Friday, February 27, 2009

Allergic reaction? or...

Last summer, I started having some weird reactions to food. Since writing about that first incident, I've had several others, including two in the last week. I've turned hot & red while attending crops at the scrapbook store three times now (much to the dismay of the poor owners -- still, they haven't banned me yet...!), and couple times at work too. Most of these episodes seem to begin when I'm eating -- which is why it seems reasonable to assume that I'm having an allergic reaction of some kind -- but weirdly, it has also happened a few times when I haven't been eating.

I went to see an allergist in July (the same one I saw 20 years ago) & had all the skin scratch tests done. It showed sensitivity to tomatos, carrots, chocolate (!!), apples & oats -- all foods I eat regularly without incident (although twice the reactions did occur when I was eating a pasta dish with tomato sauce). Each time it's happened, I've taken a Benadryl or two, & the symptoms generally subside within 45 minutes to an hour -- although the Benadryl always leaves me feeling horribly groggy & dehydrated. Once I went to a walk-in clinic in the office tower across the street; another time dh took me to emergency. Both times, I was much less red & starting to feel better by the time I saw a dr, although my blood pressure was elevated (but not surprisingly, considering (a) the stress & (b) the Benadryl).

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk, eating my lunch (oriental glazed chicken with rice and mixed vegetables from the company cafeteria, which I've had many times before) & suddenly, without warning, it was happening again. I started feeling hot, my heart started pounding. I grabbed a mirror, & sure enough, a red flush was beginning to spread from my chin, down my neck. I checked a few minutes later, & it had spread all over my neck, up to my face and my ears.

I thought, "Oh, great..." Rummaged in my purse for Benadryl & took one (didn't want to get too groggy at work, & figured I could take a second one if the symptoms persisted). I was SO pissed off because I've had this to eat many, many times (& I like it!!) & suddenly I'm getting a reaction??

Then it hit me. Could this be, not an allergic reaction, but -- a hot flash??

I did some Googling, & what I was experiencing fit the bill -- sudden flush of heat that usually begins in the face or upper body & spreads -- check. A flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin on your face, neck and upper chest -- check. A rapid heartbeat -- check. Perspiration, sweating profusely -- ? -- Ummm, no. I do get hot & sweaty sometimes under the covers, but not in this scenario. But then, everyone's experiences are different, right?

(My mom isn't accessible right now, so I e-mailed an older, former coworker to ask about her experiences with hot flashes. She said she never had hot flashes, but generally felt warmer than most people around her most of the time -- she always wore short sleeves all through winter. We both remember our former boss constantly fanning herself & mopping her face with a Kleenex, though.)

I read that hot flashes can be triggered by food. Or stress.

The redness lasted for 30-45 minutes & gradually went away. My throat felt a little funny for awhile -- but it was mostly after the redness had reached its peak & after I took the Benadryl -- so I'm wondering if that was a side effect of the pill?

I do find myself getting hot & red sometimes, if I'm under stress, or working intently on something (under deadline), or even just listening to someone talk in our support group meeting. But it tends to be more gradual -- what I've been experiencing lately seems to come on very suddenly, & often (but not always) when I'm eating.

I'm not saying ALL these episodes I've been having have been hot flashes instead of allergic reactions -- but maybe at least some of them have been? (Especially since it has happened once or twice when I haven't even eaten anything in hours.)

I'm seeing my dr next week for a blood pressure check & I'm going to mention it to him then. And maybe call the allergist I saw last summer. I'm seeing my gyn for my annual checkup next month too & will ask him then.

I know I'm a few years older than some of you -- I'm 48 (so it's not unrealistic for me to be having hot flashes...!) -- but if you've had hot flashes, does this sound like it could be one to you? What's the experience been like for you?


  1. I don't have any insight to add, since I haven't experienced it myself - I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you're having to deal with this! It sounds so frustrating and confusing! I hope you find your answers soon - whatever they may be!

  2. It sure does sound like one. Not the little mini ones I get with Chlomid, but what my mum used to get.

    Glad it's not allergies.

  3. My mother started having what you describe starting around age 46.
    It certainly could be one. Although I wouldn't completely scratch the food reaction bit either.
    You could be reacting to a food additive that varies even in pre-made processed items.

  4. Hi Loribeth -

    As I read your description, it occurred to me - hot flash. I was thinking to myself, hmmmm, should I comment that maybe these are hot flashes, and not allergic reactions to food? or would that be rude or insensitive? And then you got there anyway ;)

    Sounds a lot like what one of my friends is dealing with - she is 49 this year, and has them constantly.

    I can't wait.

  5. I'm just thinking of my friend's mum and sitting next to her once when she started to get a hot flash. Her face and neck were bright red. She wasn't sweating, but she went outside and came back feeling better.

    I know when I have an allergic reaction to food, it looks more like flames--red streaks as opposed to a whole red face. But I assume that would be different for everyone too.

  6. The tightness in the throat has me worried. I don't know if that is part of hot flashes or not. But the problem with allergies- if you keep reacting and each time the reaction gets more serious, then your throat could close up!

    I would cut out all the foods you reacted to - and that will mean toting your own food to scrapbooking and work - but test yourself for a month or two - if you only get hot without the throat symptoms then you know *those* are hot flashes. Also, try to avoid the processed foods that have all kinds of crap chemicals in them (MSG, preservatives etc. if you can't pronounce it...)

    My dh and I both have food allergies and it's been a doable thing to avoid the danger foods. Friends are surprisingly supportive (if nothing else, you learn who your friends are).

    Best of luck tracking down the underlying 'condition' and let us know!

  7. You can get a hormone test at your doctor's. I only had hot flashes when I was on antidepressants and it promptly stopped when I went off of them.

  8. I meant to comment on this ages ago, but yes, it sounds exactly like a hot flash, and with POF, I've had plenty of them!

    Time to get some heavy duty antiperspirant for the coming waves of sweat and BO, very light sleeveless clothes, sleeping pills, light sheets and pyjamas. You'll need a bone density test and some extra D and calcium and weight bearing exercise. And your hair and skin are not going to be the same from now on either! Your moods will swing wildly and your marriage and job will be more difficult to maintain. Your sex life--meh. Sigh...

    Or you could just go on HRT and be completely risk free at your age, and keep on enjoying life!

    As you can tell, I have a very low opinion of this so-called natural process. Those hot flashes are only going to get worse and if you are having those that badly--then you are not going to sail through menopause like some lucky women.

    Take care of yourself, and email anytime if you need anything. I've been on just about every form of HRT there is, and I know it inside and out. Ask anything.

  9. Sounds like you're allergic to MSG, which is in loads of foods but most especially Chinese food. I've had the same problem - feels like a hot flash and is very uncomfortable. Drink lots of water and take an antihistamine and try to avoid MSG as much as possible.

  10. I can't believe what was written about hot flashes/hives and whatever....I have experienced hot flashes randomly from food and alcohol. i don't know if it is a bad combo or if I have an allergy to something. I have 3 allergy shots every week, so I am an allergic person. I just can't be sure if it is situational either. So glad someone wrote in with my same symptoms!!!