cost you about $160 to start, plus an additional $10 every time you threw away a coverall. Might also help to communicate the severity and significance of your condition.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Speaking of expensive filters, would a house with a good filtration system produce less severe reactions? I know I can buy mini-fridge-sized air filters at the local hardware store that sit in each room, and heating/air-conditioning companies sell big filters that do your whole house’s intake and/or the air as it leaves your heating/cooling gadgets. Have you ever had experience with houses that had either/both of filters like these, Shamus?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well a hepa air filter should be able to clean the house in about a day.However,in order for it to be really effective,youd also need a vacuum combo to get everything out of the carpets,floorboards and furniture.And of course,dry cleaning for your clothes.After all that,Shamoose should be able to visit any pet owner with no problem.

        1. James says:

          assuming the pet is outside at all times and during that day after you drycleaned, and the day of the visit you didnt talk to or visit it.

      2. Shamus says:

        When we move into a new place, we always take out the crappy HVAC filters and replace them with the high-end filters. I usually have an air filter near my desk that also does double duty as a white noise generator. (Although the old one died and we haven’t replaced it yet.)

        1. djw says:

          I’m curious, what filter do you use? I have a fairly minor case of asthma, but it does affect my sleep, so I would like to explore the possibility of better filters.

          1. Shamus says:

            We usually just get whatever HEPA filter we can find at Target that fits in our budget.

        2. kunedog says:

          Shamus, have you ever considered infesting yourself with hookworms? I found this guy’s story fascinating (warning: link should autoplay audio, and the segment is about 15 minutes long):
          http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/404/enemy-camp-2010?act=3#play

          He claimed it was a miracle cure for him and started a business selling hookworms until the FDA shut him down. I know that raises all kinds of red flags, but there is a plausible scientific mechanism (and a few studies) behind it (and they talk to a couple scientists), so it isn’t quite snake oil.

          The premise starts with the fact that almost no one in the first world has hookworms anymore, while almost no one in the third world has asthma/allergies. The theory is that having hookworms is “normal,” since they were so common for thousands of years. Hookworms have an ability to calm our immune system somehow, meaning that our immune systems might have developed with this “limiting” factor present. So maybe now that it’s gone, our immune systems are much more active on average, causing allergies in many cases.

          AFAIK you’ve never mentioned this in your allergy posts before so I figured you hadn’t heard of it. I’ve never had allergies of any kind and found the whole story riveting (just wait until you hear how he first got his hookworms).

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Whenever someone says “You know,those guys that dont/didnt have the fancy medicine never had your weird allergic reaction”,the immediate answer is not “Yeah,I guess fancy medicine is the problem”,but rather “ITS BECAUSE THEY DIE(D) BEFORE THEIR ALLERGIES COULDVE BEEN IDENTIFIED!”.Seriously,if you ever consider infecting yourself with hookworms,or tapeworms,or worms of any kind,DONT FUCKING DO IT!

            And yes,our fancy medicine does use “infect someone deliberately” in order to bolster our immune systems.Its called vaccination.It also involves severely neutered infective agents instead of pumping us full of the real deal.And even then it still has a small chance of doing something bad to us(though usually its due to improperly made vaccines).

            1. kunedog says:

              It’s more our modern sanitation that’s the problem, not modern medicine (according to the hypothesis anyway). And yes, even assuming the hypothesis is correct, the benefits of broad public sanitation (including elimination of many, many parasites) absolutely outweigh the problem of increased immune disorders (even if they may be debillitating or deadly to some individuals).

              But if you listen to the report, you will see that the scientists are focusing on one specific “parasite,” carefully controlling and monitoring its population, and trying to measure any effects (beneficial or otherwise). Remember, the idea is that you would simply use hookworms where approriate (like maggots or leeches), not eliminate public sanitation.

            2. Dasick says:

              the immediate answer is not “Yeah,I guess fancy medicine is the problem”,but rather “ITS BECAUSE THEY DIE(D) BEFORE THEIR ALLERGIES COULDVE BEEN IDENTIFIED!”

              An “immediate answer” isn’t always the correct one. We know for sure only that those problems aren’t/weren’t reported. But does that mean that those problems are/were under reported? Or that there is/was no problem at all?

              Here is something to consider: populations with low allergy rates also have low obesity rates. We can argue all day if starving people are doubly screwed if they’re allergic as well (and thus never make it to be part of the census). But we know for sure it’s not a matter of people dying before obesity gets to them – cause they ain’t fat. I don’t if there are similar indicators for allergies (fatness was/is seen as a sign of prosperity in those circumstances, not an impending heart attack), but how would you determine that a population has widespread allergies without them being identified before death?

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                By studying live people.Find a place with many allergies.Check how many of those people are fat.Does there seem to be a link?If yes,then starving people are lucky that they arent starving AND allergic.If no,then starving people are doubly screwed.

                Like Ive said somewhere else,there are some allergies where your immune system simply has to adapt to the environment and they will disappear.And again,I put the emphasis on SOME.There are also plenty of allergies that will kill you long before your immune system can even begin to adapt.Did our sanitation cause those allergies from the first category to become more common?Yes.But it also caused people with allergies from the second category to not die.Id call that an excellent tradeoff.

                1. Dasick says:

                  Obesity of a population is an issue we can reasonably estimate based on certain facts or just plain logic. I have no idea if allergy has those “tells” that we can use to reasonably estimate how many people kicked the bucket before their allergies were identified and treated. We can’t just use the developed world to approximate how many people would have died due to allergies specifically because the environments are so different. It’s not just an issue of sanitation, for example there are links between asthma and air pollution. There’s again the issue of diet and activity, all manners of pollution and pollutants and many more.

                  It’s certainly not that big of a deal right now since more people than ever are surviving, both in first and third world countries. It’s really not an issue at all even if the first category keeps expanding and outnumbers the second category, because both can be kept alive relatively painlessly with minimal inconvenience to all. But a lot of modern medicine and sanitation methods depend on the post-industrial-revolution logistics system that runs very efficiently (which allows medicine to be so easily available) on very limited resources (fossil fuels). It would be difficult to keep up our level of public health and sanitation when those start running out, and we will be dealing with the worst of both worlds.

