Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I am beginning to fear that chocolate is a problem. And that is bad news as I frequently snack on dark chocolate when working.

In the last 24 hours my inflamed eye has gone. The last time I ate chocolate was two days ago and the rest of my diet has been plain in the extreme since then.

So tonight I am trying the gluten free fruit cake slices that I bought a couple of a weeks ago again. At the time I blamed them for an allergic reaction but it may have been the chocolate macaroons I bought at the same time. No sign of any reaction so far.

If I stay clear of problems for another couple of days, I am going to start trying ordinary wheat again.

Six weeks and still no results from my tests.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oh dear!

A new study of male professionals suggests that a drink of alcohol a day cuts the risk of heart attack by as much as 50 per cent.

Even more disturbing, out of 100 heart attacks amongst a group of 9,000 professionals, as many as 25 may have been the result of not drinking.

The study is a valiant attempt to tease out whether alcohol really is good for the heart or not. It's in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week and all the men studied had really healthy lifestyles, daily exercise and diets of fruit vegs, fish and chicken. But what is not clear is whether the researchers took account of the reasons why men do not drink.

For instance I have had to give up alcohol because, combined with antihistamines, it knocks me out. So if I want to drink I have to not take an antihistamine for 24 hours - as I did at the weekend. No chance, then, of a daily drink.

But if I were to suffer a heart attack, God forbid, it would not be because I don't drink, most likely. It would be because of the inflammation caused by the allergy.

So it may be that many non-drinkers are non-drinkers because of some other underlying health concern.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A moment of desperation

One month and nine days since my hospital appointment and still no results from the two phials of blood they took from me.

I bought some "gluten free" fruit cake today and have been knocked back quite badly. So either it is the fruit in the cake - and there seemed nothing innocuous, only orange and lemon peel. Or it is their using an unspecified "vegetable oil". The alternative is the gluten-free brown sauce I had with my dinner as it contain chilli - and I am told this is the same food group as tomato.

All very frustrating as with the exception of the extended "cold" and a sore eye I have been largely free of symptoms for days. Nil in mouth.

Meanwhile a government minister was celebrating a million patients using the electronic Choose and Book system I encountered when I saw the GP many months ago. I must make another appointment a) to chase up the test results and b) to renew the prescription. I am back to the pharmacy anti-histamines and am having to take great care driving round roundabouts as a result. It seems very difficult to judge traffic on roundabouts.

I guess it was better than waiting for the GP to write and then for the hospital to write back. But it was far from everything it is cooked up to be. They sent me an appointment time, no consultation, and then they changed it twice. The GP gave me no choice of hospital. The doctor at the hospital was great but I suspect very busy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Information so hard to find?

There have been several reports about allergy treatment and the risks faced by sufferers this week and I will come to those at some stage.

But I am intrigued by an announcement yesterday by the British government that it plans to develop "information prescriptions". Presumably the idea is that a GP writes a patient some kind of code, or generates a page, with a list of information and support sources, including web-based discussion groups.

Then there was this bizarre statement from health minister Rosie Winterton: "We are all busy people. We don't want to have to trawl through endless websites or publications to find the help we need. We want to be able to lay our hands on the right information and advice as quickly as possible, and this is even more important when you have a long-term condition and every minute is precious."

Well, I am as busy as anyone and I have found time to do just that - to trawl through endless web sites. Perhaps Ms Winterton has never been ill and does not appreciate how a long term illness simply takes over your life. Everything changes, like it or not, and you don't have to be self-obsessed to realise that.

Then there is the question about laying your hands on the right information. It is of course a problem. I tried the NHS Direct web-site, the government's main information portal at the outset, and thought it was useless. It is certainly the case that a referral to the right charity can unearth a lot of information. But then typing two words into Google can also do that. Has Ms Winterton ever used a search engine?

Apparently the scheme is being piloted. That would suggest the information on offer must remain pretty limited. There is not enough detail in the announcement to know whether the prescription includes access to computers and broadband for those who do not have them. I doubt it.

So they have a dilemma. On the one hand some people have access to very little information and do not know how to obtain it. They will need to be led by the hand. Others have access to too much information and may be led astray by crank web sites. They might benefit from a bit of training and advice on how to sift information and check sources. I bet this is not happening. I bet all we are getting is a glorified version of NHS Direct as in general any government initiative of this kind is about controlling information, not releasing it. That can be dangerous.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The common cold

Earlier I wondered what would happen when I got a cold.

After all, the daily antihistamine is also a basic cold remedy.

Now I can answer the question, I think. For the Aswan Dam burst and the Nile flowed forth for five days - or so it seemed.

