Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas report

One glass of white wine on Christmas Eve, quite a few on Christmas Day and one on Boxing Day - and no serious ill-effects.

By this morning my skin was getting a little dry and itchy and red spots were appearing so I decided that was enough wine for this year. I still don't know whether I succeeded in getting a cold. I have had the snuffles over the holiday but it might equally be a mild reaction to my indulgence. I took a montelukast on Christmas Eve and one on Boxing Day and so far as possible avoided any other substances containing salicylate - no stuffing, no sausages, no caffeine and no dark chocolate. The turkey was tasty and I had sticky toffee pudding instead of mince pie - a suitably filling alternative. Somebody put pepper in the red cabbage so I had to avoid that - but there were plenty of sprouts and carrots.

All in all a good Christmas!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mince pies

Mince pies are everywhere and I cannot touch one. Bring back the Yule Log, I say, preferably made of chocolate!

I have pushed the limits with various seasonal nibbles and The Ring has returned on my shoulder, except it is not a ring anymore, it is simply a giant, red ink-blot. It does not itch so I barely notice it.

I continue in my efforts to catch a cold. I shook hands with someone who was just finishing off a cold today. So far, no luck at all. My hopes of being able to indulge in white wine over Christmas seem to be foundering.

Last night I drank some whisky and it tasted like ginger wine. So perhaps the alternative is to work on the imagination and turn water into wine and whisky into ginger wine.

* Update: I went somewhere tonight and there was a giant chocolate yule log in the middle of the table surrounded by mince pies. Bliss! I'm not sure if I inspired the idea or not...


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trying to catch a cold...

I was sitting next to somebody with a stinking cold the other day. So I leaned into them slightly in the hope of picking up a virus or two.

I am starting to get worried that this Christmas will not be as jolly as last year when a passing virus enabled me to indulge in white wine for several days.

There is a moral dilemma here. Although I might welcome a touch of flu or cold over the season, other members of my family and our Christmas party probably will not. So I suppose I should behave myself and try to stay virus free and prepare to make the most of warm whisky and water.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The joy of decaf...

Today's news about decaf coffee is ecstatic and amazing.

For it seems that not only do coffee and tea offer some protection against developing diabetes, decaf coffee may offer even more.

Along with some news last week about decaf and cancer, this is all very encouraging. One of the things that has worried me is that by never having caffeine I could be losing all sorts of benefits.

There is now a trend which suggests that it is the vegetable matter, maybe the minerals and the nutrients in tea and coffee, which helps human health. So by drinking a lot of decaf - and I do drink a lot of it as I can drink little else - I am doing myself a favour.

The reporter suggests there may be other explanations eg that people may be more energetic after drinking tea and coffee or that they may drink tea and coffee instead of alcohol.

You would think there might be an opposite effect - for many people like me like to have their coffee quite sweet. I try to use sweeteners in instant coffee. But real coffee can only be sweetened with sugar. Otherwise the taste is dreadful. So you would think it might increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Whatever, it's still cheerful news.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas....

The Christmas season has begun and I walk around the shops, looking at piles of mince pies. I can taste the sweetness and think of the satisfying fullness that comes from eating a pie or two. Then I remember I haven't eaten one for years.

I went to a works Christmas meal over the weekend. We had a turkey meal and I asked the waitress if she could bring the turkey without gravy on it. She pulled a face and then said she would see about it. Everyone else had almost finished by the time she produced a plate with plain turkey on it. Judging by the neat splodge of gravy on everyone else's plates, I suspect the meals had been frozen or cook-chilled beforehand. I'm guessing they had to take some turkey, wash the gravy off and then reheat it.

When the Christmas pudding came, I thought of asking for custard only. It might have required the kitchen staff to scrape custard off half a dozen cook-chilled puddings - so I decided the better of it.

I did have a thimbleful of white wine without any serious ill-effects. A year ago I caught a mild flu virus just before Christmas and was able to indulge throughout the season. It was reassuring to find somebody else coming on this site recently and reporting the same phenomenon - that having a cold can provide relief from allergic reactions. So perhaps I need to find a swine flu party ahead of the Christmas break...


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chef card?

Here's an interesting project from Britain's Food Standards Agency launched this week. It's a guide to buying food when you have a food allergy and some advice on how to handle restaurants.

The on-line version here is probably more accessible than the pdf of the booklet accessible from here.  Most of the advice is basic common sense and what you would do any way. I'm interested in the idea of using a chef card. It would certainly be a discreet way of passing a message to a waiter and a chef to check ingredients or, at the very least, to pay attention to what I say.

As I've reported over the years, service varies. If you're ordering on the spot, you need waiters and chefs to pay attention to what you say, for instance: "I'll have the pasta but no sauce, herbs or pepper." If they're a budget establishment using cook-chill or frozen dishes, they are not going to be able to oblige - so the best answer is usually fish and chips and peas, or maybe steak and chips.

So far so good. But then I followed through some links to the FSA's directory of food allergies, studied the list and what did I find? Nothing at all on salicylate allergy! No wonder it's impossible to explain to caterers.

I wonder how this can be redressed. Perhaps an e-petition somewhere?


Monday, November 23, 2009

Frying fish?

I'm not sure what to make of this report, which says that frying fish reduces its omega-3 content. As it appears to have been conducted in Hawaii, it may depend on what fish is fried in. What do they use in Hawaii? Palm oil?

Tonight, in fact, I had baked trout. It turned out to be the only fish we had left in the freezer. The report says baked or boiled fish is the best - although to my mind boiled fish is awful and a sure way to kill any taste that is there.

Usually I sort of stir fry fish. Perhaps my fish sauces are only partially fried and partially boiled as I stir fry first and then add juices. So maybe that is also boiling it. In addition I'm using rapeseed oil, which is rich in omega-3, although maybe not the best kind.

This may put a dampener on my tuna con chips concoction - possibly. Again I'm not really frying the tuna in much more than its own oils.

As for good old English fish and chips. It's nice to buy occasionally, although increasingly expensive. And nobody ever said it was an especially healthy meal.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Genetically engineered soy

I'm no fan of the idea of genetically engineered food but this release from the American Heart Association about soya is interesting.

I use a lot of soy sauce for cooking as it's not meant to contain salicylate. Although it contains omega-3, I've noted in the past it also contains omega-6 oil, which aggravates the reaction to salicylate. There's no indication whether this genetic engineering would reduce omega-6 levels in soy sauce. Apparently, the aim is to make the omega-3 content even "healthier" and a substitute for fish.

In truth it's probably not much of a solution if fish stocks run out. I need to eat fish as a substitute for meat. Is soy an acceptable vegetarian alternative to meat? Maybe it's time to find out.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Revised caterer guidelines

This is the revised version of the guidelines I sent through to last week's caterers.

"It's salicylate hypersensitivity, which you may not be familiar with.

In general:
no pepper, spices or herbs. Most fruit is out and quite a few vegetables.

Banana and golden delicious apple are okay as are chips, baked potato, cabbage, peas, sprouts, lettuce, leek and celery.

All meat, dairy, plain cheese and fish is fine, although fish is especially good. Not sausages.

Small amounts of chocolate as in cake or pudding are fine. No nuts, except cashew nuts if necessary.

Only drinks are water or decaffeinated coffee. Nothing else.

The general principle I work to is that sauces and pies are dodgy. Plain meats, battered fish etc are okay."

Looking at this I suppose I could add:
"the only herb or spice that is okay is parsley and the only sauce is soy sauce, provided it has no additives."

And also:
"For cooking rapeseed oil is the best choice."


Caterer does well

They really made an effort at the event I was at last week.

At lunch there was a single plate of cheese and lettuce sandwich. It was not marked but I assumed it was for me. Unfortunately others also took a shine to them so I also had to try a plain cheese and onion sandwich. I removed the onion but the bread and cheese was stained with juice and I suffered for the rest of the day. My lip got quite thick - odd really, as onion is not suppose to be that packed with salicylate.

This was unfortunate as they had marked a plate for vegetarian and a plate for gluten free. This had celery and carrot sticks on it and as nobody seemed to be eating them I pinched some.

The evening meal was terrific. Not very tasty but they had tried ever so hard. The starter was cabbage, lettuce and cheese cubes. Main course was white fish and baked potato and the pudding was a plate with a golden delicious apple and a banana. It wasn't a great meal but was the first time someone had actually prepared a full meal according to the guidelines.

I'll post the revised guidelines that I sent shortly. The main thing is that they worked - far better than sending a list of dos and don'ts or simply assuming they can get their hands on salicylate avoidance guidance independently.