          2. Shamus says:

            I’d heard of this before, from multiple sources over the years. There’s more than one person who claims to have been miraculously cured this way. I keep waiting until someone can nail it down clinically.

            DL brings up vaccinations, which ties into the question I always have about this. If having your body fight a hookworm can fix the malfunctioning immune system, why does the hookworm need to be alive? Has anyone tried this technique with dead hookworms? (Maybe the key is that it actually needs to hook into the intestinal wall, which obviously a dead hookworm couldn’t do.)

            It’s an interesting anecdote / hypothesis. We’ll see if it amounts to anything.

            1. kunedog says:

              DL brings up vaccinations, which ties into the question I always have about this. If having your body fight a hookworm can fix the malfunctioning immune system, why does the hookworm need to be alive?

              From (what I understand of) what I’ve read, the immune suppression is an active response from the hookworm, after it’s been attacked by the immune system (the details of which are a bit over my head; one paper theorized that the hookworms (somehow) promote the development of the less inflammatory “Th-2” white blood cells).

              So it’s not just “your body fighting the hookworm,” it’s also the hookworm fighting back (again, “somehow”). For this reason, I don’t think the mechanism is exactly analogous to vaccines and antibodies.

              Has anyone tried this technique with dead hookworms? (Maybe the key is that it actually needs to hook into the intestinal wall, which obviously a dead hookworm couldn't do.)

              Even if that would work, it doesn’t seem necessary. Hookworms are not viruses or bacteria that are going to multiply endlessly in your body until they’ve either killed you or fallen victim to your immune system. Their life cycle involves laying eggs that can only hatch in soil, so they don’t reproduce at all in the body. Toilets and hand-washing should complete eliminate the possibility of acquiring new worms, or passing yours onto someone else.

              I found a more unbiased analysis (though it’s also pretty old):
              http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2991/will-hookworms-relieve-my-asthma

          3. I, too, have heard that hookworms are useful for auto-immune disorders (allergies included). Never tried it myself, so I can’t speak to its efficacy.

            Its medical name is “Helminthic therapy” and it has a Wikipedia page with a list of nasty side effects… mostly involving weight loss… which could be a benefit?

            1. djw says:

              Not sure that’s really an advantage. Sounds like the South Bronx Parasite diet, and that didn’t end well for Carl (but then nothing ever does in ATHF).

            2. Decius says:

              You can get the weight loss benefit of hookworms via bloodletting. The problem is that if you want to lose X pounds via bloodletting, you need to let about X pounds of blood. (water weight that you regain from proper hydration is roughly offset by the high-energy requirement of creating the new cells; there’s also liver/kidney potential issues.

              Hookworms do it slowly enough that you lose energy, constrict blood vessels, and and otherwise adapt so that survival is more likely than with sudden blood loss.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Umm…If you want to lose weight you want to burn fat,not reduce your blood supply.So both of those that you describe are terrible ideas for losing weight.

                1. Dasick says:

                  Not to mention that having belly (or any other kind of) fat is not necessarily a health problem, not always obesity, depending on your body build and overall health/activity. So, we’re talking about potential health problems for what can be an issue of pure aesthetics.

              2. Zak McKracken says:

                That’s weight loss by dehydration … would not recommend. You keep your belly fat but you reduce the stuff that makes you able to do things.

                It’s also a terrible terrible idea for people who have any bloodborne diseases — in addition to producing vast amounts of antibodies and whatnots, now you also need to produce large amounts of red blood cells and all the other stuff that goes in you blood, just in order to stand up.

                This one might have made some sense to people a long time ago, after realizing that diseases are in your blood and before realizing that that’s also where your immune system lives and works, and where all the oxygen goes through you need to not drop dead…

  4. Da Mage says:

    I’m really lucky with my allergies. I am allergic to EVERYTHING (dust, grass, pollen etc), except for dogs and fungus (which is important for medications). Luckily, I don’t have any breathing problems to go along with mine, instead I have sinus problems, so exposure can lead to sinus infection. In the short term most of those things will just give me a headache and maybe some hayfever symptoms.

    That said, I live on a farm surrounded by long grass and my family has always had a cat and I think exposure throughout my childhood has managed to reduce the severity of my reaction. When I was living in the city I was much better and healthier, as the only thing I had to keep down there was the dust.

    When I was a teenager they tried Immunotherapy where they give you small doses (through a needle) of the things you are allergic to in order to ‘teach’ your immune system how to respond. It didn’t work, as the dose increased my reaction just got worse until I had to go to the hospital a few hours after one injection with a baseball sized lump on my arm.

    It’s hard to explain to people without allergies what it is like, as they just assume it’s an annoyance that’l make you sneeze. But nearly all my migraines are directly related to my allergies.

  5. Rory Porteous says:

    I suffer from hayfever, ‘normal’ for much of the population, but I have a secondary syndrome as a result of it that makes me allergic to all uncooked fruit and veg. If I eat some I’ll go into anaphylactic shock very quickly. I haven’t eaten an apple or a grape in years, all my veg is overcooked to be safe, and eating out can be a risky proposition. To get my five a day I have to drink cooked/pasteurized smoothies which can get pretty expensive.

    The only fresh thing I can eat are bananas as they come from a different group from the rest. But I fucking hate bananas, even more so when it’s the only fresh fruit I can get.

    I really miss apples.

    1. mhoff12358 says:

      Aww man that sucks. I’ve got nut and shellfish allergies which can make stuff like going out to dinner a pain, but having to make sure vegetables are super cooked seems easy enough to make people not think it’s a big deal, but impossible to actually make sure it’s done correctly.

      A few years back I started having issues with cross contamination in the dorm rooms at my college and it really freaked me out. The only thing that helped me was learning to cook, and doing it for my friends often. No one can suggest going out to a sushi place that I can’t eat at if I’ve already made pasta for boardgame night!

