What am I allergic to?

Well, today was the day I went to the allergy specialist.  I had a long chat with the lovely doctor, recounting my medical roller coaster.  I went equipped with my face cream ingredients, from the co-op bulk section, after my mum reported a mild reaction to the same cream.  This helped narrow down some of the things to test me for, so from memory there was, on the right arm

  • cinnamon extract
  • some artificial cinnamon like thing
  • coconut
  • almond
  • daisy
  • avocado
  • sesame
This was the right arm at the start of the testing – the squares are for the suspect moisturiser

There were more than this, but it was all verbal and I’m bad with memory!

Then for the left arm – which was the more common allergens, like grasses, animals, moulds etc.  Look at how much was going on in that arm!

Left arm fully loaded
Left arm fully loaded


The + and – are controls. One is saline – which you’re not to react to. The other is histamine, you’re meant to react to that (if you don’t, it indicated you might have taken an antihistimine in the past 6 days). After you’ve been a human voodoo doll, you have to wait, so for that, I got you a waiting room photo (cause seriously, my arms are not that interesting):

Very nicely outfitted in an otherwise non descript aging building
Very nicely outfitted in an otherwise non descript aging building

Oh, so the guy (nurse?) doing all the pricking gave me photography hints! Using the light and turning my arm so you can see the nice raised bumps. I may or may not have mentioned I might blog about this, but if nothing else, family would be interested to see how I went.

So, the afters:

Right arm
Right arm

Wowa, I was itchy! That was 10 minutes of annoyance, cause of COURSE you can’t scratch!!

So what was the result?  I definitely react to the daisy family (Candula is an ingredient in the face cream, so that’s why I was tested for that) on the right arm – which was number 7.

Left arm close up
Left arm close up

On the left arm, I tended to react to everything, but most notably to a type of grass!  I also reacted to two different moulds, that the body can have – that seriously gave me the heeby geebies!   And I think the big post closest to you is from dust mites – which I was a little surprised by. Not that it’s uncommon, but I’ve never thought that I react to dust.

The top right of the photo, the 1-5 are for cat, dog, bird, horse and then sheep – all of them giving mild reactions.  This is interesting, as I mentioned I didn’t mind reacting to cats (not a family favourite), and I’m drafting a post about dogs/puppies *smirks*.  The technician/nurse suggested we could fudge the photos with histamine to make it LOOK like I was allergic, but when he saw the results, he actually said ‘well fudging the animal reactions won’t be necessary!’.  To be honest, for all I say about not loving animals, I didn’t really want to be allergic to them either!

So what happens next? I got given a patch on my upper left arm with the offending moisturiser to see how I react.  If it gets ‘really bad’ I can take it off, and photograph it.  But otherwise, I’m due back in their rooms on Tuesday morning to see how things went.  And then, I might start on periodic injections, which will help build my immunity to allergens.

Did I ask about gluten? The doctor touched on it, but as I suspected, my reaction two weeks ago would be unlikely to have been caused by it (not surprising, I didn’t eat any!).  I know this allergy specialist is likely to become a more regular part of my schedule, so I’m sure I can nut out the details with him over time.  There’s some great charts, I took a photo of the snippet that most relevant to my current reactions:

Relationships between different allergens (not really explained on this snippet)
Relationships between different allergens (not really explained on this snippet)

So, what are you (formally or informally) allergic to?  How did you come to work it out?

24 Replies to “What am I allergic to?”

  1. Oh, Sarah! That's a lot of reactions to varied things. Did they give you some suggestions for managing it? And more importantly, is there any way to desensitize you? I know a friend who had a programme for about a year that eventually did desensitize her to dust-mites.

    I've never had formal allergy testing, though I might now I've seen how it's done. I definitely have full-blown reactions to some native Australian plants and I also react to a wide range of cosmetics (leading to limited cosmetics use.)

    Is testing for food allergies done separately to the skin-prick tests?

    1. So the left arm was all environmental things, whilst the right arm was the food things we thought it might be (based on what I ate prior to the reaction). There's countless more foods that could be tested, and over time, they might do more, in the same 'family' to see how I go.

      The desensitizing will come with injections, and over time I'll grow stronger against dust mites or similar.

      If you do get it done, and seeing you're Aussie, mine was $200, and i got about $110 back from Medicare. That didn't cover the arm patch, which if I pay separately, will result in a better return from Medicare (based on their experience).

