Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Allergic to Middle Age

I’ve always thought myself to be fairly well prepared for and accepting of the inevitable breakdown of my body once I staggering into middle age a decade ago.

Thinning hair. Check.

Thickening middle. Double check.

Achy joints and muscles. I’m sore just thinking about them.

But one unexpected development is leaving me scratching my head, along with other various body parts. It’s this sudden onset of an allergy to certain shellfish.

This bonus condition first reared its red bumpy hives about eight years ago. After stepping out of a hot shower, I noticed in the mirror several long, red streaks in parallel lines from my lower rib cage up my sides. With my skin already suffering from the brittle dryness that comes with a owning 1960s center hall colonial house with electric baseboard heat during an exceptionally frigid New England winter, I figured I must have scrubbed myself a little too hard and left finger marks.

I then made the modern-day mistake of turning to the internet. The digital information age has given us many great things, some of them not even porn-related, but WebMD's Symptom Checker is obviously a tool of white-coated terrorists. Within a few minutes of pointing and clicking, I learned I might have leprosy, consumption and a few miscellaneous strains of VD. This, of course, gave me another condition known as a panic attack.

A visit to my doctor soon jogged my memory (I forgot to add forgetfulness to that list of middle-age something-or-others). I had recently switched from taking fish oil pills for my borderline cholesterol (forgot that one, too) to red krill oil pills. In my doc’s words, "Seriously, you haven't figured this out on your own? Don't you think the word 'red' might have tipped you off?"

A two-week course of prednisone and a change back to regular fish oil pills, and I was a changed man -- morphing from splotchy red to my normal pasty shade of health.

According to a June 2019 report in Medical News Today, shellfish allergies are not only among the most common of food allergies (about 3% of people in United States have them), but they are unique in that they tend to develop in adulthood rather than childhood. And once you have it, it’s something you don’t grow out of. Probably because you’re an adult and if still growing, then something about you is really fouled up.

The allergen scratch tests the doctor gave me eight years ago found no reactions to blue mussels, crab, tuna or lobster, so I figured I if could just avoid krill for the rest of my life, I would be fine. Not hard, I’d imagine. Not even the restaurants catering to our Harbor Point hipstas tend to feature fresh krill.

But krill, for those of you not knowledgeable in crustaceans, are often described as “tiny and shrimp-like.” And guess who deviated from his regular sushi order last week and went for the shrimp roll?
While shrimp is not part of my day-to-day diet, it’s not like I’ve never had it in the past eight years. I indulged in some steamed and heavily Old Bay’d ones just six weeks while on a beach vacation. Could the ocean breezes and multiple pints of liquid medication have mitigated the effect?

Hardly. But as usual, science contradicts itself. A study by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, reported in a 2010 edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that adults who are allergic to shrimp tend to have a less intense reaction to the shellfish than children. This lends to the theory that even if the allergy doesn’t go completely away, the immune response may lessen as one ages.

But since I had my first reaction in eight years, and since hitting the mid-century mark, this leads me to one conclusion: I’ve finally entered my second childhood.


  1. Either you rarely write these days or I’m not receiving these beauties. Both of which are a problem. This (and {almost} everything you post) had me laughing like the village idiot ~ and that would be an accurate description.
    I too, am suffering from a middle aged ailment. It’s a double edged sword: aging parents. While I am truly blessed to still have my folks, they retired in Florida and I live in the frigid Chicago suburbs. They were Snowbirds for around 6 years. The summer of the sixth - and final year was spent (with my sister, a fellow Chi-town dweller) taking mom to every doctor under the sun only to confirm our worst suspicion ~ dementia. The parental units ignored our pleas to stay put, because we’re “the kids, therefore clueless” and headed back to Florida full time.
    In four short years, they now live in separate places, mom in a skilled nursing facility and dad currently in limbo due to his stroke 6 weeks ago. We have our fingers crossed that we can ease him over to the memory care wing of their original Assisted Living facility due to his short term memory issues that have been getting worse in the last year or two.
    I KNOW!!!! I overshare.
    My point was supposed to be simple; middle age can suck it!
    Addendum: In an unrelated story, MY middle aged issues forced early retirement and Disability (physical, not mental 😉) on me. Silver lining - the ability to come to Florida whenever I want, meaning when I can afford to, and be here to hopefully work out the kinks. I’ve been here three weeks and am not ready to face the predicted 27 degree high when I head home on Tuesday.

    1. Thanks, Julie. I don't post here much these days, but I appreciate your words. Be well, old timer!


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