Friday, November 06, 2009

UK petition

Sometimes I speak to friends and realise I'm incredibly lucky. My original symptoms were clear enough to get me referred to a specialist. I had a miserable nine months, doped up with anti-histamines and forever hungry. But I got a diagnosis and a prescription that work most of the time.
I've spoken to people who live with asthma and allergy together - taking multiple anti-histamines and montelukast with little effect because they cannot identify the allergy. In these circumstances you may be managed by, say, a chest physician and a dermatologist, if you're lucky. Or else just a GP. It's not just the disease - living with the pills is dreadful too.
On the specialist web-sites, salicylate hypersensitivy - my problem - is usually mentioned as a possibility. But GPs, caterers, the wider world knows little about it.
So I'm happy to urge support for this petition that's been posted on the website of 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister. So far fewer than 200 people have signed - it needs more!
It reads: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to take action to improve NHS allergy services and the inadequate care received by millions of patients living with allergic disease; and call for action to implement the recommendations of independent national reviews including the House of Commons Health Select Committee, that more allergy consultant and trainee posts be created, priority be given to commissioning of allergy services and for improved knowledge of allergy in primary care. "
Mandy East of National Allergy Strategy Group writes: "Around a third of the population have a condition where allergy may be involved and about 7 million have allergy severe enough to require specialist care. This creates a large burden for the patient and the NHS. There is a lack of expertise in allergy right across the NHS.Most doctors just don’t know, or know little, about allergy; there is a lack of expertise in hospitals and a lack of knowledge or understanding of allergy in primary care. This means that very large numbers of patients are being seen by a doctor who has little understanding of their disease; and things are made worst by there being a small number of full specialists in allergy."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Caterers and cheese

I sent through my guidelines for caterers for an event I'm attending next week. Today the caterer rings me up.

"I've made inquiries," she says, "and I can't find out anything about this allergy. What can you eat?"

I stress the answer is plain food, maybe cheese sandwiches. We're doing a finger buffet and there will be cheese and onion somethings, she says. No, finger buffet is disastrous, I say. Plain cheese sandwich will be fine. After all, all I need is something to keep me going.

In fact I amended the instructions a little before sending them through. The trouble is I don't know what to say about cheese. Plain cheese is okay - but I've been eating plain, salicylate free food for a few days now and The Ring is back. As I write, it's even itching - so I need to take a pill.

I'll take another look at the revised instructions and post them again.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The little things

A couple of weeks' silence here means a couple of weeks struggling with the little things. For instance I put some cashew nuts and a couple of bars of cheap Tesco chocolate into the pantry.

Although cashew nuts are meant to be near zero salicylate they are of course rich in omega-6 - which means they should only be eaten as part of a salicylate free diet. I don't believe chocolate is zero salicylate as it can be quite rich in caffeine - however my lists say cocoa is low salicylate. But a bar of chocolate is far too nice, especially when working. So a couple of squares soon becomes the whole bar - and that is too much chocolate and too much caffeine. I need to revert to not buying chocolate, even if the supermarket brands are incredibly cheap.

It all means flurries of disturbance and the occasional rush for a montelukast to calm down some itching or irritation.

Then there are the snacks that people provide. I dipped into a bowl of cashew nuts the other day - the trouble is they were coated in spice. So that was salicylate in the spice and omega 6 in the nuts. I took a montelukast when I got home. Then there was the beef sandwich. It looked plain but tasted far too nice. Was that mustard?

After one of these episodes I sat down in the evening and got up. My left knee was weak, the finger and thumb of my left hand ached and the old left eye felt sore. I took a montelukast and the problem faded away.

What about Jack Daniels? My illusions that it might be any better than Scotch whisky have been shaken. Somebody told me it's matured in hickory wood. I looked into this a little further and discovered that whisky's golden colour is acquired from the wood in which it matures. All I can say is that Jack Daniels never causes too much harm - but maybe I should keep it to the occasional tipple.

It's all little things that can suddenly build up into a big problem if they are not taken care of.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fish and rheumatism

I'm intrigued and encouraged by this recent analysis of allergy prevention, suggesting that eating fish is one of the best ways of dealing with problems.

There doesn't seem to be an explanation for this. In the case of salicylate hypersensitivity, there appears to be a very clear explanation as I discovered a couple of years ago. This is that the condition is caused by a reaction between omega -6, found in meat, and salicylate. So substituting fish, which has omega-3 fats, for meats can help prevent these reactions.

This is not necessarily what happens in classical IGe allergy (in truth, I don't know.) So are the benefits of fish thrown up because studies of diets include a number of people with salicylate problems? Or does it provide other benefits for allergy sufferers, eg in reducing inflammation?

Today I went for another Chinese buffet. I forgot to take a montelukast before going. A few days ago I wrenched my arm. I had picked up one of those cheap plastic containers full of papers and one end broke. The container slumped down, twisting my arm. It seemed to recover with some minor aching, but tonight my left hand aches like Hades, just about on the index finger. I thought I had a pretty safe meal at the Chinese - but if you eat anything remotely processed you cannot be sure what's in it. My feast today included cauliflower cheese, plain chicken in batter and biscuit pudding - plenty of opportunity for odd chemicals and components to creep in.

I really do not want to get rheumatism in my hand so I have now taken a montelukast.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Celery and beer

 I threw some red cabbage, leek and celery into the steamer tonight. Nothing new about that. I was surprised when the delicious aroma of curry came from it.

It can't have been the pans - you don't cook curry in a steamer and I don't think anyone in the household has eaten anything that spicy for ages.

I savoured the smell, which continued to fill the air after I served up. It seemed to come from the celery. There was no taste of curry in the food - but the smell gave some added spice to the meal.Memo to me: I must do something about making that home-made curry.

In contrast, I was listening to a report on beer on the radio the other day. I was never a great beer drinker but there have been moments in life when beer has been delicious, mainly on the European continent. I enjoyed chilled lager in the Italian heat and exotic strawberry-flavoured beers they serve in Belgium. There seems no possibility of enjoying those tastes and those moments again.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A virus

I'm not even going to kid myself it's swine flu this time, although it probably is. Tiredness and fatigue, a sore throat, a stuffy nose, plunging gloom and blowing hot and cold all the time - all I've been missing is a consistent high fever.

The ring had all but gone today - a good sign the immune system is struggling. If this was swine flu, this was a nasty little virus as it played with my head and made sure I did not do anything apart from grabbing a couple of hours of extra sleep.

Today my throat is still sore and I could be fairly confident it was not an allergic reaction. So it was time for the miracle cure - redbush tea.

I made it weak - I have forgotten how to make it. But within a few minutes there was  a satisfying itch all over as my immune system kicked in. My left arm has come out in red spots so I think I had better stop drinking it.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Punched in the face

I was working away from home for a few days this week. There were lots of finger buffets and this is when I get reminded just how problematic food can be.

I tend to assume I'm safe to sample foods if I'm not sure. That's not really true. And also if a nibble is tasty, it's hard to stop eating it, especially if I don't collapse on the spot. After a couple of days of this I felt as if I'd been punched in the face. My lip was sore, my tongue was swollen and my throat was going sore. And my insides were not too happy either. There was the beef sandwich that looked plain - but of course the caterers could not resist the temptation to add mustard. There was the prawn on a stick that again looked plain - but was in fact soaked in curry. And memo to me, chicken strips are always laced with pepper.

The upside was a visit to an Italian restaurant. They offered dish with pasta, spinach, tiger prawns, chilli and red onions. I asked them to serve it without the chilli and onions and they did. The prawns were plain and it was delicious.


Fried banana

I tried adding banana to the stir fry tonight. I mixed cabbage, banana and sardine, using the same techniques as with "tuna con chips" and ate it with fried potato. It was okay and the banana fleshed out the sardine nicely - but I could not taste it at all. I won't be adding this to my list of recipes yet.

Does anybody know how to fry banana to make a sweet and sour? I've eaten plenty of plantain in my life but feel that banana should be useable.

 I had more success the other night. I did a stir fry to eat with pasta from bacon, cabbage, leek and soy sauce. It tasted very Chinese.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is salicylate free?

 While I was under hospital care I had three different lists of foods and substances with and without salicylate. The first was sent out by the consultant and had been compiled by the British Allergy Foundation. The later ones were compiled by the dietician.

There are some big differences. By the end of the period, the dietician had split foods into negligible, low, moderate, high and very high. The original British Allergy Foundation merely classified them as high and low.

Mostly I try to keep to a diet high in fish and some basic near-zero salicylate foods such as cabbage, leek and banana. Other foods have crept in however.

I eat grapes. The original list said they were "high" and to be avoided. The last list says low. I don't find a problem.

The first list said broccoli was low. The last one says high. I avoid it.

The first list said pineapple juice was high. The last list says low. When I tried it I was quite ill. I avoid it.

The first list said sweetcorn was high. The last list said it was moderate but that corn on the cob is low. What's the difference? I've been eating it but I did notice the other day, it left me with a burn a little like curry.

The first list said all tomato was high. The last list says fresh tomato is low and may be okay. I avoid it.

The first list said cherries were high. The last list says canned cherries are low. I've been avoiding them - maybe I could try cherry products such as Black Forest Gateau.

The last list says green beans are okay. The first list didn't mention them and I've been avoiding them - although I love them.

The first list says parsnips are low. The last list says moderate. I've given them up quite recently.

Both lists say onions, mango and lemons are low, yet I've always avoided them. Maybe I just don't like onion and found it a good excuse to get everyone cooking with leek. I don't know why I would choose to avoid mango and lemon. I must find the second list - because that's maybe when I gave up on these two.