      If you haven’t already tried getting creative with cooking to show up your allergies I’d highly recommend it, it worked for me at least.

    2. Majikkani_Hand says:

      Can you eat cooked apples? Because applesauce (or its chunkier cousin, essentially-pie-pilling) is really, really easy to make. Heat apples, mash apples, add cinnamon (optional), done.

    3. djw says:

      That would drive me nuts. I find the taste and texture of cooked vegetables to be unpalatable, so if I had the same problem as you I would default to a very unhealthy diet.

    4. Oh, that is interesting. Our oldest is allergic to most uncooked fruits and vegetables (though not full anaphylactic- triggers her weird very slow albeit potentially deadly if she ignores it reaction). I have never heard of anyone else dealing with that particular allergy, though I did have a babysitter when I was young who was allergic to all fruit and I have quite a few fruit and vegetable allergies- though cooked or uncooked isn’t a factor.

  6. Akri says:

    Fun fact: I read this article shortly after giving my pet medicine for his allergies. This amuses me.

    Personally I’m lucky in that my only allergy is to mosquito bites. It’s not dangerous at all, just extremely annoying. And it makes me hate the little vampire bugs with the passion of a thousand burning suns. But it’s never sent me to the hospital, so meh.

    My brother, on the other hand, also has the allergies + asthma combo. And because he’s allergic to freaking milk it took ages for anybody to work out why he kept needing to go the ER. Having it be something as obvious as “played with puppies -> almost died” is slightly useful in that respect. Harder to avoid though. So I suppose it’s a trade-off.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Lucky for me,I dont have mosquito allergies.What I do have is extreme mosquito magnetism.If you put me and someone else near a river,they will have one,maybe two bites,while I will be covered in them.Extremely frustrating for me,extremely useful for everyone near me(except my father,who is just as magnetic to the little bloodsuckers).

      1. Akri says:

        Oh, I also have the magnetism (though either it’s faded since I was a kid, or there are just fewer mosquitoes where I live now). Makes summertime extra fun.

      2. Felblood says:

        Have you tried mega-dosing yourself with B-complex vitamins?

        IT will make you urinate a lot as your body tries to flush the excess vitamins out of your blood, if you are taking enough to help.

        Something about B vitamins will make most mosquitoes will avoid biting you. It’s more effective than any topical mosquito repellent I have ever tried, even high concentration DEET formulas.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Theres no need now that I live on a big hill.I mean yeah,I get a few mosquito bites in the summer,but not nearly as many as when I lived not even a kilometer from the nearest river.

          1. Felblood says:

            I don’t recommend doing it all the time, but if you are going camping, it helps to pack your bloodstream along with you bags.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Huh. I’ve been hitting the B Vitamins and caffeine hard lately. Maybe thats why I’ve been having that particular problem. Thank you.

      3. Damien, you just have sweet blood :) Or at least that’s what my grandmother (also a mosquito magnet) always used to say. Here mosquitoes have gotten much worse since I was a kid when we just had the native ones that were mostly a dawn and dusk thing. I miss being outside for more than 2 minutes without worrying about being bitten.

        Oh well, at least I still know the fingernail trick (pushing a nail repeatedly into the bite to disperse the poison faster helps it stop itching). Weird, but it works.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Actually,its warm blood that attracts them.It has its perks though,I dont mind cold that much.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            That and the composition and amount of sweat, I’m told.

    2. HiEv says:

      When I was a teenager we got two kittens from a neighbor’s cat’s litter, and one of them sneezed all the time. We started joking that she was allergic to humans and named her “Gesundheit” (or “Zooni” for short). Fortunately she grew out of the frequent sneezing, but the name stuck.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im really surprised by people who have pets that dont understand how omnipresent their hairs actually are.If you have an indor pet,you can put your clothes in the washing machine,and immediately after you get it out,you will have pet hair on them.This will most easily be seen if you have a white pet on your black clothes,or if you have a colored pet on your white clothes.Youd have to pick your clothes clean by hand in order to actually get everything out.

    And thats only hairs.Pets also have dandruff,like humans,which is much harder to spot(it can be most easily spotted when you brush a black/brown pet).

    1. mhoff12358 says:

      The people I’ve met who are big pretty owners are actually super aware of how the animal hair gets everywhere, it’s just that since they’re so used to dealing with that obvious symptom they assume that’s it and don’t realize how pervasive the airborn dust stuff is.

    2. Believe me, I’m well aware (as the owner of a very fuzzy tri-color Cavalier I’m used to black or white or both hair everywhere). I plan to never actually meet Shamus in person so I don’t risk killing him.
      I treat it like I do pollen. I warn and do my best to minimize if I know I’m going to be around an allergic person, but yeah, I know the dander’s everywhere. I’d say I’d shower and then not go near the dog (and take my clothes to a working dryer), but I am not good at saying no to this face.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I on the other hand have a pretty hospitable environment. No pets and where I live is quite annoyingly humid. Though we have watched other’s pets a couple of times so thats something to be aware of if I have over people with pet allergies.

        EDIT: Actually come to think of it, my neighbor on the other side of our duplex has a dog. Nuts!

  8. Felblood says:

    I guess that I’m lucky that my allergies activate very quickly.

    If you smoke, or you own a horse, or you have certain breeds of cat, I cannot even spend five minutes in your car, unless you want my sinuses bleeding all over your upholstery.

    People have a hard time believing I’m not exaggerating, but fresh blood has a dramatic way of convincing people.

    –and all it costs me is an instant sinus migraine.

    1. Syal says:

      I’m left to wonder how people fit horses in their cars.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        One at a time.

      2. Soylent Dave says:

        Two in the back, two in the front.

      3. Felblood says:

        That’s the part that takes the bleeding to illustrate.

        The horse never has to be in the car.

        His dander is on you, and what’s on you is infused into your car in ways you’d rather not know about.

