Allergies Are Nothing To Sneeze At

Allergies are the body’s way of saying "Keep Away." They’re the voice in the horror movie that sounds like James Earl Jones with laryngitis whispering "Get out!", but of course no one listens, instead heading down into the dark basement, usually half naked, and always figuring it would be a waste of electricity to turn on the lights or use a flashlight. Unlike allergy sufferers, people in horror movies deserve what they get.

An allergic reaction is actually a false alarm. The body’s immune system, taking its lead from the FBI and CIA, has trouble telling the good guys from the bad guys. As a result it sees something like, say, a dust mite and mistakes it for Osama bin Laden. Right, like anyone’s ever seen a dust mite with a beard and turban. In its confusion, the immune system suspends the body’s civil rights, creates a new cabinet position (Secretary of Homebody Defense), and gets the white blood cells to produce antibodies. The African-American, Latino, and Asian blood cells protest and file a discrimination lawsuit, but by then it’s too late--the antibodies have already attached themselves to special cells in the body called mast cells. The mast cells get upset, release histamine, and as a result you end up with watery eyes, itching, sneezing, a runny nose, and a better excuse with which to try to convince your significant other to get rid of that damned cat other than "I don’t like anything that gets more attention than I do."

The most common things that trigger allergic reactions are pollen, mold, insect stings, foods, and Regis Philbin. Some of these are easier to stay away from than others, though thanks to ABC canceling Who Wants To Be A Millionaire one will be much easier to avoid now. Others, like food allergies, are trickier. That’s why most airlines have stopped giving out the traditional tiny bag of four peanuts, replacing it instead with a tiny bag of four micro-pretzels. Yes, apparently it’s asking a little too much of people who are allergic to nuts to see the word "Peanuts" in 36-point type next to an anthropomorphized peanut wearing a top hat, holding a cane, and looking through a monocle and think, "Hmmmmmm, I’m allergic to peanuts. I wonder if there might be any in this bag?"

Sometimes allergens end up in our food by mistake, such as when you sprinkle ragweed pollen over your Sweet and Sour Tuna Helper because, once again, you mistook it for the salt. Recently Berkeley Farms, a California dairy producer, recalled a big batch of milk because they accidentally put too much penicillin in it. Actually they meant to put Cipro in it. Just kidding. The truth is they didn’t put the antibiotic in the milk at all, the cows did. Of course they couldn’t help it, it came with their dinner.

Still, Berkeley Farms had to pull the milk because it could cause serious problems for people who are allergic to penicillin. They retrieved umpteen thousand gallons of milk and are destroying it, which proves that they, like most large companies, make the mistake of seeing the milk glass half empty. If they were smart they’d recognize this as a marketing opportunity and repackage it as Berkeley Farms Milk With Calcium, Vitamin D, and Penicillin. It could prove very popular amongst those prone to strep infections, pneumonia, spinal meningitis, syphilis, and gonorrhea. Prostitutes would be hooked on the stuff, thanks to the advertising slogan, "A glass a day keeps the doctor away."

This isn’t really so far fetched. After all, it’s hard to find a food item on the grocer’s shelf that doesn’t have at least something added to it. Orange juice now has calcium. Bottled water has caffeine. My toothpaste doesn’t just clean my teeth anymore, it also has fluoride, baking soda, peroxide, tartar protection, whitening agents, and probably oat bran. Hey, if I can stay regular just by brushing my teeth there’s no question I’ll be flashing a much brighter smile.

Now Crest is taking this one step farther by releasing Rejuvenating Effects, a toothpaste designed specifically for women. They’re not saying whether it will have calcium, estrogen, or Midol added, all they’re saying is that it will taste like vanilla and cinnamon. If it’s a hit you can expect other companies to follow suit by putting out Colgate Mocha Frappuccino ("Now available in decaf with soy milk!") and Aqua-Fresh with Cheddar.

That’s right, researchers at the Forsyth Institute in Boston have discovered that eating cheese can prevent cavities. They say it has to do with the calcium in cheese, an increase in saliva when you chew it, and cheese being able to replace tooth enamel, kind of like repainting the bathroom except you don’t need to throw out an uncleanable paint roller every time you eat cheese.

Of course this means that anyone who’s allergic to dairy products will have to watch out who they kiss. In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, two researchers wrote that kissing someone who has recently eaten an item you’re allergic to can often cause you to have a reaction. Though the study confined itself to people who are allergic to nuts and seeds, the same could hold true of other allergies. Thus, if you have allergies, it’s important to stop and have "that little discussion." Yes, before you kiss anyone you should find out if they’ve recently eaten peanuts, penicillin, dust mites, ragweed pollen, or cats. Hey, you can never be too safe.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It’s Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email:

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