DEAR ABBY: Thank you for your column on the danger of food allergies.
I have had a lifelong allergy to peanuts, but only in recent years have I seen anything in print about this problem. Well-meaning but ignorant people have told me I am "spoiled" and "fussy," and it's only my imagination! Adults and children alike have tried to persuade me to eat peanuts, or even worse, have tricked me into eating them.
My allergy has become much more acute as I've grown older. At one point, I suffered a full-blown anaphylactic reaction. Your readers might find a chronology of the symptoms of an allergic reaction educational.
Here's what happens (usually within minutes). It is a true medical emergency, and every second counts: Your mouth starts to feel "funny" inside, then your wrists and hands begin to itch, followed by your armpits, then your crotch. That's just the beginning.
Your eyes and lips begin to itch and swell, then hives start to puff up and itch over your entire body and -- the really dangerous part -- you begin to wheeze because your mucus membranes are also affected, and your lungs begin to fill up. Then, your blood pressure begins to fall, and your body attempts to compensate for the drop in pressure by increasing the heart rate to 200 beats a minute (65 to 80 is normal).
At this point, you are close to cashing in your chips unless you can get a shot or two of epinephrine. And, even if your blood pressure doesn't dive, if your throat swells shut, you're in serious trouble because only an emergency tracheotomy (a hole in your windpipe so air can reach your lungs) can save you.
You will probably hear from other readers about the danger of food allergies. Thank you for making people aware. -- ELIZABETH A. CURRAN
DEAR ELIZABETH: Almost every year there is some mention in the media about an allergy-related tragedy or a close call experienced by someone who was not as fortunate as you. Food allergies are not the only problem. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I'm one of the many people who are highly allergic to perfumes. We seem to be an expanding circle, because I know nine other people with the same affliction.
I avoid crowds, do my shopping in the early morning hours, and try to sit away from others at funerals and weddings. One exposure leaves my nose congested and my lungs filled with fluid. I cough for days.
Why do people insist on drenching themselves in perfume? I was taught that restraint is important: A tiny drop on the wrist or neck is sufficient. No one is supposed to bathe in the stuff.
I recently attended a funeral, sitting well to the back and off to the side with my nonscented friends. Halfway through the service, the door opened and a wave of perfume wafted across the church. I was ill the remainder of the day.
Some advertisers place perfume samples in magazines, scenting the entire mail system. If this were my kingdom, perfume offenders would be relegated to isolated sections in public, and perfume bottles would require a warning label: "This product may be hazardous to the health of others."
Those who use perfume should have an honest friend check them out. The user's ability to judge the amount that should be used may be dulled from sensory overload. -- DORIS VOSS, TACOMA, WASH.
DEAR DORIS: Thank you for reminding my readers that an allergy is nothing to sneeze at.