September, '99 | Briefing | Mail | Don't Say This | Articles | Other Places | Archives | Send Mail | Ed Dewke | Legal Stuff

Allergist Prescribed a Sedative and Said "See A Shrink"
from Brenda P.

I was just reading this month's column and had to share with you and Christy S. (author of "Food Allergy (Pepsi®) Was the Culprit") a story regarding allergies. When I wrote to you in the spring regarding the Yeast Connection [see Archives] I didn't mention this as it was a very painful visit to an allergy specialist (allergist) that I prefer to forget ... but you may find it amusing.

I, too, suffer from P and many known allergies, but was concerned that I may have more allergies than I was aware of, so, two years ago my GP sent me for allergy testing. They started off with the scratch tests and I responded with a positive result to everything. The "Specialist," or as I prefer to call him, the "Quack," said "Nobody is allergic to everything!" insinuating that I had done something wrong. I countered by saying "There must be something wrong with your tests!" He proceeded to write me a prescription for some pills that he said would clear up my hives, rashes and psoriasis in just a few days. I asked him about the medicine he was prescribing but he would not explain the drug to me. He thought it sufficient that I should just have faith in him when he said "They're going to help." I took the prescription to the pharmacy and asked the druggist to explain to me what they were. My good Doctor had prescribed heavy tranquilizers! Furthermore, he wrote a letter to my GP in which he recommended I seek psychiatric help because, in his professional opinion there is nothing wrong with me and the rashes, hives and psoriasis are all in my head!

My redemptive regular Doctor suggested that I go see a new allergy specialist; however, I'd prefer to keep reading your column, and let the medical community play games with someone else. -Brenda P


Ed's Response: Amusing? Like hell. Which is what the whole experience was for you. It irks me and brings back some memories of my own.

My first scratch test was conducted when I was twenty and in the service. The attending was a U.S. Public Health Service allergist which, at the time, meant he was a young physician not long out of school who was avoiding being drafted to Viet Nam by joining USPHS (just as I was avoiding Viet Nam by having enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard). My results were exactly like yours. Every "scratch" in the checkerboard of scratches on my back inflamed. My doc's reaction, when I think back on it now, may have suggested the same thing your doc concluded, but my doc was a bit more sympathetic in his delivery. "Some people, I think, are just allergic to allergy tests!" Nonetheless, he went on to devise a recipe for four hyposensitization shots per week, meaning I was being shot up with everything from ragweed pollen, to dog dander, dust, fungus and cigarette smoke. I should have turned into a walking talking full-fledged Nature Preserve....

I find it astounding that a physician in this day and age would have concluded you were a head case from such little personal interaction with you. One thing—and I have no knowledge that this exists—which could have supported such an audacious diagnosis would have been a "placebo scratch" among all the others on your back. If this exists, it would be some known-to-be-universally-non-allergenic substance that they apply exactly like all the others. If this inflames, something more than reaction to known allergens is probably at work. Go see a shrink. Hmmm. Still sounds like jumping to conclusions.

The tranquilizer prescription doesn't surprise me entirely. A doc might have prescribed that with or without concluding your skin problems were "all in your head." If you exhibited high anxiety and other forms of stress because of your skin, a tranquilizer might have been in order to calm you. I've often thought—and come close to proposing to the AMA—that Docs should be required to make tranquilizers consolation prizes. If the Doc can't diagnose what's ailing us, or if s/he is unable to correct it, automatically we get a bottle of happy pills as a consolation. This would of course, have to be covered by our insurance.... (I'm kidding!)

I'm flattered that you prefer to keep reading FLAKE HQ, but I really do encourage you to try another allergist. Just make sure the allergist you see is experienced with psoriatics. In my case, I always ask for docs who have experience with psoriatic diabetics. If I live much longer, I'll no doubt have to keep adding conditions to the list. "I need someone experienced with psoriatic diabetic arthritic schizophrenics...." Someday someone doing the referring is going to sigh and say, "Well, Ed. Call this guy. He's not a doctor, he's an undertaker, but he's experienced everything."

Thanks for writing Brenda. Now I'm very interested in what other repressed experiences you can drag out of your mind. Your shadows tend to enlighten the rest of us! Best regards. -Ed

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