I make no apologies for being allergic to stupidity (even, or perhaps especially, my own). My tolerance levels only decrease as I get older.

That’s not the kind of allergy I want to talk about today, though.

See, it’s oak pollen season in PA and while everything is really lovely with the flowering trees flowering, and wildflowers doing their thing along with the cultivated sorts, and all the other good things that come with spring in this part of the world, it’s also time for the annual plague of gray-ish yellow powder that ages to brown and coats absolutely everything no matter what you do.

And the rather significant fraction of that powder that in this part of the world comes from oak trees just happens to be something that gives me nasty allergy issues. Not anaphylactic shock level allergy issues, thankfully, but the kind of hay fevery ones that make for a miserable two months or so.

First we have the daily dosage of Zyrtec (which is the only non-drowsy antihistamine that doesn’t make me dizzy and woozy), which on bad days can become a twice a day thing. Then there’s the nose spray so I can actually breathe properly and which helps to reduce the problems of too much pollen getting into my lungs and making it harder to breathe. Finally we have the as-needed eye drops to handle the way my eyes constantly itch.

When I first moved here over 10 years ago I needed a steroid shot, prescription nose spray and prescription eye drops as well as the Zyrtec and OTC stuff, so I have habituated some. I’ll likely never fully habituate, though, since 10 years hasn’t brought the unpleasantness down all that much. That’s the drawback of increased population mobility. You don’t grow up with certain things, so your body never programs in that they’re supposed to be mild irritants, not deadly dangers to attack with all available resources.

I can see that being a big issue in science fiction if done right. The kid raised in a space station on their first visit to an actual planet in spring practically keels over because there’s too much pollen in the air and the kid can’t cope with it. Or generational spacers spending all their lives on massive spaceships and absolutely hating having to go planet-side because it’s just not hygienic with all that plant sex going on uncontrolled… Oh dear. The kind of spacer cult of hygiene that could cause…

Right. Yes, allergies can be useful, but I’ve not seen them used well outside short stories. In novels, they’d probably work best as something a character lives with and works around – but they could certainly be used as an extra peril option if an enemy found out that Hero’s Love Interest is deathly allergic to a thing.

31 thoughts on “Allergies

  1. *Wipes drippy eyes* I have to be as minimalist as possible with allergy meds. They shut down the writing. Of course, so does lack of sleep due to difficulties breathing and coughing because of post nasal drip.

    Spacers: “Geeze! C’mon people, filter this bloody air! It’s basic tech! Quite apart from the biological impact, what does it do to your electronics? Downsiders! So bloody dirty!”

  2. Oh man… Space travel could be an OCD person’s best friend, or worse nightmare. It depends on whether they take to the idea that the ship is a contained environment that can be scrubbed clean, free from outside contaminants (other than the rare docking needed to take on supplies), or if they think “I’m TRAPPED in here with ALL THESE GERMS!!!”.

    Interesting. What if someone doesn’t realize they’ve become germ-phobic until they walk out the airlock on a station and notice how unclean it is, and FREAKS! Long, quiet, journeys on a starship might mask such conditions.

    I’m guessing of course. Although, I did have some (Not quite OCD level) issues sneak up on me when helping a paraplegic friend. I didn’t notice his lymphedema was weeping, and I was helping him get into his wheelchair from his bed… and got a hand covered in it. ICK!!! Imagine big old tough me, running around in circles, flapping and squeaking. After that, they always had gloves at hand whenever I came over to help out. Until then, I never would have thought of myself as the squeamish type.

    1. And then there’s the autoimmune issue of a “clean” environment vs. a “natural” one… and the difference between the intellectual ‘knowing’ the experiential knowing – and the thump that is the discovering the one is not the other.

      1. Heh. I can imagine a ship designed by ultra civilized types.

        “Yes. We really do need nature spots. And DIRT! Dammit, else the kids born onboard won’t have an immune system to speak of, when we get to Alpha Centauri in forty years.”

        “Get that insane person of indeterminate gender off the station! Stars only know what bacteria and mold xe may have smuggled aboard!”

        1. Orvan raises a good point. There must be somebody in a STEM academic position who’s done a study of molds, slimes, bacteria, protozoa, etc. that should be included with any interplanetary/interstellar colonization package for human habitation. Maybe Stephanie Osborn has run into that question at some point?

          1. Winston does parasites in Freefall and at one point explains why they are introducing them.

          2. A major plot point in The Martian was that the potatoes wouldn’t grow unless bacteria was available (harvested from Damon’s poop). Not only that, but a healthy immune system in space would need periodic infusions of probiotics, to keep it functioning. You get a glimpse of what a sterile digestive system is like after taking antibiotics – leads to cramping, as your intestine tries to break the food down without the help of bacteria. Over time, as your system is repopulated with bacteria, you get a healthy bio-environment going there.

  3. I had something go wrong that triggered allergies to about everything around me as a kid. My doctor suggested seeing a specialist in Allergen Immunotherapy and I ended up getting 8 under the skin shots twice a week for a couple years. It wasn’t a cure but it did reduce the problem to where drugs and avoidance made life livable.

    I think I’d rather not read about wheezing, red watery eyes and copious flowing snot in my science fiction!

    1. sigh

      those shots are great, until you stop them.