Of course it may not have been a cold. It came on fast on Tuesday night following the meal in which I was fed tomato juice disguised as a casserole. So it might have been an odd kind of hay fever. It was certainly different from any kind of cold I've had before and at the time it started I upped the dose of antihistamines to try to counteract the dose of tomato I'd been fed. However it's not the hay fever time of year and seems an odd reaction to a tomato casserole.

Normally a cold is somewhat of a battle and normally I, for one, start off with flu-like symptoms, aches and pains and general misery, before succumbing. This one came on fast and furious without warning. I did some more investigations on the web for clues. Nobody seems to have much to say about this phenomenon - except that there are a number of useful explanations of the difference between a cold and hay fever to be found.

Certainly I had a sore eye for a couple of days. A sign of hay fever. Against that, it is the season for colds and in fact my son seems to have caught it from me. Perhaps it was a combination of both - and a cold is a kind of allergic reaction to a harmless virus - or perhaps the antihistamines served to speed up the process. Five days later it feels like it's on the way out, thankfully.

One month after my blood tests, still no sign of any results arriving.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Favourite meal

Baked potato, omelette and bacon cooked in rape seed oil.
Satisfying, filling and absolutely no side effects.

Today I was at a function and had a stew like concoction with meat, carrots and potato slices. The (clear) gravy tasted oddly sweet and fruity and I'm pretty certain it was a tomato based sauce. Certainly judging by the ill effects. It was that or chicken tikka massala or a vegetarian dish with crumble topping. Took three antihistamines when I got home, one after the other as the problems kicked in. That's my limit for 24 hours.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Toothpaste free

Well 24 hours after giving up toothpaste I'm feeling a great deal better, in spite even of going out to lunch today.

It could be the impact also of taking three anti-histamines yesterday - right up to the doctor's limit. But I have taken none today.

I have checked several toothpaste tubes but none contain allergy warnings. In fact the best one, Sensodyne, seems to skirt around the subject. "As with all toothpastes," it suggests "if it irritates your gums stop using it." Sensodyne is of course formulated to protect "sensitive" gums.

I wouldn't like anybody to believe allergy is the main cause of gum disease - but it never seems to be mentioned as a possible cause.

We need a campaign to get allergy warnings on toothpaste. Amazing that one of the substances that enters the mouth most frequently contains none.

About cellulose gum: it is generally regarded as a gluten free substance and may even used in some free from products. Sources include cotton and wood fibre - would you believe! That does not seem to suggest there is much control over the content of it. If anybody has any inside information, let me know.

More updates on toothpaste later.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


My respite did not last long as the inflammation of the eye has got progressively worse over the last two days.

My diet has continued to be pretty strict - with the exception of the Chinese takeaway the other day.

It is possible that other fruits are involved. I'm staying away from the red ones but, if it's something I'm eating, it is hard to see why the eye should suddenly flare up again without other symptoms.

What about something that goes in the mouth but not down the throat in great quantities? Something that you consume at night and first thing in the morning? When I woke up with a sore eye today - which got worse - I realised I had never even thought about toothpaste, even though I'm now starting to blame the allergy for some persistent gum disease.

A quick search of the net reveals a lot of confusion here as there are a number of groups keen to blame additives, such as fluoride, for problems. Well we have fluoride in our water - and that suggests there would have been no respite if that was the problem.

Very hard to establish what's in toothpaste. But "paste" may provide a clue. Paste used to be made from flour. A search of the ingredients of my current paste reveals a substance called 'cellulose gum'. Talkallergy.com suggests a problem if you have maize intolerance. This is a US site and if manufacturers are using corn starch from maize they are just as likely to be using it from wheat, surely.

The other disturbing thing is that I could have been aggravating my teeth problems for years by using toothpaste. I still feel sore, financially and psychologically, about that lost tooth earlier this year.

So I'll be brushing my teeth with plain (fluoridated) water for a while. I'll let you know of the results.

It is now nearly four weeks since my blood tests and no sign of any results yet.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A red Smartie

This week I thought I was getting things under control, sticking to a diet free from all the suspects. I even faked taking the bread and wine at church. God understands!

I've even reverted to organic chocolate - although I could see nothing in the ingredients of the dark chocolate I was eating to cause concern.

There have been background symptoms but nothing obviously severe. Most worryingly the slight inflammation of my left eye returned. But I've been able to stick to a single antihistamine daily.

Then a child offered me a Smartie. I could not say no and took a single red one. It's not like a nut and I did not choke - but the impact was still fast.

Not sure either about the Chinese takeaway we had last night.

So today my dodgy eye is quite inflamed, probably more noticeably than ever.