Friday, May 31, 2013

Aghast at American allergies abroad

I almost made it through an entire year untouched by my foul nemesis, the sinus infection.

Once I was plagued by the bacterial beast almost ever month, but then I discovered that the magic of a daily neti pot could hold it at bay.

I stopped using the neti pot here because the water has so much calcium, that while it is safe to drink (and undoubtedly safe to pour through my nasal cavity once a day) I've seen what it does to our faucets and my hair and decided the best way to use the water for  the neti pot was to heat it by boiling filtered water. Which took a long time because we don't have a microwave. And then it took a long time to cool down because I would forget to remove it from the heat until the tea kettle started screaming. And by the time I could use it, it was ice cold and needed to be reheated. plus, I ran out of the premixed packs and making my own salt combo which stings and is much more reminiscent of inadvertently  getting smacked in the face by  a wave and  thus swallowing a ton of sea water.

And so I eventually let my neti pot intentions fade away.

It  has pretty much been fine. All the allergies for which I have tested positive ( and that would be every single thing they test for save for horses, dogs and cockroaches for those of you who haven't heard this tale of woe), seemed to not be an issue here. Maybe because it's a city, not the country? Maybe because we have a wonderful person who dusts? Maybe because my overactive immune system  didn't know to freak out when encountering  the Italian version of all trees, grasses, molds,etc? And so even my use of allergy medicine was able to become an occasional thing.

 Just another benefit of living in Italy, thought I.  My allergies have all but disappeared.

And then, then spring hit. I have never been in Italy in the spring. Pollen hovers in the air like swarms of gnats. It covers every surface. And I could apply no defense. I could not keep our doors and windows closed and turn on the air conditioning. I could not stop hanging out our clothes and instead use a dryer. I could not avoid being outside when the pollen count was at its highest.

But even so, I was holding my own in the battle against the pollen until I went on the three day field trip with my dear son's elementary school. We spent our days hiking in  the pollen and nights sleeping in a hotel on the beach. Which was very "beachy" in that I could smell the mold lurking in every crevice. And it was hot. Really really hot. Without air conditioning it was going to be a very moldy, pollen-y, mosquito-y field trip for us all.

"Please turn on the air conditioning, " I begged the woman at the front desk, " we are sweltering." The woman looked at me blankly (pesky language barrier) and so I fanned myself and pointed upstairs. "Caldo, "I said, "molto caldo!"

She looked as incredulous as if I'd insisted there was a unicorn in my shower and followed me to the third floor where a dozen sweaty faces of the children of whom I was in charge peered at her hopefully, hair plastered to their foreheads. I demonstrated that the air conditioning didn't work. She told me it was much too cold to turn on the air conditioning, and wrapped her sweater more tightly around her to demonstrate.

I turned to one of the native Italian boys in the class and asked him to tell her that it was too hot up here and we needed the air conditioning. He translated, each word punctuated by a drop of sweat rolling down his nose and onto his t-shirt. I had been certain that the plea of a child would be heard, but the woman responded to him quickly, smiled so widely I could se her fancy gold tooth, and descended down the stairs. I had caught enough of what she had said to know it was all over before Lorenzo translated for me: "She said it's too cold to turn on the air conditioning and the hotel won't turn it on this early in the year."

Luckily the kids were so over-stimulated and over-tired (awesome combo--cue the fights and tears that turn quickly to laughter and high fives) that heat was the last of their worries, although several had eyes that nearly swelled shut due to the pollen forming Santa beards upon their faces.

And so by the time we returned to Rome, my body was in full panic mode and completely ignored my cold compresses and allergy medication and surgical mask and Purell and Hazmat suit, every lymph node swollen, throat closing, lungs wheezing.

And now it all that excess stuff has settled down, finding a comfy niche in my sinus cavities where it can relax and make itself at home.

And so today I have to go to the doctor. And I'm feeling as apprehensive as a kid scared to get their hair cut or go to the dentist for the first time. (Are kids really scared of those things? Or is that just a myth from the land of movies and Tee Vee? Because I don't know any who were.)

Ugh to the ugh. Wish me luck. Wish me a parking space right out front. Wish me a doctor with perfect English. Wish me a receptionist who has worked extensively with our insurance plan.

To add insult to injury, we had gone shopping at  Eataly. Where they have every single type of my favorite brand of micro brew beer in Europe:  Brew Dog, a beer from Scotland. So I have all these lovely beers just begging to be poured into a frosted glass and I can't even look at them for fear of my body overreacting to the histamines.  Plus, I can't taste anything. And the thought of drinking a beer makes me want to gag just a bit. But do you know what? That beer is not going to drink itself! It needs me. Must get well soon.

* disclaimer: I'm sick. I have no idea what kind of bizarre typos I've made. Just roll with it. Thank you.

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