  9. VaporWare says:

    I always thought the title was a clever allusion using the maximum natural roll of a twenty sided dice as a sort of meta-syntactic variable or token to represent the functionally infinite number of sides one can take in any argument about gaming!

  10. andy says:

    CAN you in fact hold your breath forever? Or do you start breathing when you pass out? (Referencing the mouseover text)

    1. King Marth says:

      Yeah, the autonomic nervous system should kick in and resume breathing when you pass out. Apparently you can witness this with particularly stubborn children.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Though you can train your conscious brain to affect the autonomous functions somewhat.But Im not sure if you could do it so that you can choke yourself to death.

    2. Primogenitor says:

      I guess at some point your lungs will rot, or a bug/worm will eat through them, or decomposing gases will build up inside and you’d go pop (a la some “exploding whales”).

      Plus eventually the sun would expand and burn your lungs as well as the air inside them.

      Maybe if you were sealed in carbonite and set adrift in deep space it might stay in for a few hundred billion years?

    3. Taellosse says:

      You are correct – it is possible to override the urge to breathe while you are conscious, but unless you arrange things such that when you pass out you are prevented from breathing by an external factor (you are underwater, for example), your body will automatically resume breathing when you fall unconscious. Of course, if you attempt to do this with the sort of ailment that Shamus has, in an environment that will activate your allergies, you’ll begin to suffer the reaction even while unconscious, which, if serious enough, could kill you before you regain the ability to leave the area/get medical treatment.

  11. Ilseroth says:

    People really don’t understand allergies at all. I worked at a pet store and I can’t tell you how many times someone with an allergy (or they had a spouse/kid with allergies) would try to be trying to weight the benefits of getting an animal that would directly damage their health. Since the pet store sold dogs it was doubly worse, since yeah the puppies are super adorable and all that, but if you are going to get a rash from just *touching* the dog in the store, you will be screwed after a couple days of it being in your house.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well,technically you can “duke it out” with some types of allergies.Meaning if you get enough of the allergen inside you,you will get used to it.The key word there is some.Most of the time youll just make yourself worse until you die.

      1. Taellosse says:

        Yeah, but generally speaking if the allergy is severe enough that you’re getting contact rashes immediately, it’s gonna kill you well before your immune system adapts to its presence. You can really only overcome allergies through exposure if they’re pretty mild – enough to be irritating but not terribly debilitating, and even then only sometimes.

        1. I have that problem with some glues (including most band-aid adhesives which makes injury extra-fun!). I end up with almost a burn within an hour (or not at all, my fingers aren’t going to react, my abdomen and legs do, and I’m terrified to even think about trying my face). My guess is that my hands are desensitized (thank goodness, that’s where I tend to need a bandaid most of the time) from repeated unintentional exposure in childhood/adolescence.

          It’d kinda be interesting to see if inhaling enough of that adhesive would trigger a severe reaction, but that just seems like something for a Mythbusters Medical show, where you could have docs and meds right there.

          1. Ooo, another person with a weird allergy I have (hereditary- my mom had it, my grandma has it, and my middle daughter got it from me.) Stupid Bandaid glue. Though I find I can get away with Tegaderm for a longer period of time, anything else causes a burn within am hour or so and I have to use alcohol to get the adhesive off my skin. Used to end up down at the nurse requesting alcohol pads to get the glue off when I was in high school. One of them knew about the allergy and was very willing to help, the other wouldn’t and didn’t believe me, was sure I had nefarious reasons for wanting alcohol pads.

            1. Mine’s comes from Mom, too! We can both still use paper tape (and thankfully don’t seem to react to those adhesive pad things for IVs), but it is a pain. Nothing like explaining over and over again at the ER “No, I’m just allergic to the adhesive in cloth tape. No, I know it’s not latex, I promise it’s not latex.”

              I had my first reaction at like 13 (got adhesive on my face somehow, it got infected, was not a pretty sight for a week), and then not again till my early 20s for some reason. I can leave a band-aid on for about an hour atm (generally enough time to stop active bleeding), but anything that needs to be covered longer is complicated.

              My mom always blamed her skin issues for the allergy (which I’d have to go down and ask what it is, I’ve forgotten, but I know it’s made worse by stress. Psoriasis?) That got shot in the foot when I got it too, though you could argue that there’s a possible environmental component (same house for 30+ years for both of us).

        2. djw says:

          Yes, and its not really fair to the dog to take that risk. If you have to get rid of the dog (through no fault of its own) then it may be at risk of being put down if you can’t find a new home for it. Sounds irresponsible to me.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I know you said “some” but just to be clear, others allergies get worse with repeated exposure. In fact some allergies don’t start till you’ve had a fair amount of exposure (latex allergies being one).

      3. Soylent Dave says:

        Yeah, I’ve got the super-mild version of Shamus’ allergy.

        Mild enough that I’m able to own five cats (gradually introduced, they were all rescues); my immune system adapted to each cat as we got it – so I’d get incredibly asthmatic (not “needs hospitalisation” like Shamus does, but “dramatically increasing my medication and waking up every day struggling for breath” which is still no fun) for a few months, and then I’d suddenly be basically okay around / in the house with that particular cat.

        (they still set me off a bit if I’m overexposed, and if they scratch me the scratch inflates comically, so I’m still allergic, just not dangerously so)

        Immune systems are weird.

  12. NoneCallMeTim says:

    Since the comments are sharing allergies, here is mine: I have a mild allergy to milk and eggs. It brings me out in a rash a few days later, and I get digestive problems if I eat to much of it.

    What was weird was the medical profession’s attitude to it. When I was really young (some time in the late 80’s) my mum thought I had an allergy, and took me to the doctor. They said there was no such thing, and she was being silly, and I could eat as much dairy as I wanted..

    Fortunately, she didn’t listen to their advice, and stopped feeding me that. Lo and behold the rash got better.

    1. swenson says:

      Tangentially related, when my mom was in her twenties, a doctor gave her a list about a mile long of foods she apparently was intolerant to (not allergic). She couldn’t eat fruit with small seeds (like strawberries and raspberries). She was supposed to limit how much pop she drank. I don’t remember the rest, but it was this big massive list. And she’d still have digestive problems with relative frequency. Terrible stuff.