      Lets imagine the year is 1995. A person, let’s say in this theoretical exercise, the mother of a regular MGC commenter, is receiving ten of those shots. Then her employer changes health insurance providers, and that results in her changing allergy specialists. The new specialist decides she doesn’t need those shots anymore.

      This theoretical person dies from a massive allergy attack due to allergens in her own home (largely, pollen outside plus mold inside) in her own home less than sixty days later.

      And in this theoretical scenario, the oldest sibling convinces the youngest sibling that we can’t sue for malpractice, despite the urging of the middle sibling.

      Purely theoretical, I assure you.

      I need a drink.

      1. Something in South Korea sensitized my system to molds, tree & grass pollen, not to mention cats and dogs dander. Prior to that time, I’d never had any allergies. After I came back to the states I had allergies so bad they were triggering asthma episodes; when I wasn’t so drugged out I couldn’t think straight. I went through 7 years of shot therapy with the military which cleared that problem up so I could stop taking any medication except in the worst of years. It’s been 24 years since I completed it and the allergies have not returned. Although I still don’t let the cat sleep on my pillow or my face.

        1. i understood yours were temporary from how you referred to it, i was just stating a cautionary tale.

          1. Some allergies are temporary or tied to lifestages, some allergies are temporary with help, and some you are just stuck with.

            In any case, I cannot imagine that it is normal practice to just stop giving shots, without tapering off, and without evidence that the person is over the allergies. Theoretically.

      2. Or my experience where my immune system decided to start reacting to the allergy shots I had been taking for five years for some homicidal reason. My immunologist\allergy doc calls me his weirdo. Luckily he is very good.

  4. I have a new (to me) car.

    It was silver and grey whjen i got it

    now despite my best efforts it is yellow-green silver.

    At least the pollen isnt yellow-green-greyish-brown when it lands on the car like in CA- but there is a lot more of it…

    (didn’t pay attention last year, not my car and roommates never wash theirs)

    1. Back in [cough cough] when I was in college near Atlanta GA, the pollen was so bad one April-May that we swept it off the porches with push-brooms. Allergy sufferers cowered indoors, and raced between buildings with hankies over their noses and mouths.

  5. I’m reminded a bit of the show “Earth-2” from the mid-90s. As I recall (bear in mind, I was 12), the basic premise was that life in a space station was so perfectly sanitary that it led to a serious autoimmune disease in many kids from their immune systems having nothing natural to fight against. Trying to fix this was the reason they were colonizing the titular planet.

    Just a reminder that it can go the other way too.

  6. Just this month there were articles all over the web about how the ISS is filthy with bacteria and fungi. One article said this about NASA:
    The space agency has made a comprehensive catalogue of all non-human life aboard the ISS, and the list is long.

    I don’t know if I’m allowed to provide links, so I won’t post it here. But you can certainly find many more articles than you’d care to read by using your favorite search engine.

  7. L Sprague de Camp used allergies effectively in several of his novels, including Lest Darkness Fall and at one of his Krishna novels. (The hero stuffed his face into a cat’s side to aggravate his nose so he could not breath in some perfume that made you obey whomever was wearing it.)

    1. If you want to try that, I have just the cat for you. Long hair Maine Coon mix, sheds at the twitch of a whisker, likes to impersonate a dust mop…

  8. speaking of allergies

    i drive uber

    i just had a woman get in my car and i started having an allergic reaction to her perfume…

    took an allegra hopefully it helps, would have preferred a benadryl it acts faster

    1. Allegra will help, but it’s slow and long lasting, while benadryl is much shorter, but faster. I prefer benadryl for chemical irritants like perfumes and cleaning solutions, and allegra for seasonal-can’t-escape pollen loads, or staying in a house with heavy dust mite load (i.e. has carpets).

    2. Perfume is THE WORST!

      Years ago I arrived at a movie opening WAY early in order to get a decent seat. I was the first one in. “Go ME!!” I thought. Then the theater started filling until the only two open seats I could see were the two right in front of me. A couple minutes before the movie started, a couple teenaged girls flopped down in those two seats and they REEKED of cheap perfume. Instant spike driven into my temple, much worse than my usual reaction.

      Lucky for me. I looked around and found ONE open seat. LAST ROW. And I had to ask a nice older lady if she would let me have it, because she had her knitting stuff on it. She was happy to let me sit there once I told her why I had moved from my good seat.

      I’ve gone as far as buying expensive perfume for girls I dated just so they would quit wearing “the same perfume they always wore”, because it was causing problems.

      One more funny. My ex-wife used to put on cheap perfume whenever she was mad at me. She SWORE she always wore it and it was all in my head, but no… she was just mean.

      1. yeah, but it wasnt that strong, and i am not normally that allergic to anything, it was just this particular perfume…

  9. Yesterday, I came across a very (to me) disturbing fact.

    Researchers who are close to various animals that they use in their research often develop allergies to those animals. That sounds reasonable (and is not the disturbing part). I can see that.

    The disturbing part is… Researchers who use cockroaches in particular, not only find themselves becoming allergic to cockroaches… they find they also have the same allergic reaction to COFFEE!!!

    Just think about that for a sec. as I try do decide if it’s worth the splitting headache to NOT drink my morning coffee….

    1. There is probably some chemical in cockroach carapaces, or their chemical exudations, that is also in coffee bean oil.

      Like geraniol. For a while I got allergic to geraniol, which is a substance in plants, and also in perfumes and flavorings that want to be floral, fruity, or grassy.

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