      He also said it's not very common to have cosmetic reactions, so he was surprised I thought it was the moisturiser. That being said, he mentioned some people reacting to nail varnish, and others to the lemon in their body wash or similar!

  2. I have some mild sensitivities to strong fragrances and cutting the grass, but no allergies. I mow the grass regularly and purposely wear scents on the weekends because otherwise I'm afraid they would escalate. It must be a shock to know you react to everyday things. I hope you settle on the cause of your major reaction!

    1. I understand what you mean with escalation – I wonder if cutting out wheat a few years ago has made me more sensitive to it now – so I think it's a good idea you keep up with exposure to fragrance if it's not affecting you too much. It will be nice to know what caused it, but it might always be a suspicion – given I was moving, the dust mites might be as interesting as it gets!

  3. I have been having allergy tests since I was very young. The advent of the arm testing was so much better than the old scratch tests I have had on my back. It is difficult not to scratch!

    I found the testing useful as I now know what to avoid. The last lot of allergy testing cost me a bundle way way more than $500.

    1. Oh Suzan – I'm glad it's a late onset thing for me – I can't imagine children having the restraint not to itch! Australia is lucky to have a good universal medical system – but the $200 I have spent is just the start, I'm thinking!! What is it that you have to avoid?

      1. Food wise egg yolk, certain grains and sprouts (seeds) but mercifully not wheat, and seafood are the major issues. I am so thankful I am not sensitive to nuts or gluten. Then I avoid dogs, cats, horses, birds etc. I react to dust mite, cockroach and other environmental things. I have learned to avoid herbal teas the hard way. Make up and perfumes are best left alone and I use stuff like QV on my body and hair. Laundry detergents are another nasty. Unfortunately I react to chemicals that are impossible to treat.

        I have had many series of shots and have found avoidance the best action. It has been a lifelong battle with a horrid nose, itchy eyes, excema and discreetly, tummy problems. On my worst days I stay home as going into the grocery store can trigger reactions. I stick to the simple things now and am doing the best I have ever done.

        1. Wow Suzan, that's a long list – but you are lucky that wheat's not one of them (though it's increasingly easier to find wheat free foods). Wow – herbal teas?! I suppose things like chamomile are known to be things people react too. I can imagine grocery stores, with all the highly fragranced washing powders, could send you into overdrive. I'm glad to hear you've found a way that's made it more managable than ever, I'm sure that gives other sufferers (myself included) lots of hope!

  4. I have a runny nose and dry, itchy eyes a lot, and have had since I was a kid, but have never narrowed it down to anything in particular. That’s part of the reason I have cut out a lot of processed foods and gluten and started making my own toiletries and cleaning products.

    Unfortunately none of that seems to have helped a whole lot! I also tried a whole bunch of antihistamines earlier this year, and they didn’t do much either (plus they’re expensive). It may well be dust mites, since my housekeeping skills are not-so-great!

    Anyway, seeing how it’s done and that it doesn’t cost too much makes me think I should bite the bullet and get tested. I didn’t think any of it would be reimbursed by Medicare, so that’s great to know.

    I hope you figure it all out soon, so you don’t have any more trips to hospital.

    1. Oh I used to have the runny nose thing – til I got that nose spray, but it sounds like you've tried most things.

      I think the allergy tests are ideal when you have some 'likely suspects' – which is how my right arm was scheduled. The left arm were all more 'standard' environmental ones.

      You will need a referral from the GP – but when you book in, just ask them the costs, my lady was happy to tell me (and everyone else who rang whilst I was there today!), and she naturally knew roughly how much Medicare gave back, which was really helpful!

    1. That's not cool AT ALL! I shall speak sternly to this new comment system – it's causing me some grief at the moment too! Anxiously awaiting your email 🙂

  5. Thankfully, I’m not allergic to anything! My mom has tons of allergies, so she got allergy shots for years to help build her immunity and it definitely helped. She’s also sensitive to ingredients in creams, soaps, etc. so I’m not surprised to hear you reacted to a cream. Hopefully you’ll figure it out!

    1. Oh Amanda – I was once like you – living life with no allergies – I wish I knew what I did to change that! I noticed you posted about cats, I skipped right over it with my new found allergic reaction, sigh! I'm pleased to hear the shots can work, I'd hate to outlay the money with no real return.