      Then when my sister was a teenager, we figured out that my sister is lactose intolerant.

      In a stroke of genius, my mom went, “…wait a minute. Have I been lactose intolerant this entire time?”

      As you can probably guess, yes, she totally is. None of the things the doctor so long ago claimed would give her problems actually cause her any problems at all, it was lactose the whole while. How a doctor concluded that she was intolerant of raspberries before considering she might be lactose intolerant, I don’t know, but there you have it.

      (turns out she really can’t eat pineapple, though. Even the slightest hint of pineapple juice in a recipe will give her issues immediately. That one’s separate from lactose)

      1. Sounds kinda like the list I got after my gastric bypass, aka “this stuff either irritates the small intestine or can get stuck in any scarring so might cause issues, or not” I can kinda guess why a clueless doc might just hear “can cause issues” and not pay any attention to the “after digestive surgery bit”. But I’ve had 4 gastro docs now, in just over 10 years, and the latest is awesome and the rest were, well, not. I’ve had “it’s all in your head”, many tests followed by “it’s all in your head”, and my personal favorite “throw pills at patient to shut up”. This one admits when she doesn’t know stuff, is willing to research and experiment, and was the first person to say “have you had your reproductive system checked?” Most specialists tend to be very focused on their bit of the body and in the abdomen that’s not necessarily a helpful thing (since you’ve got loads of various systems in there, any one or an interaction thereof could be causing issues).

        Note: Even if “it’s all in my head” you still damn well need to try to help. Our realities are in our heads, pain is pain whether the nerves in whereever are firing or not (though different kinds of pain do need different treatments and a brain misfire needs different stuff than a trapped nerve in a hand or whatever). In my experience “all in my head” translates to “you’re a female with a complicated problem and a psychiatric history and therefore crazy and not to be taken seriously.”

        Sorry, got on the soapbox for a bit. Spent way too long dealing with that stuff, and know far too many others who’ve had the same.

  13. I have pet allergies myself (or had, more on that in a moment) and I have friends with children who have severe food allergies, so I read a lot about this stuff, and one thing that’s very interesting to me is that there’s been some very strong correlations shown between gut health and overall immune system health–including allergies.

    In fact, some promising efforts have shown that it’s possible to “cure” peanut allergies by transplanting gut bacteria. The more people study the gut, the more phenomenal its effects on the body are shown to be.

    A couple of years ago I radically changed my diet, and my allergies (which were HORRIBLE when I was a teenager) have basically disappeared. There’s a possibility that if you could rationalize your gut microbiome, you could at least lessen the impact of your allergies.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      yep, this is amazing.

      When I first read the words “fecal transplant” it sounded like a bad joke but those things can and do save lives. Have been shown to transform chronically overweight people into not-at-all-overweight. And the other way round, depending on who the donor was…
      (but not always, and only under certain not-quite-understood circumstances so don’t go and try that for good luck!)

    2. We have done the G.A.P.S. protocol and found that it got rid of most of the food allergies or limited them, and made some most environmental allergies less, but didn’t fix them. Kombucha helps a lot. Other ferments help, but the animal allergy persists.

      1. Yeah, it’s seriously complicated and the body has its own defenses against being fiddled with too much.

  14. wswordsmen says:

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but you are banned from ever entering places where I live. Not that you would want to come since it would probably kill you. I just love animals too much.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yeah,Shamoose wouldnt even be able to approach me on the street,since I have the habit of sleeping with my cat.But thats ok,since he and I are over 7000 kilometers apart.

      1. boota says:

        i hope you mean “i have the habit of sleeping, my cat being in the bed with me” not actually “sleeping with the cat”

        1. SKD says:

          Maybe he prefers to sleep in his cat’s bed rather than his own? Don’t judge him….

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I always found that euphemism strange.When I have sex with a girl,sleep is nowhere near my mind.And though falling a sleep mid sex would be pretty funny,it would definitely lead to an immediate break up.

          So yeah,when I say sleep,I do mean sleep.I sleep,and my cat usually sleeps on my feet.Though sometimes she has the habit of going on my pillow,but not so much now as when she was a kitten.

  15. SKD says:

    I’ve been lucky to have not suffered too much from allergies through my life. No food or drug allergies, only some hayfever that mysteriously ;) disappeared once I was no longer working in industrial environments where fuel fumes and exhaust were common.

    Some times it is purely environmental, I guess. My father had the same hayfever problem, but he also had asthma severe enough when he was young that my grandparents had to build an addition onto the home with its own A/C unit in order to moderate the environmental factor.

    The allergy I don’t understand is peanut allergies. Peanuts are such a common ingredient I don’t know how some peanut allergy sufferers survive. And aren’t peanut allergies a relatively new phenomenon? Not that they didn’t used to exist but the percentage of the population with them used to be much smaller….

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Peanuts are such a common ingredient I don't know how some peanut allergy sufferers survive.

      They arent so common where I live.Aside from actual whole peanuts,they arent being sold.And I have used them only in a few of the exotic dishes myself,but Im the exception when it comes to food preparation,not the norm.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        I think the problem with peanuts is that there are traces in almost every chocolate thing you can buy because most companies use the same machine to make all the flavours, so there will always be some remainders.

        The other problem, of course, is that those traces are enough for many allergic people to trigger the full range of symptoms.

    2. Phill says:

      The percentage of the population with them mostly used to be dead I suspect.

      Although the use of peanuts in/as food is mostly something from the last hundred years or so. Prior to 1500 of course peanuts were only found in south America. I wonder what the incidence of peanut allergies is amongst people descended from indigenous SA is : I’d guess much lower than in other populations. Add they spread they were mostly used as animal feedstock (and/or industrial uses?).

      I think the increase in peanut allergies in recent decades is a good sign though. It signifies that people with the allergy are living long enough to reproduce, rather than dying as children. Call me a sentimentality, but I think that’s a good thing.