Perhaps I should try to find an even more up to date list. Or perhaps there simply isn't enough research on the subject.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Salicylate free eating

A few months ago I promised to list here all the salicylate free meals I have devised and reported. Here they are, just half a dozen, so far, along with the guidance I have drawn up for caterers and friends.
Meals involving fish are also low in omega 6 and especially safe, both in theory and in my experience. So there's a lot of fish. Some of these "recipes" are more detailed than others.

I have kind people who attempt more ambitious meals for me, such as fish pies and pizzas. You always have to check they don't accidentally sprinkle pepper on the food.

I have promised myself to step out and attempt a low salicylate curry some time. My list says it would have to use tandoori spice. I'll add to this list as recipes come in.

Tuna con Chips - when you hanker for a chilli con carne
Apple and Tuna Sauce
Fish pasta sauce
Roast chicken and gravy
Salmon and spinach
Salicylate free pasta sauce with mince
Guidance for friends
Instructions for caterers


Monday, September 07, 2009

Good news about cabbage!

 I eat a lot of cabbage. It has no salicylate and it is easy to store fresh. I have found ways to use it as a base for sauces and all sorts of dishes.

And it's worried me because it seems such a bland vegetable. The signs in the supermarkets say to mix your colours, to eat red and yellow and orange and green fruits and vegetables. Well, cabbage comes as red or white or green so that's not too bad.

So I'm celebrating the latest news about cabbage. It says that cabbage contains a chemical sulforaphane that has special properties to protect against heart disease. There's not as much as broccoli, which I can't eat, but I eat a lot of cabbage.

It's also in brussels sprouts, which we also eat a lot of. We tend to buy them frozen. It's also in cauliflower, which I do eat but I'm not sure I should.

We usually mix cabbage with leek when we cook it. I'll be eating a lot more!


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Green bananas

 We ordered our shopping on-line last week, including our usual large amount of bananas. Without exception, every banana that came was green.

I was desperate, and others were tucking in, so I ate the green bananas. I have read in various places that unripe fruit may be richer in salicylate, also that bananas contain pseudo-histamines. These are unscientific and unchecked comments - it is what I recall. All I know is that the bananas played havoc with my insides.

Today my throat is sore, my tummy is sore, I am running hot and cold, I've slept far too long and my limbs are throbbing. I fear I may at last be about to succumb to swine flu - or it could be just green bananas.

Next time we're going to send the green bananas back.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The joy of montelukast

 The pesky cat is back today. Yes, the episode with the fleas nearly ruined the second week of my summer holidays. So the cat got defleaed the minute it set through the door. It wasn't happy.

Today the problem is almost all gone - although there is still a weal on the back of my left hand.

For several days  the little finger continued to be sore - being most irritable first thing in the morning. Even worse was that when I touched it - to check - the itching flared up and the finger swelled. This was followed by the itching, and the swelling, spreading up the hand and the arm and that was worrying. I used up my last two montelukasts two days in a row simply to deal with this problem. This seemed to work. There's still a weal on the back of my left hand.

Curiously The Ring has nearly gone. In the mornings it's barely visible. This may be a result of not eating strong cheese of any kind for a few days - or of a salicylate free diet. I found the remains of a block of uneaten extra strong cheese when I got home and ate some of it. The Ring started to return but has receded again this morning.

It seems that montelukast is so successful - and worth more than four billion dollars a year - that there are major commercial battles over it  within the pharmaceutical industry.

Makers Merck seem to have seen off one attempt to make cheaper, generic versions.

But now there is an industry wide challenge to its patent.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TCP v Anthisan

Putting TCP on my hands and the blotches on my arms didn't work well overnight. In fact when I woke up my fingers were itching again and the weal had reappeared on the back of my hand.

Worse still the Ring reddened again yesterday, radiating a bright red circle around its rim. It was itching by the time I went to bed so I put Eurax on - and that seemed to calm it. The only thing I can point to is a glass of Jack Daniels I had with my meal. Although it's supposed to be zero-salicylate I still wonder whether whisky is a good thing, perhaps because it inflames the blood vessels

This morning I found a tube of Anthisan and decided to try that on the weals, welts and flea-bites. It didn't seem to work and when I put the tube down or put it away I couldn't find it again. This was probably a good thing as later in the day I got drowsy and slept for 90 minutes - even though I'd had a good night's sleep. I just had a look at some web references to Anthisan, which is mainly an anti-histamine, and few mention drowsiness as a side effect. Odd because my previous experience, some months ago, was that it left me incredibly tired.

The Anthisan didn't seem to work and everything itched even more over breakfast. So in desperation I smeared Eurax on everything and that calmed it all down. Tonight the blotches on my arms are still slowly shrinking but my hands and fingers are itching again. So I have used more Eurax.

I may have praised TCP prematurely - although I think I will try it again on the fingers tonight.

Wretched cat!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I wanted to write about the wonders of fish oil today - but instead I find myself writing about TCP.

When I woke up today my hands and fingers were itching like Hades. Then I spotted an old tube of TCP cream. It was a nasty brown colour and incredibly sticky. But nothing else had worked since the fleas on the cat attacked me on Friday night. Any port in a storm.

I squeezed the first, dirty, bit of TCP cream out and had a heck of a job trying to wash it down the sink and get it off my hands. I then applied a slightly cleaner looking section of cream to my hands but not to my arms. Amazingly, within a couple of hours the flea bite blisters and the itching on my fingers had gone. In fact the skin became quite wrinkled and pale, suggesting that swelling had subsided.

I didn't want to put TCP on my arms because of the smell. I would have stunk all day. So I tried a newer antiseptic from the first aid kit. This seemed to relieve things a little during the day but the blotches did not disappear as dramatically as on the fingers. A second application later on as had more effect. There are still blotches but much reduced.

This suggests that the fleas may have infected me with something quite nasty. I'm only lucky it wasn't bubonic plague or something equally unpleasant.

I think I'll try another dose of TCP tonight just to make sure.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Weals and welts

 Things have improved a little bit on my arms today, aided by a dip in salty sea-water. I'm still not sure there's not a flea or some other little creature active on or under my skin. There's an extra finger that's gone itchy and an inch-long weal across the back of my hand.

I've used a cream called Eurax to soothe the itching, which is still terrible around the weals and welts. Even if they stop itching, a single touch starts them up again. The cream leaves the skin all red, which seems worth it, although I fear it may be aggravating the problem. The spotty rash in the cradle of my elbow seems to have gone.

I am trying to avoid insects.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Papular urticaria

A dismal weekend spoilt by dreadful English weather, too many anti-histamines and a big scare on my arms. I'm hoping there won't be a big scar on my arms.

It started when I was nice to the cat on Friday night, the same cat that has been bringing fleas into the house. We thought she was free and I fondled her around the neck, only to get a nip on my arm from a flea.

Within a few hours my arms broke out into a rash. My immediate thought was to blame the biscuits I consumed during the afternoon - they were meant to be cream sandwiches but seemed to have quite a  gingery taste. I'm running low on montelukast so I took a one-a-day antihistamine. I thought this might help with The Ring too.

By Saturday there were welts and weals and red spots all over my arms, partly around the elbows but also on my hands and the fingers. It looked as if the cat had scratched me and then infected me with a plague of scabies.And my arms itched all over.

A montelukast and another antihistamine failed to relieve the misery on Sunday. As the weather deteriorated and the temperature plummeted, I developed that clammy feeling and sense of foreboding they say comes with anaphylaxis -along with the kind of rash they say to look out for with septicaemia. And after two days of anti-histamines I felt tired, despite sleeping for hours.

Eventually I found a little creature on my wrist and removed him. That may have helped relieve the misery. I tried smearing my arms with E45 and that relieved the misery but left the skin quite red. The same happened when I tried another cream Eurax yesterday.

So I turned to the internet and discovered it is probably  - or rather almost certainly - a condition called papular urticaria. Urticaria is hives and in this version, often triggered by those fleas, you do indeed get weals, welts, red rashes and lines of spots, often on the arms and exposed parts of the skin. It happens to people with hypersensitive skin, usually children. Well, perhaps the ginger biscuits made me hyper-sensitive on this occasion.

I am indebted to this page for helping me identify the problem. I am resolved that the cat will be confined indoors for ever so she cannot collect any more fleas.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Tuna con chips

 They came back with a meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken tonight and tried to persuade me to eat it. I refused.

The chips were cold, undercooked and meagre but I suddenly felt a hankering for chilli con carne. As I'm trying to stick to zero-salicylate and eat fish (to see if The Ring will go away), my imagination turned to tuna. On this occasion my imagination worked successfully. It was a variant of one of my pasta sauces - but came out very differently. Here's what I did, step by step:

warm rapeseed oil in frying pan;
slice golden delicious apple and add to pan;
chop a small amount of cabbage (small) and add to pan;
chop some leek and add to pan;
turn heat to maximum and stir vigorously until contents brown;
open tin of tuna in brine;
drain off brine so far as possible;
add to pan - watching for splash;
stir vigorously, cooking at max;
add more rapeseed oil to keep moist;
when tuna starts to brown, add Kentucky chips;
stir vigorously until chips start to brown.

