Friday, May 30, 2008

Stroke, Parkinson's and tomatoes

Today's frightening story links hay fever to stroke.

A study in South Carolina suggests hay fever sufferers face a doubled risk of having stroke. Apparently earlier reports have also linked stroke to asthma. And I recall that other report linking allergies to Parkinson's disease. Now the South Carolina finding may be a freak. After all, although it involved some 9,000 people only 125 suffered strokes.

What's the common thread? It's that some allergies cause long-term, low level inflammation which could ultimately lead to all sorts of illnesses. As it happens there is Parkinson's disease in my family. I was talking to the person concerned over the last few days and discovered he has a life-long aversion to tomatoes. I didn't know that but he's a relative and I was also never keen on strongly flavoured tomato products. I don't mind fresh tomatoes - although I don't eat them now - but I hated tinned plum tomatoes, in fact I loathed them with all my being.

Then I watched as he ate a meat dish, a cottage pie, made with tomatoes and watched as he reached for his handkerchief to wipe his nose.

Now I know other family members who hate tomatoes. So perhaps tomato-aversion is the sign that could help us trace the genetic course of this malady.

If you go back to the discussion on Samter's Triad, that was when I realised that I had non-allergenic rhinitis, otherwise known as a chronic stuffy nose. It's not classic hay fever, it's "non-allergenic" but it's the same sort of condition.

Now that's probably not on my medical notes. No doctor ever attempted to list all the mild symptoms that are linked to this condition. In Britain they're interested in the major symptoms and good for them. We'd all be hypochondriacs otherwise. I did tell the consultant that I suffered from "summer colds" as a child but he dismissed that, pointing out that as I grew up on a farm it was extremely unlikely I'd develop hay fever.

In a week or two I'll have my last appointment with a dietician and then it will be back to the GP. The level of GP knowledge of this - and the quality of their notes - extends to "how is your asthma?". I don't have asthma - yet - and I hope to God I don't get it.

But as the latest reports on hay fever and stroke point out, chronic hay fever can no longer be considered a "benign" condition. The same applies here - perhaps the best thing to do would be to go onto statins as you are now allowed to self-medicate with them and apparently they are the wonder drug that will prevent heart disease, stroke etc. Let's hope they don't contain salicylate.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I've just endured a week without Montelukast and ended up back on the anti-histamines. It wasn't obvious what it was, maybe ice cream or just an accumulation of junk food, but by Monday by gums were hurting, my tongue was swelling and my skin was starting to blossom with red spots.

Anti-histamines controlled it but they are not as effective as Montelukast. And the one-a-days may be sold as "non-drowsy" but I don't believe it. A doctor friend of mine says the effect is like a hangover. If you doze, you sink into a deep sleep and struggle out of it.

So by Monday night I got round to emailing my doctors' surgery for the repeat prescription. I was told it would take three days to be ready so this morning I popped in and collected it. Over lunch I took the prescription to a city centre chemist and they told me about an interesting scheme they have. They've kept my details and if I telephone them they will make all the arrangements to organise the repeat prescription. All I would have to do would be to call and collect it. I'm in two minds because I like to support the local pharmacist. However it always takes a few minutes to get the prescription ready. That's fine after a GP appointment when I've probably set aside at least an hour - but not monthly. Straight after picking up the pills, I took one.

So to onions. I was at a meeting at lunchtime and sandwiches were provided. I spotted a plain cheese sandwich and bit into it, only to realise it was actually cheese and onion. It's embarrassing when your nose starts running and you start choking during a meeting - as that is what happened. By mid-afternoon my right eye was hurting and my gums and lips tingling. Thankfully later on the drug kicked in and I am all right tonight. I had fish sauce and pasta for dinner to help calm things down. It's a reminder that onions can be particularly lethal.