      1. Liam O'Hagan says:

        A family friend (with severe anaphylactic allergies, but not to nuts) was involved in a study with her newborn son, whereby they were introducing various common allergens in low concentrations into his milk supply, from a very early age.

        This was apparently to test a theory that was based around a certain middle eastern country (Syria perhaps) where nut allergies were incredibly uncommon, and whether that was because of significant early exposure to nuts.

        No idea of the outcome, he did have quite sever infant eczema, but I can’t say whether that was related to the trial.

    3. The allergies aren’t a new phenomenon exactly, although there’s some evidence that disruption of gut bacteria is what causes the prevalence of allergies, particularly food allergies. Things that can wreck your gut bacterial development:

      Being delivered via C-section instead of vaginally (increasingly common)
      Diet high in refined carbohydrates, especially wheat (increasingly common, though this trend is reversing)
      Excessive cleanliness/use of antibacterial cleaners (increasingly common)
      Lack of exposure to natural soil (increasingly common)
      Pesticides on your food (increasingly common)
      Artificial sweeteners particularly Aspartame (increasingly common)
      lack of fiber in the diet (increasingly common)
      use of antibiotics to treat illness, particularly before 2 years of age (increasingly common–one course of antibiotics can wreck your gut bugs for YEARS if you don’t make an effort to replenish them)
      Probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.

      1. Stuff that has no apparent direct effect on your health can nevertheless screw with your gut microbiome.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        Of this, the antibacterial cleaners are my favourite source of dismay:
        Those things (soaps, dishwashing liquid, whatever other cleaning liquid) use antibiotics! But because they are not used as medicine, they are not bound to the same restrictions which were meant to reduce the use of antibiotics to necessary cases, to prevent the development of resistant bacteria. Best of all is that with those products, most of it goes down the drain directly, which means that the sewage contains a low concentration of antibiotics, as well as lots of bacteria. That’s ideal for developing resistance to those things!

        In humans, the rule is that you should either not use them or if you do, kill the bacteria until they’re dead and then some because otherwise the survivors will be immune. With these “antibacterial soaps”, this is the worst you can do: The only thing at which they’re particularly good at is breeding resistant bacteria.

        => Don’t use those, please!

    4. Relatively new- last 20 years they became huge. One theory of why they popped up so extremely is there are traces of peanuts in one of the vaccines now given that wasn’t in earlier, which means it hits the bloodstream directly instead of going through normal channels and the body thinks it is being attacked by peanuts. One theory out of several but actually very likely given the rise of peanut allergy and the timing of the vaccine change. Of course at this moment I can’t remember the details but I have several friends with kids with peanut allergy and “why?!” is a common discussion.

      1. I’ve read a pretty good study that indicates there’s no correlation between early exposure to the allergen and developing an allergy. There was a lot of noise about “don’t eat peanuts when you’re pregnant!” that turned out to be hooey–no correlation could be found.

    5. I think partly it’s arse-covering on the part of the manufacturers – if they can’t absolutely 100% guarantee an absence of something, they stick “may contain…” on the packaging. As someone else mentioned, so many processes use the same machinery for different products, making that 100% guarantee basically impossible. Which leaves the decision down to the allergy sufferer, ultimately – if their allergy is not too severe, they may be willing to take the risk, but if they’re likely to go into anaphalaxis with the slightest trace then perhaps they’re better off steering clear. As I understand it, many allergy sufferers develop a sense of which products and companies they can risk and which they can’t.

      I’m fairly aware of these things now since my niece was born and then diagnosed at 3mo with a possible dairy protein allergy (“possible” because it’s not the kind of allergy that can be tested for because it’s non-IgA) and put on an allergen-free formula immediately because she was ill enough by that point that there was no time to try other options (like altering my sister’s diet and therefore her breast milk). My sister spends a fearsome amount of time reading labels and cross-checking with other parents online and we’re all quite aware of the murky depths of that “May contain…” phrase.

  16. Steve C says:

    How long until an area is ‘safe’ after pets are out of the picture? Let’s say you move into a new home that has no pets. At one point it did. How long does that environment have to be pet free until you can operate without issue? Weeks? Months? Years?

    I have no pets but I did look after my parents cats a while ago for a week. When would it be safe to visit for a couple of hours after something like that? What about something more long term?

    Do you ever have to shun your family because they have interacted with something cute?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m not sure. I imagine the house doesn’t really start to become safe until after you replace the carpet and clean out the duct work. Even then, I imagine the process takes years, not months.

      1. 12 years after a pet leaves if ducts aren’t cleaned, carpets aren’t removed, walls aren’t repainted, air not filtered and so on. 12 years is how long it takes for the dander to degrade on its own.

        1. I still want someone to figure out how to make an “allergy bomb” for a house.

          1. Khizan says:

            That’s easy. All you need is a container full of pet dander and a can of compressed air. Boom, allergy bomb.

            1. Attercap says:

              I would not want to buy a “bug bomb” from you…

              1. Khizan says:

                It’s a balloon filled with ants!

    2. Also, we shower and immediately put our things in the wash after any and all interactions with people or places where dander may be an issue. When I return from work each day I have to shower and wash my clothes because very occasionally a dog comes to stay the week.

  17. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I’ve always when been curious about this -why can’t we suppress allergic reactions? We have immunosuppressant drugs. Is their use to treat allergies just impractical (since it would render the user susceptible to other pathogens) or is it something else?

    1. Soylent Dave says:

      We can suppress allergic reactions, just incompletely (in practical terms); most people suffering from allergies will be taking antihistamines to a greater or lesser degree. Some people with allergic conditions will be treated with mast cell stabilisers, which limit their production of histamine in the first place.

      But histamine is a general purpose neurotransmitter – it’s necessary for regulating things like sleep & wakefulness, gastric acid, sexual function and blood pressure, as well the immune system.

      (it’s also involved in neurological issues – too little histamine is linked to schizophrenia and memory problems)

      So while it’s conceivable that you could suppress it entirely… it would be bad for reasons beyond just rendering the patient immunocompromised.