Add topping of grated cheese. Garnish with lettuce.
Delicious! The tastiest tuna I have eaten so far. Lots of different  tastes and textures.

The difference from pasta sauce is that it is cooked at maximum rather than minimum and the brine is largely drained off, rather than used to make sauce.


The Return of the Ring

 It never really went away but I thought it was fading after I gave up blue cheese. This week it has been glowing bright red, one and a half inches across on my shoulder. It also started itching. Now I have been living salicylate-free for several days and also took several montelukasts. But it simply became brighter red.

I used E45 this morning and this has soothed the itching, but not reduced the redness. Having looked up
erythema annulare centrifugum, which is what it appears to be, I had feared it would start sprouting and spreading. Thankfully, there's no sign of that yet.

I can only think it's cheese again. I bought some extra "mild" Smartprice (ie cut-price) cheese from Asda earlier in the week. I thought it was a good way to restore taste to food. I had understood that the penicillin in blue cheese is found in the blue bits - but maybe there's something in the cheap cheese.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Invisible again

The Guardian newspaper carries a feature spread today on "living with food allergy". Sadly it completely fails to mention salicylates.

The number of visitors to this site suggest that quite a few people have this problem - or similar problems. My recent census found that 38 per cent of visitors here are salicylate sensitive. Apparently quite a few people with asthma also have the problem. So why the invisibility?

The Guardian piece mentions dairy, gluten(wheat) and nuts. These are serious - but they are also readily catered for. Try working with the list of fruit, vegetables and other organic substances that contain salicylate. The experts tell us that the prevalence of gluten-allergy is much exaggerated in the public mind. I know, because I spent six months living on Free From food because I had problems with pizza, pasta and beer.

The consultant ultimately decided it was everything else but gluten. He was right. I think I was lucky that my symptoms were severe enough to warrant the attention of an NHS consultant. Yes, nut allergy is very serious. If you have coeliac disease, gluten is very nasty indeed and Free From food is very useful indeed. As I say, I have been there and I lost half a stone trying to live on Free From food! It was expensive and it was difficult to cook with.

I think what offends me most is the heading of the feature: A Guide to Food for People with Allergies. Why did they not just make the piece about gluten/wheat allergy and intolerance and do a sensible round-up of the issues?


Monday, August 17, 2009


 I ruined everything by going to a fund-raising barbecue over the weekend. It was a great barbecue - there was steak and salmon as well as the usual burgers and sausages. So I had steak and salmon. There was a herbal garnish on the salmon - it did not seem especially aromatic so I just hoped it was parsley. There was no water so I drank diet Sprite. The salad looked as though it was lettuce but in fact had onions and maybe garlic sliced into it. It was hard to see in the dark.

It was a great night and I paid for it over the weekend. Today my arms are all red and the Ring is also bright red. More on that later.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guidance for friends

 We had a very pleasant meal at our friends' of shepherd's pie and banana sponge with cream - all salicylate free.

This was the final version of the guidance I sent:

 In general:
 no pepper, spices or herbs (except parsley). Most fruit is out and quite a few vegetables.

 Banana and golden delicious apple are okay as are chips, baked  potato, cabbage, peas, sprouts, lettuce, leek and celery.

All meat, dairy and fish is fine, although fish is especially good.

 Small amounts of chocolate as in cake or pudding are fine.

Only drinks are water, milk or decaffeinated coffee( or whisky).
 Nothing  else.

 The general principle I work to is that sauces and pies are dodgy.
 Plain meats, battered fish etc are okay.

We use a lot of rapeseed oil and soy sauce for cooking as both are fine.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Soy sauce!

 Our friend who is cooking for us has just borrowed a bottle of soy sauce. She says she could not find it in the supermarket. Curiously, I had the same experience a couple of weeks ago in Asda. I looked everywhere, under sauces, exotic food, anywhere with small brown bottles, and could not find it.

It seems odd as Asda on-line confirms they sell a whole range of soy sauces, including their own brand. That's how we normally get it. However the deliveries come from local supermarkets so they must have it in stock somewhere.

I tried to cut down on soy sauce at one point as it is rich in omega-6 although it is supposed to be pretty well zero salicylate. However it puts a lot of taste back into the cooking and if the meal is zero or near zero salicylate does not seem to cause problems.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eating out .... at friends'

 A generous friend has invited us to a meal. She then asked what she could safely cook for me.

I said I would let her have a copy of the guidance I drew up for a commercial caterer a few weeks ago. I then realised the guidance wasn't really adequate for somebody who wanted to cook as good a meal as possible so I made some additions. I mentioned that we use soy sauce and rapeseed oil as a base for cooking and that we can use parsley as a herb.

So far the main queries have been about ice cream, cream and custard. I'm never sure about ice cream and always suggest chocolate ice cream. When I was on holiday there were people selling genuine clotted cream ice cream - which was nice and probably quite safe. Vanilla is meant to be banned but I often eat vanilla ice cream.

It really is time I attempted a salicylate free curry.


Friday, August 07, 2009


 The cat keeps bringing fleas into the house. It's proved hard to eradicate them but I think we've got the message across that the cat is in quarantine - and should not be in the bedrooms or living areas.

Others seem to have been worse bitten than me. I've had bites but they have been little more than spots. It did not stop me itching all over however - so far as I can see I've come out in hives. At first I thought I was being eaten by fleas. I was itching all over and terrified when I was in bed. But when I woke up there was little evidence of bites.

The way I see it is this - the immune system kicks in and deals with the flea bites. But it overreacts. So the rash under my elbow returned.

I took a montelukast today and that seems to have calmed down the skin rash. I don't like taking montelukast when the immune system has real work to do. I'm not sure it couldn't leave me vulnerable to infection.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

A meal out

 I've been on holiday for a few days. It's been mostly self-catering but one night we thought we'd treat ourselves to a meal out. We found a little bistro tucked away in a Welsh fishing port. I took a montelukast before going out. Alarmingly it seems to have been my last. I thought I had a full sachet but it seems to have been lost en route. I thought I would have reasonable tolerance. The Ring has nearly gone and I felt quite healthy.

My meal consisted of goats cheese and sea bass, on a layer of spinach. Not much harm here surely. The chef wanted to "drizzle" the cheese in olive oil and pine nuts but I explained nuts might be a problem (even pine nuts). There was a lot more on both courses. The fish came in a balsam vinegar sauce. It was an incredibly tasty meal - of course it was as I haven't tasted half these ingredients for years. Today I am paying the penalty. My left jaw and tongue is swollen and my left eye is sore. Eating is quite uncomfortable.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Strange tastes

We've taken to making banana cake. The other day I ate a slice and tasted ginger, I tasted another slice and that also tasted of ginger.

Then there was the home-made fish pie. I ate it and it tasted peppery. I had a discussion with the cook - absolutely no pepper in it. Yet it tasted of pepper.

I wonder if I'm suffering from the amputee effect. Because my taste buds are deprived of any food with taste, they are making it up. If so it is going to make it very difficult to identify suspect foods. Cooks do not like being accused of using ingredients they have taken every care not to use.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Instructions for caterers

I went to a conference over the weekend at a venue I've been to before. This time I managed to get the caterers to understand the problem. This was the guidance I gave. I have never been so well looked after....

It's salicylate hypersensitivity, which you may not be familiar with.

In general:
no pepper, spices or herbs. Most fruit is out and quite a few vegetables.

Banana and golden delicious apple are okay as are chips, baked potato, cabbage, peas, sprouts, lettuce, leek and celery.

All meat, dairy and fish is fine, although fish is especially good.

Small amounts of chocolate as in cake or pudding are fine.

Only drinks are water or decaffeinated coffee. Nothing else.

The general principle I work to is that sauces and pies are dodgy. Plain meats, battered fish etc are okay.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Breakfast menu

 Breakfast menu:
one montelukast
one super-strength paracetamol
glass of warm salted water

Back to the dentist on Monday and a great deal of poking around my teeth. The dentist is convinced I've got tiny pockets of infection around the gums. All I know is that the process has left me in enormous pain.

I've now got a splitting headache on the left side of my face and back in the left eye - as I had three years ago.

This may have been aggravated by the meal I had on Monday night. We had a visit from some salespeople from Saladmaster. Their process involves chopping vegetables very finely and cooking them without water or much else in very expensive self-contained saucepans (effectively acting as miniroasters). It's all very interesting and mostly we managed to adjust their menu to meat my needs - that even included using Golden Delicious apples to garnish the chicken. It was meant to be apple sauce but did not come out  tasty or even saucy.

The only problem was  the potatoes.  In spite of my protestations, these were sliced very finely with the skin on and then backed with a cheese topping. It was quite tasty but there was no possibility of getting the skin off. Of course, for most people it is healthy to eat the potato skin. But it does, apparently, contain quite a lot of salicylate and I probably ended up eating quite a lot of it. We didn't buy anything.

