Sunday, May 25, 2008

In sickness and in health

I will love myself. Haha.

Okay, so I guess it all came to a boil about 2 months ago at the Jeju Conference. I ate some tomatoes for dinner. I broke out in hives and a fever. I took some Benadryl. And life was better.

Or at least a little bit answered. I started taking Benadryl every day because I was pretty much breaking out in mini-hives or having super skin redness and itchiness after every meal. It turns out, taking the Benadryl actually also cleared up my skin. If you're unaware that I've been having major skin problems in Korea despite having superclear "baby skin" (thank you, Joan unni) in America, then you're a horrible friend and blog reader. 

Here's a quick reminder.
Skin in America: 
MemDay weekend 2007, T minus 2 weeks until Korea

Skin in Korea:
December 2007, not as bad as it got (un?fortunately, I refrained from taking pics during the worst of it)

On the mend, April 20thish 2007,  few weeks into my Benadryl treatment

May 11, 2007: No new problems, just old scars

So, after about a week and a half of my daily Benadryl supplement, it came to this: I had to choose between being drugged and beautiful or clear-headed and ugly. Although the Benadryl was allowing me to eat pretty normally again it was also making me so drowsy and tired I had to nap every day after school. So was it really sad that my quality of life came down to choosing between “drowsy and clear skin” and “less drowsy (but still tired) and looking like Bog and Quagmire”? 

For your reference, Bog and Quagmire were the (pink and orange) moat twins from Eureeka's castle with those weird colorful boil things all over them.

I know, it's not as existential as some existential crises get, but for me it was a pretty low point. Anyway, FINALLY I decided I can't take it anymore, between the avoiding all foods because I was no longer on Benadryl and my skin flaring up again, I called Severance's International Health Care Center (IHCC) in Seoul and made an appointment for Monday, April 21.

I met with an allergist who spoke no English. I grew despondent when I  couldn't think of the word for "dry skin" in Korean and he and the nurse were both no help. I finally said, "After I eat, my skin is not wet," and I recognized the word for "dry skin" when he said it and noted it. Then I was taken to the testing area where they scheduled me for a food allergy skin-prick test and told me what other tests I needed. One included sticking footlong Qtips up my nose into my brain (I swear that's what happened-SOOOO painful and strange) the other was just a simple blood sample.  I was given a prescription for 2 different 2nd gen. antihistamines and told to stop taking them a week prior to my allergy test. Done and done.

I took the meds and my skin cleared up considerably. Apparently allergies (seasonal, food, chemical, etc.) can trigger skin problems. Something about the histamine levels going wild in the body and increased blood flow which opens up pores and welcomes in bacteria and then the histamines mess with your hormones and spur increased sebum production. So, big pores + more bacteria + excess sebum = perfect storm of acne. I was almost scared to stop the antihistamines a week before my test because I didn't want my skin to mess up again.

Anyway, last weekend, GARRRR. I headed up to Seoul to spend time with family and friends before my allergy test on Monday. All went well until Sunday night when I started throwing up everything I'd eaten all day and feeling miserably feverish and getting the chills and body aches, etc. I drag myself to the hospital Monday and explain that I'd been throwing up all night and morning and if my current less than 100% condition would affect my test results. They said as long as you didn't take antihistamines to deal with it don't worry (which I kindof dunno how I feel about) and we did the thing.

Results of the brain-prodding Qtips, blood tests, and skinprick test: 
*I have seasonal allergies in Korea to birch, oak, ragweed, and sage.
*I am so so SO allergic to house dust/mites (yea, I knew that from America-I actually wear those construction face masks when I clean/vacuum the house and that's not a joke).
*I am allergic to the following foods: barley grain, corn grain, wheat flour, bananas, oranges, strawberries, celery, crab, lobster, mussel, oyster, shrimp, peanuts, potatoes, and cow's milk.
Oh, the good news: my allergies were not so bad and they hadn't yet caused a sinus infection or inflammation INside my face (just wreaked havoc on the outside). Yayy!!!

In addition to the foods that were tested, the doc confirmed that based on the "pattern" of my food allergies I was probably allergic to the other foods I had had previous problems with (honeydew melon, kiwi, pineapple, chameh, etc.). Anyways, I was a little confused about my allergies. I was allergic to MILK? BANANAS? PEANUTS? POTATOES? WHEAT FLOUR? I loved and ate those things ALL the time in America.

Me: What's the deal, doc? How can I suddenly be allergic to things I always ate?
Dr: Well, based on what you've told me of your family members' allergies, you could just be predisposed to these allergies and they're just latent until something really stressful triggers the allergy
Me: Stress?
Dr: Yes, final exams, family troubles, some external cause of a lot of stress can mess with your immune system and these latent allergies will emerge. Have you experienced any increased stress in your life lately?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! Hmm... who knows the answer to this one??? (Aren't you impressed at my Korean skills? The following conversation was necessarily in Korean). Yea, so he also thought my throwing up all night/morning was possibly an allergic reaction to the sushi I had eaten the night before because I don't know how well they're washing the knife/cutting board or what kind of mishmash of seafood is going into every little thing.

Anyway, he gave me a month's prescription for the 2nd generation antihistamines (main difference from 1st gen. is that 2nd is supposedly non-drowsy) and a follow-up appointment in a month. I'm debating not going if things clear up and I don't have to. We'll see.

My mom also wants me to re-get the allergy tests done when I come home. Hopefully I will get unallergic once my stress goes away. I will be forever saddened and seeking revenge if my time here made me allergic to milk and potatoes and bananas and such.

So, after throwing up for 12+ hours last week my body was a mess, I had an open class for parents in addition to teachers and principal/VP on Tuesday. I took like 4 Advil in the morning and smiled and was lovely in class. Luckily though after that one class my coteachers gave me the rest of the week off when they figured out how I was feeling. But not without a caveat. I got the week of in exchange for coming into school TODAY, on a MONDAY, my usual day off to film a class for EBS, Korea's education network. Oh well. It was a good week off from life. I took Advil, my antihistamines, ate porridge, and slept all week. I even missed 2 swim lessons. I'll have to make them up this week. =]

1 comment:

grayshifter said...

Hmm, you and I have slightly opposite problems. I am and always have been a greaseball, so I'm oily and broken out.

BUT...I bought some flaxseed oil and it's supposed to be great for acne. It moistens your skin, thins sebum (good for me, thick stuff clogs pores) and helps with inflammation. You might want to give it a try...all the omega-3s really seem to help.

BEST OF LUCK...your skin seems to be doing better! Go go speaking Korean!