      (that’s why allergy treatments are ultimately ‘avoid allergens’, ‘suppress histamine production a bit’, and ‘treat the symptoms’ )

      There are other treatments as well – people at risk of anaphylaxis will be treated with epinephrine (adrenalin), which would have obvious side-effects as a long-term treatment, there are some tailored enzyme inhibitors that suppress specific immune responses etc.

    2. Also, 6-12 meds daily are generally required for transplanted organs. That’s a lot of meds for occasional sneezing. For a killer allergy that you can’t avoid, it might make sense, but how common are those? Obviously some are much more difficult than others (I’ve heard of skin reactions to water which have to suck and make life really difficult), but given the risks of immunosuppression it’s not going to be a first line treatment (after all, for most people doing transplants your other option is death, allergies have a few more options thankfully).

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      You can suppress the immune system, but not very selectively. So you could probably allow Shamus to tolerate pet dander, as long as you accept that he could die to a simple cold…

      In the short term, though, antihistamines do have good use against acute problems.

  18. Bob says:

    Have you tried a 3M 95N filter mask? I live Shanghai and it filters out 99% of all dust and microscopic particles. It’s more common to see people wearing these masks in Asia and east Europe, but I think the health benefits for someone with such severe and chronic problems as yourself far outweigh the stigma of wearing a ‘hazmat’ mask when you go out. Just say you’ve got something that is transmitted by breath and people will thank you for wearing the mask.

    1. djw says:

      Also, if you get one that looks like Darth Vader’s helmet people will just assume you are going to cosplay at a convention.

    2. Decius says:

      Nitpick: a 95n filters out 95% of particles at or above the reference size, which IIRC is roughly the width of a TB bacterium. That might be enough to make allergies tolerable, but it’s five times more than a 99n.

      100n masks also exist, and they are what gets used for working in areas contaminated with TB.

      1. Bob says:

        I stand corrected. I’ve got both here in China, and the 99 is much heavier duty and a bit pricier. Start cheap and see what works )

        1. Trouble with masks and asthma- if you already can’t breath well a mask will make it harder. We do have masks for when necessary but it is easier breathing to filter the house than filter around the face. Also, the dander on the skin is a huge issue: walks around a place with animals, wipes eye, eye gets bright red and inflamed from allergen, loses days of work. Not to mention getting itchy etc. A large dose of benedryl, mask, and shower immediately following a visit to danderific place and MIGHT not be sick the next day but still up in the air.

  19. meyerkev248 says:

    CTRL-F “Allergy Shots” 0 of 0.

    Shamus, have you tried allergy shots?

    I only made it about 75% of the way through mine (and was still forced to move to California because ragweed sucks), but they’re amazing.

    Before I left Michigan, I was able to drop from 3 pills a day to 1. And now that I’m in California, I’m at 0 and some occasional sniffles.

    1. Steve C says:

      That suggestion has come up before. I imagine it comes up all the time to the point Shamus is sick of it. I can empathize. I have a chronic illness where people suggest, “Have you tried X?” Yes. It was the obvious first choice. Doesn’t work.

      I understand how it can be irritating when something works for almost everyone… almost being a key word. Note that my own irritation is not directed at anyone commenting here.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        My mother has an “interesting” allergy to sun.She practically cannot go out in the summer without getting a rash(though being draped from hair to toe,with a wide brimmed hat does prevent it).She used to take allergy shots and they were helping her enjoy summer sun for quite a few years.Then,a couple years back,her allergy shots started having negative reactions,so she is back to avoiding the summer sun,unless she can help it.

        Meanwhile,I had her same problem when I was a kid,but somewhere around my year 6(I think,it was waaay back),the rash simply stopped.I guess my fathers genes decided to stop being lazy at that point.

        1. That allergy isn’t actually uncommon, and is hereditary. My oldest and my grandmother both have it. Though exposure in this case usually does the trick. (Note usually, some people do not lose the reaction). Repeated exposure, as long as close together (days not weeks) will cause the rash to stop appearing after one or two ties , but if you stop going out for a week then it starts up again.

        2. There is actually a PLANT that can induce this condition of being “allergic to sun” (giant hogweed). Look it up.

  20. Decius says:

    I’m confused about the fans; the problem you have is that there are a bunch of airborne particles that you want out of the house, so why point the fans inward? I would expect that the best way to clear a contaminated house would be to continuously vent the air outside, change the furnace filter to a HEPA (then alternate between heating and cooling a few times, then put a new filter in), while deep-cleaning the carpets and furniture (steam cleaning?).

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      Actually, neither would seem the best strategy…
      You cannot create a vacuum in your house with fans, so what happens if every window has a fan blowing in the same direction is that you create some circulation through the window, going in through the fan and going out right next to it. So really you should have as many fans blowing in as are blowing out. Or let the fans blow in the windows and open a door or two so the inside air can go out.

      Better still: Look which way the wind is blowing (if it is blowing), then open all windows on the side it is blowing from and on the opposite side (but not left or right), then let it replace the air inside in very short time. That of course depends on how many windows your place has, and on how many walls they are.

    2. Sledge says:

      The problem with venting to outside is that vents are full of dust. So unless you’ve been doing it for a while you’re not solving the problem. Short term best bet is fresh air blown directly into the room in question.
      Allergies suck.

  21. Galad says:

    Re: The blog’s name, and why tabletop games are a more difficult hobby than videogames.

    It’s just easier to write about videogames. They are an easier medium to consume than tabletop games, unfortunately. While it’s certainly possible to play tabletop games with friends from the comfort of your own home, it would still require some setup I am not aware of, initial coordination, and most importantly, the cooperation of other people.

    That being said, I’d love to be able to play tabletop games and/or D&D in the evening, instead of video games. I just haven’t found a good solution to this.