So what's aggravating what? It could be raw nerves exposed by the dental treatment, it could be a reaction to potato peel or it could be further infection of the gums caused by the finely ground vegetables getting into the teeth.

Meanwhile I keep thinking, or rather hoping, The Ring is fading away. That's one reason for taking a daily montelukast - to zap The Ring.

If the problem is with the teeth, then I'm going to solve it. There will be brushing and flossing after meals as instructed. I'll also use salted water to disinfect. And montelukast and good diet will reduce inflammation from allergy. However I'd really like to know what facial symptoms are being caused by gums and what's being caused by what they call oral allergy syndrome.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Census of visitors

Many thanks to those who took part in the "census" of visitors to this site.

Out of 63 who filled in the poll, some 38 per cent identified themselves as salicylate sensitive. 33 per cent had other allergies and 20 per cent are food sensitive.

A whopping 34 per cent said they were still trying to find out - presumably that includes people trying to find out what exactly it is they are allergic to, just as I was two years ago.

There was a smattering of health professionals (4 per cent) and of relatives (7 per cent).

Finally, a further thanks to those who've said hello when they are passing through! It cheers us all up to know we are not alone.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Ring Trilogy

Nearly a week after giving up penicillin the ring on my chest is still there. I am trying to work out if it is slowly fading. It's not getting worse now so I do think it might have been caused by blue cheese/penicillin.

Looking back to two weeks ago I tried E45 and said it did not seem to work. Yet two days later on June 23rd I was reporting that the ring had almost gone. I put that entirely down to giving up Stilton but, maybe, the E45 worked after all. I will try some again.

That shows the benefits of keeping a diary!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Penicillin and the dentist

This morning it looked as if the "ring" was fading. The redness round the edges had gone and it looked as though the skin might heal.

I wondered why it had suddenly healed. Perhaps it was the swine flu virus or the effect of fighting an infection in the teeth.

The best guess is that it was caused by blue cheese, as I ran out of Stilton in the middle of last week and had been eating it almost daily up to then. I had followed through the links on the subject, erythema annulare centrifugum and found a very detailed text book page. This would appear to summarise all the reports on this problem and there would appear to be limited links with salilcylate allergy or montelukast. There is however an established link with blue cheese. The site states that blue cheese causes a problem because of the fungus Penicillium. And a list of the drugs that causes the problem includes salicylates and penicillin.

Today, by coincidence, I finally went to the dentist. A series of sharp pains last week ended up in a dull ache in my lower back jaw. I used warm salty water and this seemed to clear the inflammation of the gums but it failed to remove the dull ache.Wisdom tooth, I thought.

My National Health Service dentist has gone private - so the bill for the day was not small. The dentist x-rayed me, removed a wisdom tooth from my upper jaw and gave me a deep clean. The pain, she blamed on food trapped in the gums causing an infection. She then gave me a prescription of antibiotics. I couldn't say I was allergic to penicillin. The thought had hardly crossed my mind - so I told her penicillin was okay.

The dentist, by the way, accepted I could not find a safe toothpaste or mouthwash. Otherwise, I think, she would have tried to treat the infection with mouthwash.

I also got my fresh prescription of montelukast. It's been that kind of day.

Tonight the ring is again inflamed. I think I'll have to put up with it for three days and hope it does not spread any more. If it does we'll have to add penicillin to everything else. And do without blue cheese, groan.


Sunday, June 21, 2009


My partner's been urging me to try E45 cream for a while now. So yesterday I did. I checked the ingredients first. It seems to contain palm oil, which would not be very good. However the ring on my chest was starting to tickle a little so I thought it worth a try. I went a little over the top and smeared it on the ring and also on the insides of my elbows. The immediate results were not promising - everything went red. The tickle's gone today but the ring remains inflamed. So I don't think E45 is sensible. We have another skin cream I am going to try - again the ingredients seem innocent but they also seem to be not as detailed as I would lack.

Looking back I'm reminded I cut back on montelukast because the ring, erythrema centrifugum, might be caused by a side-effect of drugs or by blue cheese. It didn't make any difference - all that seems to have happened is I've lost a sachet of pills so far as I can tell. Or else I'd used more than I thought since April. So I've had to order some more.

I'm now abstaining from stilton cheese in the faint hope that it might be the cause of the ring, rather than salicylate. Not much hope there and I'm worried it may be sprouting a second one. Uugh! I may even have to go to the doctor. Perhaps some sun-bathing would do the trick. My arms have been a great deal better since they got a dose of sunshine.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The sun shines!

 One factor I forgot to mention in my recent troubles - the sun. Perhaps because there has not been a great deal of it during the British summer in recent years.

Two weeks ago we went for a picnic on a blistering hot Sunday. In desperation I borrowed some sun tan lotion off someone. It's hardly any wonder I had trouble with my skin for the last couple of weeks and that the trouble has been mainly on the arms and the face.

Last summer or the summer before I went to quite a lot of trouble to find hypo-allergenic sun tan lotion. I can't find any record of it on this blog and in the end I did not have to use the stuff very much. But over the weekend I found some of this lotion in the house "for sensitive skin". I used it yesterday when I was outside all day and the sun was shining blistering hot again in between cloudy intervals. When I first put it on my skin went all red. I didn't apply it to my inner elbows and they got burnt by the sun. I applied it to my face and that was still quite burnt.

There doesn't seem to have been any longer run effects. I had a cold bath at the end of the day and my arms do not seem too bad. I need to check the ingredients of the stuff I am using.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Swine flu?

I have been wondering if I'm suffering from a dose of swine flu as it is around in our neighbourhood. I have been feeling dreadful all week.

Maybe it's just coincidence. Maybe I drank too much Jack Daniels over the weekend. My experience over the winter was that the flu virus - if it was that - suppressed the immune system, led to other symptoms disappearing and allowed me much greater flexibility in my diet.

As of tonight, my arms look as though they're suffering from chicken pox. There have been a couple of breaches in the diet in the last few days but I have also been taking montelukast daily. Yesterday in desperation I took an anti-histamine and that may explain why I've been feeling groggy for the last 24 hours.

Leaving aside the whisky, I think it started on Sunday when we discovered we had run out of soy sauce. I was persuaded to try a cheap commercial chicken stock on the grounds the ingredients did not display any obvious salicylates, no herbs or anything.

Gravy was the problem a couple of days later when I went to a function. I asked if they could produce me a meal without sauces, herbs or spices. First the waitress told me they would have to cook it specially but a few moments later she returned with a slab of plain chicken, which they just happened to have prepared. Unfortunately it was soaked in gravy. I didn't have the heart to send it back.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Apple sauce

 Tonight we began cooking pasta and then I realised there were no fresh green vegetables, cabbage, leek or celery, to make my sauce.

So I chopped up a golden delicious apple and stir fried it. I then added a tin of tuna. The tuna was in sunflower oil, which was unfortunate, so I had to drain the oil off so far as possible. My first tasting seemed a little disappointing so I added a little soy sauce and then some more rape seed oil. Nothing else.

It was delicious - by far the best tuna sauce I have made.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

News on the omega syndrome

 Well the salt mouth-wash worked, even though I forgot to take further doses. My gums cleared up and there has been no more pain.

This bit of news popped up tonight. The scientists involved seem to be arguing that western diet has switched to an unhealthy balance of omega 6 and omega 3 oils in the last century. So we may not be alone in needing to increase omega 3 consumption. There's not necessarily much new here - it's been known for a while that fish oil improves heart health.

It all serves to reinforce what I discovered originally about the omega syndrome. It's just odd that not many people seem to know about it.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wisdom teeth and more

It's been the wisdom teeth on the right side of my jaw causing all the problems over the last week. And as always I'm not sure whether it's worth spending time and money on a dentist or not.

The saga began, I suspect, at a function I attended last week. Champagne and wine were being served in abundance and I could not resist a sip of both. A couple of days later I noticed a twinge in my lower right jaw. This became an ache, and then an agonising ache waking me up at night - so I took some paracetamol and that seemed to calm it down.

I should be so lucky. Over the weekend the upper back jaw flared up and became tender. That seemed to confirm the problem started as an allergic reaction rather than a decaying wisdom tooth.

Sensitive souls don't read on.

Last night as I was brushing my teeth I thought I felt some meat stuck in the tooth at the back - so I gave it a big scrub. Next thing I knew blood was gushing out of my mouth. You probably shouldn't go to sleep with that amount of blood running around your mouth. But I did and woke up alive and ok today. My guess is that the latest problem was an ulcer; I'd forgotten about mouth ulcers and how big a problem they were before I got this under control.

Today I thought it was fine - but eating a meal I realised my right jaw is still very sensitive. So I finally did what I should have done a week ago and washed my mouth out with warm, salted water. There'll be another course of that treatment today.

So it looks as if it was gum inflammation all along. Perhaps there's been an infection too. Somebody said you might as well have your wisdom teeth out in any case to prevent these kind of problems. I really do not want to as it will be an incredibly expensive procedure.


