Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scuba diving

I have a life-long ambition to go scuba diving. I've done it once - a trial run round the bottom of a Cornish cove. Cornish coves are terrific - great underwater forests and a reasonable number of fish swimming in them.

This year I thought I might achieve it. We're planning a holiday in a bay with training centres and warm water.

It occurred to me to check the medical criteria. I've found the self-certification form used by one of the training centres. No chance! If you have allergies, sinusitis, rhinusitis or a history of ear problems, you cannot just turn up and dive. You have to get checked by a doctor. So your breathing has to be perfect.

Today it's not feeling perfect. I have chronic catarrh and my left eye is sore again. It's probably been aggravated by a glass of whisky last night. I am fairly sure none of this is the common cold. But I don't feel any difficulty breathing. And when I flew last year I didn't have any problems.

The way it seems to work is that you sign up to a dive centre, they give you a medical form and then tell you to go and see a doctor. We cannot risk that happening on holiday. So I need to get hold of the most official form I can.

I can imagine my doctor's reaction. I guess they could jump either way - don't do it because it will be their fault if anything goes wrong - or what's the fuss about? Really I need to find a specialist doctor who knows what the risks are. Do they exist? Should it be a problem?


Friday, January 22, 2010

How to miss the point and offend millions

I can see what this report in Britain's Daily Telegraph was getting at .... but it, oh, so misses so many points.

The writer quotes experts as saying too many people are diagnosing themselves with food allergy and that food allergies are much rarer than people think. They then state that people are starving themselves of nutrients in pointless attempts to avoid food allergies.

Yes, up to a point Lord Copper.

I'm one who self-diagnosed with wheat allergy. I lost half a stone in a year. But I didn't give up wheat or gluten before seeing my GP. As I've said before, I was lucky - I developed obvious symptoms. My mouth and tongue swelled and my skin sprouted peculiar rashes. So I got a referral to a specialist. Before that I'd suffered from all those general symptoms associated with food intolerance. After a big meal of pizzas I spent about a week in the bathroom.

And when the wheat allergy tests came up negative, the specialist made another suggestion by letter. That was salicylate. Subsequently I was able to follow this through with a specialist hospital dietician. I understand not everybody gets this service, not everybody gets obvious symptoms.

The point it is wasn't wheat. It wasn't the pizza crust, it was everything else - the tomato, the spices, the herbs. I'd never liked tinned tomatoes.

Now there is no test for salicylate hypersensitivity. I understand there are other basic chemicals, such as sulphates, that can cause similar problems.

So yes, I accept that wheat allergy is rare. I starved myself of wheat and gluten unnecessarily for a year - but it was an experience and I lost weight. If somebody has allergy or food intolerance symptoms, it doesn't mean there's not a problem - just that there may not be an easy answer.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Onion and coleslaw

I'm eating a cheese and coleslaw sandwich from Tesco and I taste onion. I have just put on my glasses and checked the ingredients, which are in small print. Sure enough there is onion and pepper. Why do they put onion in everything?

Really I should throw it away but it is snowing and I am hungry so I will continue eating it. I have not  taken a montelukast today so I can expect to get itchy later. I must be careful for the next few days as a dentist appointment is due and I want to avoid inflammation in my mouth - so she does not prescribe all sorts of treatments and visits to the hygienist.

Yesterday I took a montelukast and ate a piece of black forest gateau. It was mainly chocolate with a little bit of cherry. Frankly, the unaccustomed taste of the cherry did little for me. I removed the cherry glace from the top. No major effects apart from a little bit of itching and a slightly embarrassing runny nose.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Gout and marzipan

In the run up to Christmas I got occasional bouts of stiffness and mild pain in my left leg. I assumed it was a dodgy shoe-lace making me walk slightly off centre.

However, over the holiday, as I indulged for three glorious days in white wine, it came back - and the pain was all the way up the leg. Not too bad but enough to make me hobble a little. It's gone now - maybe the result of some vigorous walking in the snow and ice after Christmas and the New Year. I can only assume it's a kind of gout caused, ironically, by indulgence in white wine and probably a little too much whisky before Christmas.

Sometimes I manage so well I forget how susceptible I am - as I discovered at two New Year's parties.

At the first one, I thought there would be no harm in trying a blue cheese dip - after all what is it? Blue cheese and vinegar. It might make The Blotch - which used to be The Ring - flare up a little but not much else. I dipped a bread stick into the dip, put it in my mouth and tasted onion. My mouth burned and my throat choked and I rushed off for a glass of cold water.

Something similar happened two days later when everyone was dipping into a plate of Christmas cake with a layer of sugary icing on it. I dived in and sliced off the icing, just to get a taste of the fun. "It's marzipan," someone mentioned. Marzipan is made with almonds but it surely cannot cause too much damage. It was the same as the cheese dip - a rush for cold water to prevent the choking. When I say rush, I don't mean making a fuss about it - just making the tap the next port of call. Make a fuss and you don't get invited back.