  22. Iwan Grin says:

    Off-topic: “Dust is all around you, all the time.” – This reminds me uncannily of Philip Pullmans “His Dark Materials” Triology…

  23. Ah, the immune system. So necessary. So much of an arse when it goes wrong. Mine decided to score an own goal and kill my parietal cells, required for making stomach acid and intrinsic factor, which is essential for B12 absorption; B12 is essential for iron absorption. As a result, I got galloping pernicious anaemia that didn’t get diagnosed until I had a haemoglobin score of 5.5 (normal for a woman is 12-15) and I could barely string a sentence together (B12 is also vital for the nervous system; drop it hard enough for long enough and you get neural damage for extra funsies). The early symptoms had all been “masked” by the fact that I’d just been backpacking for most of year, so things like weight loss, hair loss, tiredness and bouts of vomiting were all attributed to typical traveller health challenges rather than anything more sinister. If I hadn’t decided to come home for my sister’s 30th almost on a whim, I might have not come home at all. It took me well over a year to claw my way back to reasonable health, and I need B12 injections every 8 weeks for life. Not terribly dramatic, but kind of a pain in the arse if you wanted to be spontaneous about anything (as I found out when I dropped everything to go help with a friend’s third baby for a month) or travel anywhere for an extended period – guess I’ve done pretty much all I’ll do of that now, just glad I went when I did.

  24. I just want to say that I really love the dog allergy graphics in this post.

    They are what I imagine the instruction manual for the No One Lives Forever robot poodle bomb would look like, if it had been written by the folks at Ikea.

  25. (Do I get a prize for connecting the content of this post to a video game?) ;-)

    1. *solemnly awards two internets, one for the game reference and one for that game being NOLF*

      :)

      *glances over shoulder at the NOLF case on the shelf* Dammit, but I need to do my work! Argh! D:

  26. Mike says:

    This post just about perfectly describes my dads allergies. I grew up in a house with hardwood or Linoleum floors in every room because carpet is a bomb waiting to kill him just by having someone walk over it. If we interacted with animals or even stayed at someones house who had animals we were required to strip to our underwear in the mudroom and immediately go take a shower.

    Visiting relatives usually involved him standing in the doorway until he couldn’t breathe or the itching became to intense and he had to go home and take a shower.

    I’m sorry Shamus. Your allergies sound absolutely horrible.

  27. Vermander says:

    I’m also severely allergic to dogs/cats/horses, but I’ve been told my issues are more with the animal’s saliva. I get asthmatic symptoms like Shamus (though not quite as severe) when I’m in a house with a dog, but if the dog licks me I break out in hives.

    Ironically, because I was never able to have a dog as a kid I’ve always been kind of obsessed with them and love reading articles and watching videos about different breeds and how to raise them. My kids already resent me for preventing them from having a puppy.

    It’s also weird to me that allergies aren’t inheritable. My father, my daughter and I all have allergies, but to completely unrelated things.

  28. Bubble181 says:

    Let’s chime in with my allergies….Hayfever, ants, bees and wasps, dogs, cats, horses and most other types of animal with fur. I lived in an outdoorsy area when I was younger and suffered quite a lot – my parents made me mow the lawn weekly for quite a while, convinced I just had a bit of a sneeze and exaggerated to get out from under it. It took hospitalization for them to figure out that, hey, there are different levels of allergy, and my hayfever is quite a bit worse than “just a sneeze”. Anyway, I moved to the big city and my problems are a lot less now – even when i’m out in the country in mowing season, I can usually cope these days.
    I still want a cat and/or dog, though…But I know there are certain breeds/types I really can’t get. There’s a huge difference – some cats can sit on my face all day with hardly a problem, others I can’t be in the same room with for 5 minutes or I’m tearing up, coughing, and my eyes swell shut. Oddly, “purebred” animals seem to tend to inflame my senses less, though it’s not a strict rule and I don’t know of any good reason why it would be so. Even with one that’s tolerable for me, though, I’ll probably be on antihistamines my whole life once I get one.

    As for the title post, “twentysided tale” clearly means you’re telling one tale, but from twenty different points of view – or are highlighting twenty different facets of your tale. Board games, DRM, personal life, professional life, tabletop RPGs, Diecast,… I’m sure we haven’t quite seen all twenty yet :-)

  29. Chris says:

    My allergies and asthma didn’t really act up until I left home for college. Turns out I’m horribly allergic to cigarette smoke. Dad’s an indoor smoker, so I was constantly exposed to it while growing up. After living in the dorms I discovered I absolutely cannot stay at my parents’ house, I have maybe 20 minutes I can visit before my lungs say “We quit!”
    Also allergic to dust and some perfumes, which made living at a dorm sooo not fun.
    ..Then something wonderful happened, I moved from the east to the west coast. Poof, no allergies for several years aside from dust. Now however my system is finding new things to react to.

    One of my coworkers swears that taking freeze-dried nettles has largely cleared up her allergies. Not sure whether to try this or not..

  30. IronCore says:

    Shamus, how does it work with having guests in your home? If a friend has a pet dog what is the best way that they can prepare to visit you? Anything beyond a shower and freshly laundered clothes before leaving the house?

  31. Moridin says:

    Belated, I know, but as someone with pollen allergy, my symptoms were much less pronounced when I was actually in good shape. It’s certainly no miracle cure, but it does make me wonder if there’s a more general correlation.

  32. MrGuy says:

    Might not be a fix, but wondering if you’ve looked at all into heat recovery ventilation as something to help with the problem. Also known as air-to-air heat exchangers, they allow you to basically run a fan bringing in fresh air (and exhausting existing air) without the massive energy cost of blowing all the heat/cooling out of your house with it. So you’re constantly getting fresh air in, and constantly exhausting air that might be (say) coming up through the untrusted vent.

    Since you rent, the whole-house versions are probably out for you, but they have smaller units for a single room (some require some installation, I’ve heard there are some that are standalone but have no personal experience with them). Here’s an article by an engineer on his experience installing/using one.

    As you said in your article about your last apartment, it’s not necessarily the case that fresh air will make an unlivable situation livable. But it might help you with having mild situations a little more pleasant.

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