Monday, May 18, 2009


A curious red ring, about an inch across, has appeared on my chest. It looks like ringworm but does not itch like ringworm - which I experienced as a child.

I may have found an answer fairly swiftly - a condition called annular erythrema centrifugum. This site says it can be caused by drugs or food "such as blue cheese or tomatoes." Well it's not tomatoes but it might be stilton cheese. Or it might be montelukast. It doesn't seem anything to worry about although the pictures are a little scary.


Pineapple juice

 A couple of months ago I was craving ice pineapple juice, thinking it was impossible. But the newly refound list says pineapple juice is low in salicylates - so it ought to be okay. And in fact it is the only fruit juice that is okay.

Over the weekend I was shopping and saw a bottle of pressed pineapple juice. That should be fine, I thought.  I reasoned that since pineapple is not on the list, cheap juice made from pulped fruit will be no good but pressed might be okay.

Yesterday I tried it - the first fruit juice I have drunk in two years. There were two problems.

The first was I did not enjoy it. Maybe it would have been better with ice. Maybe pineapple juice really needs to be mixed - perhaps I could mix it with vodka. It was not refreshing.

The second problem was that it was not problem free, not at all. Today the rash is back on my elbows. It had gone away over the weekend. I've taken a montelukast.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The lost list

It may be obvious - I've been flying by wire for a while. A few days ago I looked on the kitchen pinboard for the dietician's list, only to find it had gone. The reason I wanted it was to remind myself which curry powders are low salicylate. Frankly, my taste buds are dying from neglect. Tuna meals are the pits and as I mentioned before I even find myself going off banana. It's time I attempted home-made curry.

Lo and behold I was rummaging in the garage just a couple of days ago and I found a box of stuff cleared out from the kitchen during some decorating. In there was a list. I'm not sure if it was the dietician's last list as she produced several copies but it was certainly quite a detailed one.

I wish now I'd kept all her lists safely - for there were quite a lot of differences as she put quite a bit of research into the issue. In her original list items such as Golden Delicious apple were safe. In the later list she created two columns "negligible" and "low" and Golden Delicious moved to the low column. I had in my mind a sort of "hardly any" column which represented the foods that started off in the zero column and then moved to low. For also in the low column are foods such as onion and tomato - which I find lethal. Then there is beetroot, which I have been avoiding unnecessarily.

Maybe I will post more observations about the "low" column in the near future.

Then there are parsnip, lettuce and sweetcorn, which somehow crept into my diet and are in fact classed as "moderate". No wonder I've been struggling.

The two curry powders are saffron and tandori and are classed as "low" in this list. I will try to get some.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bare-armed or not?

 I have been wondering whether to go bare-armed or not in the warmer weather. My big problem now is on my arms, inside the elbows - today they are again covered with lumpy red spots. They don't itch like hives but become irritated if you touch them. My feeling is they are aggravated by fabrics and also by the warmth of clothes. And perhaps some sunlight would do some good.

Or perhaps they are being aggravated by exposure to the open air? So far as I know pollen is not a problem but other plant matter is. There's the odd brush with a shrub and maybe, as I've discussed before, bits of stuff thrown up in the air by lawn-mowers, gardeners and farmers.

In desperation I smeared some anthisan- an anti-histamine cream - on the arms this morning. It calmed things down briefly but it's left me feeling drowsy and they're inflamed again now after having a meal. That would be the chocolate gateau, I imagine. People still seem to think I can eat chocolate...and I cannot resist it!


Friday, May 08, 2009

Chocolate cake

 Last night I had a piece of chocolate cake. This morning my arms are covered in bright red lumpy spots. I've taken a montelukast.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bananas and a long hot summer

 I am, worryingly, going off bananas. It may be the poor quality bananas we buy. It may be eating two bananas a day, as I tend to do to keep up my five-a-day fruit and veg.

In fact if I think of the prospect of a long hot summer, I cannot see how I'll cope with only iced water and no fruit juice or iced pop for refreshment. I certainly won't feel like eating two or three bananas and apples a day. I guess we'll have to start buying quantities of cheap bananas and making our own banana juice. Does anyone have any good recipes? And can you make apple juice from golden delicious apples?


Monday, May 04, 2009

Passing by?

If you're passing through do me a favour and tick the survey on the left. It's only one question and I promise it won't affect what I write. There seems to be a lot of people who pass by looking for information and maybe I can encourage you to stop and chat sometimes!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

I am really not shaking off the rashes on my arms and legs. They're concentrated around the knees and elbows but seem to be spreading and montelukast seems to be having hardly any impact. The next step must be to purge all chocolate and all "real" decaf coffee. I'm pretty certain that decaf instant is harmless but the stuff that comes out of percolator machines usually feels lethal and leads to blurred eyesight. I'm getting use to the idea that whenever I  have a meal my nose starts running. That surely cannot be right however - for instance today I was able to buy a baguette with ham and cheese - aah and then I followed it with a small bar of dairy chocolate and drank it with a cup of real decaf coffee. That's the problem - it's going to be water, water everywhere and nary a drop to drink!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some light relief

...and for some light relief the British tabloid newspaper the Sun had a St George's day feature on why English food is good for your health.

I'm really not convinced that a portion of chips can have more vitamin C than an apple - but I suppose it's probably as good a way as any to eat potatoes when you can't eat the skins.

Of course if you have salicylate hypersensitivity, the traditional English diet is the best diet to eat.
Sadly that doesn't include Spotty Dick (that's a sponge pudding dotted with raisins and currants) but does include lots of boiled cabbage, peas and spinach along with liver, which is incredibly nutritious.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Trying to catch a cold

I met somebody with a cold today so I stood close to see if I could catch the virus. This is because when I had cold and flu bugs during the winter my tolerance of the allergy was improved massively - and I was able to drink wine, redbush tea and "try" stuff etc.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Running out of montelukast

Suddenly noticed I've pretty well run out of montelukast. I'm getting flare-ups around the elbows and knees - it may be linked by the variable temperatures at the moment, warm days and cold nights. I've fired off an email repeat prescription request to my GP. That's a good thing about the NHS. Problem is I don't know when I will get a chance to collect it - so I could be back to anti-histamines tomorrow...


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring fever!

Things have only gone from bad to worse over the last week. Yesterday I went for a drive in the country and my arms, bare in the sunshine, flared up with a spreading rash. And I started sneezing and weeping from my left eye. I had really tried for several days to keep away from problem substances although I did have small glass of Scotch on Friday night.

I wanted to top up my montelukast with an anti-histamine overnight but found I had run out.

It's interesting the way I was so tolerant over the Christmas period - apparently because of  cold and flu viruses - and yet at this time of year I'm finding it all difficult.

I've noted in the past that even if  there is no pollen allergy, there may be a problem with a kind of pseudo-hay fever caused by hedge trimmings, grass mowings etc getting into circulation - that is to say it's not the pollen but the vegetable matter itself that's a problem.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Singapore chow mien

My skin's just about clearing up now after a disastrous outing on Monday night. Having taken a vow of abstention on Monday morning after the weekend excesses, I stuck to it.

Sadly I had to attend a meal at one of those buffet restaurants where they serve dishes of the world. I tried. I drank water only.

And I managed to fill a plate with spaghetti, lettuce and mozarella cheese. Then wandering around I saw some plain prawns so I added those. Next thing I knew I was being pursued by an Indonesian chef who told me I needed to get my meal cooked. "No spices" I said. "Spices?" he said. "No spices" I said.

Into a wok went my meal and an incredibly rhythmic form of cooking ensued. So far as I could tell all he was adding was some kind of oil.

Then I tried to eat it. It was delicious - just like Singapore chow mien which I used to love. Hot and juicy. After a few bites I realised I should not be eating it, not at all. So I went to fill the plate again - sadly they had not topped up the bowl of spaghetti and I did not dare filch any prawns again.

I took an anti-histamine before going to bed, another montelukast in the morning and an anti-histamine the following night. I hate anti-histamines - they have all sorts of side-effects. My skin, already hypersensitive from the weekend, stayed flared up pretty well until today. It's still quite spotty but not very red.


Low in vitamins?

There's another odd story today about allergies and diet.Actually it's about asthma and that really sums up the issue.

The story says that people with asthma are low in vitamins, especially A and C. The implication is that people with asthma are aggravating their problem with poor diet. The medical word used is "causal" and it's used cautiously but it is there.

Now it's difficult to get beneath this finding as it's not original research but a summary of other people's research. That's fine but it's the nature of the link that is a problem. I think there's an insight that can be added to this and it comes from the sheer invisibility of salicylate hypersensitivity. People with this problem, ie Samter's Triad, are said to make up as many as 20 per cent of those with severe asthma.

So if you are SH (let's use an abbrevation for salicylate hypersensitivity) you are on an incredibly restricted diet. You can get round it to some extent by eating lots of fish - but your fruit and vegetables will be predominantly pale green and yellow and leafy. So is it a wonder that vitamin levels are low?

