The Tongue Gave Me Hives

I have allergies.  Pretty bad allergies.  Not “I carry an EpiPen on me in case I inhale a whiff of peanut dust and go into anaphylactic shock” bad (thank goodness), but more like a “I turn into a wheezy, sneezey, runny-nosed mess if I’m within 30 feet of your furry pet” bad.  One time I was visiting Damon (before we were married) and sat on his sofa.  His roommate had recently bought a dog who also liked to sit on that very same sofa, unbeknownst to me.  Within twenty minutes my right eye had completely swollen shut.  Did I mention this was the night of the Hornet Ball?  Nothing accessorizes an evening gown like a red, swollen eye!

After far too many incidents like that, I learned to stockpile the Claritin and Benedryl and carry tissue on me at all time.

Luckily I don’t have food allergies.  Your grasses, pollens, insect bites, pets, dust, etc. etc. will all fell me.  But food, no.  Or so I thought.

Last week my mom, Elisabeth and I drove up to San Francisco to visit friends and celebrate my aunt’s 70th birthday.  It was at this birthday party on Saturday evening when I had a sudden allergy attack – but to what?  “It must be the flowers,” my mom suggested.  Indeed, there were a lot of flowers.  So I popped a Benedryl, drifted off into a drug-induced sleep, and awoke… with a rash all over my chest.  Attractive, I know.

“It must be the flowers,” my mom said again that morning.  Eh, unlikely.  Though I didn’t believe the flowers from a party the previous evening had caused me to break out in a rash, I wasn’t going to fret.  It would go away on its own.  This was Sunday.  On Monday, the rash had spread to my torso and was a little redder, a little itchier.  On Tuesday, it had completely taken over my chest, stomach, back, and was creeping up my neck and down my arms.  At that point I decided I should go to the doctor, before it spread to my face.  Because that would be gross.

For all sorts of complicated healthcare related reasons, I had to go to the emergency room.  The only paperwork I had to fill out was a description of the problem: “Rash taking over my entire body.”  I had to make my probably-harmless rash sound dramatic in order to justify my presence in the ER, which I felt should  be reserved for people who have just amputated their own foot or been attacked by rabid dogs.  I handed my paperwork to the admitting nurse who scanned it, and then – much to my surprise – exclaimed, “Diana!” and enveloped me in a hug.

“DON’T HUG HER! SHE HAS A RASH! SHE COULD BE CONTAGIOUS!” the other nurse bellowed.

My mind was clouded with confusion.  Holy crap!  I might be contagious!?!?  And more importantly, WHY IS THIS NURSE HUGGING ME?  It was all very alarming.

Turns out the nurse was a friend of my mom’s.  So that was reassuring.  But I was still slightly concerned about the second nurse’s reaction to our hug.  My concern only heightened after the first nurse needed to assess whether or not I needed to go to “isolation”.

Isolation? I began imagining Contagion-like scenarios.  (You saw the movie, right?  Creepy!)  I made a list in my head of all the people I had made contact with since The Outbreak.  I’d have to warn them that they may have been exposed to… something bad!  Would they all have to go to isolation, too?  Was I the source of some horrific pandemic?  Who would play me in the movie, Contagion II?  So many unanswered questions!

Turns out it was just an allergic reaction.  To something I ingested, probably 24-48 hours before The Outbreak.

“But I haven’t eaten anything out of the ordinary!” I protested to the doctor.  Well, apparently I had.  I racked my brain to determine what the source of this allergy could be.  Being that I was on vacation, my diet during the time frame concerned had consisted mainly of cheese and cake and wine.  And then it came to me.

The tongue.

The evening before The Outbreak I had enjoyed a delicious dinner at a new Argentinian steakhouse in San Francisco.  One of the dishes we sampled was linguas.  That’s tongue, for you common folk. But linguas sounds less unpleasant, so let’s call it that.  I was hesitant to try the linguas, but as it came highly recommended I decided to give it a whirl.  It. Was. Delish. (Though I figure if you put something like tongue on a menu, it had better be damn tasty.  Because who would willingly eat bad tongue?  Or even mediocre tongue?)  So I enjoyed the tongue and didn’t give it a second thought.  Mainly because after the tongue my friends and I devoured two plates of churros con chocolate AND a peanut butter mousse with peanut butter ice cream dish.  And dessert will always trump tongue.

(Incidentally, if you want to be my friend, you have to be able to handle your desserts.)

Anyway, the tongue – excuse me, the linguas – was the only thing that I had never eaten before.  Is this where adventurous eating will land me?!  In the emergency room?!  To hell with that!

But let’s face it: that seems like an odd allergy.  So as much as I’d like to blame The Outbreak on the tongue, that seems doubtful.

“You know, some people develop allergies in adulthood,” my mom reminded me.  “So-and-So recently developed a strawberry allergy.”  Oh my goodness – I had eaten strawberries!  Could it be?

“It could also be the wine,” my dad suggested.  “You know, your grandmother was allergic to wine.”


I once again re-evaluated recent my food choices:  Strawberries.  Wine.  Chocolate.  Cheese.  Peanut Butter.  All are allergy triggers.  And 4/5 I consume on an almost daily basis.  Well, crap.

So two evenings after my trip to the ER I’m still a red, itchy mess.  (Just to clarify, it’s not hives.  I’ve had hives before and this ain’t hives.)  The doc prescribed me a steady stream of Benedryl, so I’m basically walking around in a semiconscious state all day.  Actually, more like lying around in a semiconscious state all day.  And through my grogginess, I’m pondering the mystery allergen.  Has one of my trusty foods turned against me?  Which one?  Please not the wine…

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