  6. I had fairly mild hayfever symptoms (mostly dry, itchy eyes) for a few years but other than a self-diagnosis of the obvious hayfever and once getting prescription eye-drops to help, I didn't do much else. Anti-histamine tablets didn't seem to have much effect but the eye-drops really helped. Then I moved to Germany and wanted to donate blood. They don't allow that here if you're suffering from hayfever. And when I ticked hayfever on the form, they wanted to know exactly what I was allergic to. So off I went to the doctor to get tested. had similar arm tests done but just for the standard set of stuff and it's birch pollen that causes me problems. If I ever do manage to find my dream home I have now convinced myself it'll be surrounded by birch trees and I won't be able to live there. Also had a slight reaction to the sycamore but not enough to be officially allergic. I started desensitisation shots in January and can't really say if it has helped much so far but I have heard that it's only after at least a year that you really start to notice an improvement. Thankfully it doesn't cost me much more than the prescription admin charge – I may miss that few hundred euro out of my salary every month but I wouldn't swap the ability to be treated and not have to pay. So much better to be able to just go to the doctor without waiting to accumulate several complaints, the way I sometimes did in Ireland (gotta get value for that 60 euro, 2 minute consultation and all that).

    1. Oh the European medical system (especially the mainland) is just amazing! I'm so glad to hear the shots will see some improvement, that's really encouraging. I think I'll start those in about 6 weeks, depending on how things go. I wouldn't even know what Birch looks like – other than an Ikea furniture colour! Shame on me.

  7. Oh man, that's a whole lotta reactions on your arms! Sorry to hear! I used to be okay, but I've noticed over the years that at the beginning of spring, I'm usually wiped out from a morning run (and not from the run itself, but I think from all the pollen). It's weird how it comes up as you get older.

    1. Oh you're a runner too – I'm slowly teaching myself, and it's been a slow climb/increase in distance! Totally weird to get allergies later in life, I agree.

  8. Ouch!!! I feel for you. All those lumps and no scratching allowed! Bummer.

    Double bummer to be allergic to cinnamon. Can you eat it? I love the flavour. Love cinnamon lollies. I know in Australia we are not that big on it but I love cinnamon mints and chewing gum and cinnamon toast and cinnamon in biscuits and cakes.

    BTW: I have enjoyed your comments on Jo’s blog on working out shared house responsibilities. Haven’t commented much lately because have been quite overwhelmed by family stuff. And ow that you have changed your blog, I have to retypemy details. Don’t know why it doesn’t auto load.

    1. Agh, sorry Lucinda, I hate when my details don't autoload, I'm not sure if now, once in the new system, it'll work, but keep me up to date and I'll do my best to streamline everything at my end.

      Please don't apologise – real life comes before blogging, we (I at least) all know that! I hope things settle down soon, and return to normal programming.

      Speaking of cinnamon, I'm still eating the stewed apples with cinnamon, even after these allegry tests (the same stuff I ate when things went wrong), with no ill effects or drugs. So who knows, maybe's only a certain artifical variant of?! I quite enjoy cinnamon too, so I wasn't happy to get a smallish reaction at all!

      Thanks – Jo's blog's really been an outlet for hashing out the chores part of shared living, so I'm glad I haven't come across too 'moan/groan' – we did have some success today, so that's really great1

  9. Oh yikes, that’s a lot of information for you to take in. My brother has severe grass allergies, and is nearly at the end of his series of shots, which have helped, but not cured. Allergies seem to be a skewed immune response. I wonder if ageing and a lowered immune system have any bearing on late onset allergies? Only guessing here, but so many body systems are interrelated. Good luck with working it all out.

    1. I think my existing skin condition (psorasis) is largely 'auto immune' so maybe as it's got worse, I've picked up this other suite of troubles – yay for growing older! I can't help sharing EoK's idea that it might be linked to additives in food – though I have no proof, it just seems like a good thing to blame. Shame the shots haven't totally fixed your brother, but at least they've helped, I suppose.

  10. Yipes! I actually have a weird kind of allergies where I don't react immediately to the allergy tests immediately. It takes a couple days for my body to react fully, so diagnosing my allergy to mold was tough! But so worth it. Now that I know, it's way easier to take preventive measures and keep it under control rather than end up sick all the time. =)

    1. Oh that sounds like no fun at all – to take days to react must make it hard to narrow down exactly what's wrong. At least all your house guests can be sure you won't have any mould!

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