It seems astounding that expert researchers have missed this point! Yes, Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee, the finding is probably 'clinically relevant' but because people with SH need to work hard to put together a healthy diet. If you don't like bananas, you don't like fish or you don't like cabbage, it's going to be really hard work.

PS Found a great link whilst researching this. The disturbing news is that about one third of people with SH develop nasal polyps. What does this mean?


 PS Here's some examples of this nonsense today from supposedly respectable news organisations:

Eat your greens if you want to avoid asthma - Independent
 Vitamin deficiency asthma 'link' -BBC

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fish pasta sauce

 I promised to list all the recipes I've put together and then discovered I had never posted some of them.

So here is a simple and quick fish-based pasta sauce:

start cooking your pasta

  • chop white cabbage and leek;
  • stir fry in saucepan until white cabbage starts to brown;
  •  add tin of fish - sardines or mackerel are best but tuna is manageable;
  • add parsley;
  • stir until it simmers;
  • add milk, also yoghurt, cream or cheese if you wish;
  • simmer and stir until pasta is ready.



Monday, April 13, 2009


It may have been the rhubarb of course. We found ourselves in a National Trust cafe on Saturday and they were serving a delicious creamy cheese-cake with rhubarb in a side dish. I could not resist it - cheese cake is usually off limits.

Then I looked at the rhubarb and could not remember whether it was on any lists. So I reasoned that rhubarb is like a leafy vegetable and leafy vegetables are mostly all right - lettuce, cabbage, spinach, sprouts, cauliflower but not broccoli. Not sure about rocket, the subject of another recent post, although I generally eat it without harm. I think I need to find my lists...

So I took a spoonful of rhubarb thinking of all the rhubarb fools it would allow me to eat. I don't think it was all right - my tongue swelled briefly - and I did not finish it.


Easter abuse

After a weekend of self-abuse I've woken up with bright red spots and itching on my arm-pits and behind my knees and a very unhappy tummy. I've taken a montelukast and a vow of abstinence to try and calm things down.

It may have been the white wine or the Scotch whisky. I was  given a bar of dark chocolate for Easter. Not only have I vowed not to eat the stuff I've gone off it anyway - but it's hard to tell people that chocolate is now not really okay. Anyway as the day wore on I could not resist it and ate a square - along with a number of chocolate mini-eggs etc. I think the food has generally been okay - we've eaten in all weekend. There was a great fish pie on Friday night but after that it was red meat all the way. That doesn't help as it's rich in omega-6. Then for Easter Sunday I had a special trifle, made with bananas and whisky. Terrific! But Scotch whisky of course.  Ah well!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Does omega-3 work?

An disturbing report today suggests that taking omega-3 oils  - ie fish oil - is no good for treating allergy.Actually it does not say treating,  it says preventing.

That's a big difference. And I even tracked down the original article to try to make sense of it. Because my experience is that getting fish and other high omega-3 oils, eg rapeseed (or canola to Americans), into the diet makes all the difference.

It turns out the researchers  looked almost entirely at studies involving pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and new-born babies. So it was very much about prevention. I'd still like to know whether these studies are looking for diagnosed allergies or only for symptoms such as eczema and asthma. It's a big difference because salicylate hypersensitivity is not a "proper" allergy and can't be diagnosed by a simple test (apart from the Imperial Leather test - not recommended for babies).

So that's all right.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Anaphylaxis, shock and the epipen

When I started out I was prescribed an epipen and faithfully carried it with me everywhere. I still have it, although I think it is expired, but I no longer carry it.

What I don't know - and cannot find out - is how serious the risk of anaphylaxis is. My thoughts are prompted by today's troubling news that hospital admissions and deaths from anaphylactic shock have doubled in Britain.

It's good to see that someone has taken the trouble to dig out the figures and also to do something about it. That apparently includes trying to find out what lies behind it. Now if you go to the Anaphylaxis Campaign it's pretty clear that the main problem is with peanut allergies. So is the problem that, in spite of all the warnings, peanuts are being tucked into all sorts of foods? The statistics suggest not for they show big increases in reactions across a number of categories.

Now the GP was quite right to give me an epipen at the outset. My mouth, tongue and throat were swelling and we didn't know what the allergy is. It also seems pretty clear now that salicylate hypersensitivity is not like peanut allergy - certainly not for me. But I may be wrong. As I've reported recently, a small dose of pepper can cause my throat to swell, my tongue to burn and my voice to go hoarse. Yet in general the problems seem to accumulate steadily. Some people call this anaphylaxis but not anaphylactic shock.

If I've got everything under control I don't go straight to a bad reaction - things just pile up over a couple of days. So it doesn't seem likely I will go into shock, which seems to be caused by very fast, extreme reactions. Perhaps if I inadvertently took aspirin it might happen.

Does anybody know? Is there any experience of shock caused by salicylate allergy? If so, I'd better get the epipen renewed.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rocket allergies

 This headline caught my eye. It reminded me of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Sadly it got changed later:

Sneezing mice could reveal what has caused allergies to rocket

Monday, April 06, 2009

Recipe ideas

I think it's time I pulled together some of the eating ideas I've developed over the last three years. Coming up...a list of salicylate free, healthy recipes!


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Acupuncture and treacle pudding

 Here's an interesting idea - a treatment for hay fever based on acupuncture, in fact a wrist band that operates on acupressure points on the elbow. I have no idea if it works or not. I'm just wondering whether it would work with salicylate-caused hay fever, otherwise known as non-allergenic chronic rhinitis. The sellers claim it would relieve symptoms...I wonder. I also wonder what it would do to the skin symptoms on my elbow. I'm tempted to try.

Meanwhile I'm increasingly bothered by the wart that grew beneath my left eye last year. It itches - I wonder if it's a polyp. I really cannot face the thought of going back to the GP and trying to explain about Samter's Triad. Perhaps a High Street mole clinic? (that's a clinic for skin inspection, not small furry animals).

I took a montelukast yesterday as the weekend skin problems did not disappear. Indeed they may be linked to the irritation on my face. They're still around despite a fairly abstemious diet.

Ah, except I had a pub lunch today and could not face another treacle pudding and custard. So I opted for a chocolate pudding with vanilla ice-cream. It really seems as if my tolerance levels have decreased - when at Christmas they seemed very high. I wonder if it's related to late-winter stress?


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some rash moves

 Today there are red spider-mite rashes across my arms and my belly. It's not just the pepper in the bread on Friday.

I went out for a meal on Friday night, to a carvery where you can pick and choose. I even abstained from chocolate pudding and instead chose treacle pudding and custard, which is pure carbohydrate and was pretty unpalatable.

Then yesterday I was offered a slice of chocolate gateau, which I consumed with pleasure. Then to round off a lovely spring day I indulged in Scotch whisky in the evening. I keep kidding myself that because the diet sheet says whisky is okay, Scotch is okay. That's a rash move. Sadly the better the Scotch, the more time it has spent in oak caskets and the worse it is. And of course people give me nice whiskies for presents so I have a large stock of 5cl Scotch and Irish malt whisky bottles. Luckily somebody donated a large bottle of Jack Daniels later - but too late to save the weekend.

Just as worrying, my eyesight has gone downhill badly over the last few days. At one point today there was real pain behind the left eye and it is still quite sore. I can barely read with my glasses and am squinting to see some things in the distance. Is this temporary or do I need to see the optician?


Friday, March 27, 2009

Bread and pepper

 A week or two ago I mentioned a problem I had with a regular working lunch I go to where sandwiches are provided. The organisers have gone to great lengths to provide me with salicylate free sandwiches and yet they always seem to cause problems.

Today I think I tracked down  the problem.. They provided me a plate of sandwiches made of plain cheese and lettuce. I cheated a little as I borrowed a smoked salmon sandwich that was not meant to me. It did not seem to be a problem. Yet as I ate the cheese sandwiches it felt like they were laced with pepper. My mouth stang, my throat swelled and my eyes watered. Then I realised where the pepper was - in the bread.

It was granary bread and clearly it had more than grain in it. So I'll have to ask for white bread in future.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Roast chicken

How to roast a chicken:

  • stuff with sliced leek and a little bit of water - as much leek as you can fit
  • wrap in tin foil
  • baste with soy sauce
  • about an hour before finish, drain off the juice, which makes a delicious gravy
  • pull away the tin foil to allow the chicken to brown.
  • cook for a further hour.

You get a delicious, juicy salicylate free roast chicken and a jug of salicylate free gravy. You also have some roast leek amongst your vegetables.


Iced pineapple

I woke up this morning, craving a glass of pineapple juice and ice.

Impossible, of course.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Chocolate and ears

I don't know what happened yesterday. By the afternoon my left ear had gone deaf and sound was echoing painfully in my head through the other ear. I took a singulair in the early afternoon but it failed to calm things down and by the evening there was a rash all over my skin, itching and bright red spots all over. And I was sniffing away. Then it had gone.

It was aggravated when a vanguard of spring ants found their way into my house and started crawling over me. Did one of them bite me? It felt like it but then it could just be hives.

I took an anti-histamine before going to bed and that seems to have calmed things down today. My ears are almost back to normal. My skin is not quite clear.

The odd thing is that I had not consumed anything dodgy yesterday. There was a new batch of bananas, possibly.

However earlier in the week somebody put some bars of cheap, plain chocolate into the shopping. I had given up eating lots of chocolate even though I used to like to munch it to help me work. So I could not resist the tempation. On top of that I had several glasses of white wine as planned at the event on Saturday. So maybe there was a pile-up of salicylate. So now there'll be no wine and no chocolate for a while.


Saturday, March 14, 2009


...and the effects of a major breach linger on.

Last night as I went to bed I realised I had become itchy all over. There were great red blotches on my armpits, the back of my knees was sore and my tummy was also starting to come out in a rash.

Today my arm-pits are still blotchy. I have taken another singulair - especially as I am going to a barbecue. I can see I will be back for a repeat prescription quite soon.

It seems to have been triggered by a very small glass of Irish whisky. Sadly I have stocks of Irish and Scotch whisky that people have given me and I really should not touch.

The arrival of glorious early spring weather and warm conditions may not be helping also.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Coffee "poisoning"

I don't know for sure that the cappucino I had in the airport on Wednesday was caffeinated but I'm assuming it was.

This is what happened:
I stayed wide-awake during the flight- despite being desperately short of sleep. I took some very nice photos.
I had a nap when I got home to catch up - that worked.
By late Wednesday night my head was swimming and I felt like I was about to faint. I took a singulair just in case.
Yesterday, Thursday, I woke up with tooth-ache. The irritation caused by a bit of food stuck between my teeth appeared to have become a raging inflammation of the gums and I spent some time thinking maybe it was time to see a dentist.
My left eye also became sore and I was struggling to read anything.
Although I had a good solid night's sleep, by early Thursday afternoon I was struggling to keep my eyes open.
Then during the evening the toothache subsided. Today my gums are fine and my eyes are fine.

I think that was the effects of caffeine.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Private doctors

I've begun a search for a private GP, using the ubiquitous Google. The results are disappointing, if not disturbing.

There are private GP surgeries that claim to specialise in allergies. However it seems they are mainly interested in offering testing. That's not what I need. For a start there is no simple test for salicylate hypersensitivity (apart from Imperial Leather - but that's not an official test) .

What I need and I suspect many sufferers from allergy is someone to talk to. I want to know what level of symptoms I should put up with. Should I tolerate a chronic stuffy nose or will it inevitably lead to Samter's Triad, nose polyps and asthma? I want to know which minor symptoms are related to the allergy, which are just life and growing older and which are something else entirely.

My NHS GPs acted entirely correctly when symptoms first appeared. They gave me an epipen, advised me to take anti-histamines and referred me to a specialist. The specialist was very busy but made sure I was referred to an expert dietician. That's pretty good for a free service.

The GPs have also been helpful in obtaining Singulair. What they are no good at is linking the condition to those day to day ailments - to the generation of ear wax, to that chronic stuffy nose and occasional sporadic incidents of toothache and sore eye. Now, I know the British government envisages a GP system which may become a little more like other countries, where you have primary care specialists. So you would be able to find primary care allergy specialists on the NHS and the few hospital-based consultants would not be so overloaded. But it's not happening any time soon.

And it seems the private sector is not really much more advanced than the NHS.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Flying and decaf

I took my first flight in nine years today. The plane was tiny and propeller driven - I did not even know propeller planes were still used for commercial flights

There are several reasons why I don't fly much. One is that overseas holidays would be no pleasure as I cannot enjoy local food.

I don't have fear of flying even though I do have fear of heights. No bungee jumping or abseiling for me.

I was strapped into the plane when I realised I should worry about my ears. No problem. I breathed deeply during descent and ascent and suffered few problems.

Then there was the coffee. At the first airport, in the departure lounge, one coffee bar could not offer decaf - but a second could. It was not available on the plane -that's very disappointing. At the second airport a colleague bought me a coffee. I'm not sure if he asked clearly for decaf as I think the cappucino was caffeinated. Difficult to say as I had been unable to get any kind of coffee all day. Certainly there was some swelling of the tongue and hoarseness in my throat. Not a good idea during flying but it probably helped enhance my enjoyment of the flight. Some brilliant views of cloud archipelagoes floating across the mountains of the north.

I'm still trying to formulate that poll about decaf coffee. I don't think you could require airlines to carry it - but it would be good customer service.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

No decaf!

 I was at a motorway service station today and asked at the coffee bar for a decaf coffee. This was about 3pm. I was told they had just used the last sachet. I went to a second bar in the same station owned by the same chain. They too had run out of decaf coffee.


(If you are not British, a motorway service station is government let-contract to provide rest and refreshment facilities on the freeway/autobahn/motorway network. They tend to be spaced about 30 miles apart.)

I feel a poll coming up: should the British government require motorway service stations to provide decaffeinated coffee?


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Scrap charges!

 I'm with the British Medical Association tonight! The BMA wants all charges for NHS prescriptions to be scrapped. Hear, hear! Apparently I'm one of just 11 per cent of English patients who have to pay for their pills - and noone in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland pays. My crime? I have the wrong illness and I work for a living.

My pills this week cost me £7.10, that's £7.10 for 28 Singulairs. I also paid another £4 or so for a packet of one-a-day anti-histamines off the counter.

As it happens I don't pay out too much for medicines at the moment. The Singulairs, I hope, will last several months. But imagine if I was taking one-a-day.

And early on the consultant got the GP to prescribe me an anti-histamine called levocetrizine because we were bothered that the pills were affecting my concentration. I haven't asked for it since - maybe I should as I really have to ration the use of anti-histamines - the one-a-days may be non-drowsy but they sure make me sleep deep.

Sadly the British government seems to have turned a deaf ear to the BMA and has instead slapped an extra 10p on the charges from April 1.


Monday, March 02, 2009


 The itching on my legs was something to worry about. Over the weekend I discovered that the rash was all over my legs. I think I'm going to call it a spider-mite rash. I remember the consultant finding it unusual - clusters of small red spots. This means it's no longer concentrated on my tummy.

Thankfully today I have obtained my repeat prescription of montelukast so I am about to take a pill. They usually clear the skin. Also picked up some more one-a-day antihistamine from the chemist although I shall not be rushing to use them. I feel as if I spent most of the weekend sleeping from the effects of the pill I took on Friday. Perhaps I should not have drunk a glass of whisky on Friday night.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Taken for granted - part two

 Sure enough, this afternoon I ended up taking my last anti-histamine pill.

This is what happened. Last night the family member preparing our meal served up:
steak pie from a packet
sausage (one)

Hungry as I was, I declined the sausage and the broccoli but could not resist the steak pie. Then today I went to a working lunch. I had thought this event was sorted. Sandwiches are produced including a plate for me, made up of cheese and lettuce or maybe plain tuna and lettuce. It is meant to be plain tuna - no mayonnaise or sauce. Today it was half and half so I gladly ate some tuna sandwiches.

Someone had sprinkled pepper on the tuna - maybe they were trying to poison me, it was a working lunch after all. If so, they nearly succeeded. My lip swelled, my tongue swelled, my nose dripped. Then my leg started itching and at that point I dived for the anti-histamine. Sadly my montelukast ran out a couple of days ago and I am waiting for a repeat prescription. Now I feel rotten.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taken for granted

This what happens when everything is under control. My family meals are low-salicylate and external catering is reasonably well managed. I've got some level of tolerance which means I can now drink wine and take part in meals produced by other people.

Mostly my skin is a lot better in spite of the occasional flare up of red spots on my tummy and arms. And my digestion is not too bad. Sometimes I eat things which look okay and realise there is, say, pepper or ginger in them. That makes me a little bit hoarse and maybe makes the nose run a bit.

I've got used to living with a stuffy nose, technically known as chronic non-allergenic rhinitis.

So what's the problem? Well because we are living with the condition and it gets taken for granted and my tolerance levels have improved, I've notice that friends and family are much less likely to cook fish. I cook it and eat it at every opportunity because not only does it reduce obvious symptoms, it makes me a feel a lot better. And because, as I discovered, the salicylates do not react with the omega-three in fish, it really does improve tolerance levels. But others prefer to eat meat and find handling fish fiddly and inconvenient.

At least I'm spared the refrain of "why don't you try this?" - which so misses the point.

I don't think I should be living with a stuffy nose and occasional flare-ups of rash. I still don't know what it does although the best bet seems to be that it is the first stage of Samter's Triad. And if I am occasionally getting hoarse, it means in fact I am living on the edge and things could easily spiral out of control.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


I'm fairly confident I've shaken the virus off now. I know because I started itching all over yesterday and all the little red spots have appeared on my skin. In other words I overdosed on high salicylate food - probably because I've been indulging in white wine again over the weekend following two days of drinking redbush tea.

As other people have tended to linger for a couple of weeks and develop hacking coughs this suggests that either a) it was not a very dangerous virus at all or
b) that I've shaken it off in record time and that there continues to be a plus side to having a hyperactive immune system.