I was suffering from a bout of skin disease and boyy, I didn’t know I was allergic to anything in this world (is it even an allergy?). Or bacterial/fungal attack?
I am in my early 30s and since I was a baby ’til now, as far as I am concerned, I wasn’t allergic to any foods or environmental factors (e.g. pollen, sunlight, sweat). I once thought I was allergic to vegetables, but that surely wasn’t true – was just an excuse to my mum not to eat them when I was in my primary school years. I was very lactic tolerant, no problems at all with any sort of seafoods, and no damn problems with gluten (I wish I did!).
Recalling back, I used to have occasional hives, or what Chinese people termed it: “fong mok” where red spots aggregate into large raised red & itchy surfaces that appear due to intolerant to some dust mites or maybe hyper-reaction of some antibiotics I took and then I went straight to some stressful physical workout like swimming. Nevertheless, I will encounter “fong mok” and usually it heals in 1 night after a jab of antihistamines into my ass. I have not had any skin conditions besides face acne (cause I am still young) for say…..15-20 years already.
Therefore, I was worried because I had this very bad itchiness on my entire legs (especially knees and elbows) just this Hari Raya 2014. I was worried because this was so not the “fong mok” symptoms like I’ve previously encountered. And what if I am suddenly allergic to some common ingredient like say eggs in my adulthood and not childhood, which would be unbecoming because…hei, eggs are common in any local dish!
So I decided to do a thinking-forensics examination, where what you do is track back your steps to what you ate, what you did, what you saw, and who you met, before the outbreak. Btw, thinking forensics is only in my own dictionary, so don’t bother to Google:
It was Raya eve this year when I went back Ipoh to celebrate my father-in-laws birthday at East Ocean. In the evening, we went swimming at the deplorable public pool at DBI, Ipoh bring my niece and nephew there for a splash. Despite 20 yrs of not stepping foot at DBI pool, nothing has changed since. 20 years and the changing/locker rooms were fungus-filled esp. at the shower and tiles. Even if I am not OCD, I couldn’t stand the sight of the lockers.
Hubby brought back really fresh (and expensive!) fish and sea-cucumber (lagi expensive!) from Sabah when we were there for our marathon. We let the restaurant cook it as our dinner – both fish and mollusks were steamed. I took a lot of fish, but just maybe 2 slices of sea-cucumber because not that big a portion. Share share marrr.
After dinner, I went home, slept, and when I woke up the next day, my back and calf was itching. I spotted one red spot on my back, and one at my right calf. And it was super-itchy. The itch on this 2 spots didn’t subside even till the next day because I continued scratching it. It’s called the itch-scratch-itch cycle (this one is a term on Google), whereby, the more you scratch, the more the spots will itch (and spread), and you start scratching more.
Then I came back to KL to work on Raya 3rd day. I spotted some new red spots on my legs (femur) and knee. Because I am the only one at office, I just roll up my pants and scratch…whole day. Well, no one looking and it was sooooo syiok to scratch.
The 4th day of Raya, my boss came back and knew that I was studying to be a certified chemist. He dug out a very, very, very super brown old text book on Organic Chemistry from his office cupboard and said that he used to use this textbook for his studies 30 years ago. Hmmphh…I said I would really love to borrow it. When I opened the book, it has this super-dusty-old-hapak smell, and the paper was crisp. Guess what, I took the book home, opened it on my lap and read the book with full enthusiasm whole evening and night and made it my bedtime storybook.
My itch worsened the Saturday morning. I was supposed to go Chiang Mai with my bff on the same evening, but I felt like ripping off my jeans because there’s this one spot on my knee that was super itchy, but I just can’t scratch beyond my thick jeans. On the plane, I boh care already and start scratching the knee because whattodo, damn syiok weiii!
Reaching Chiang Mai just in time for dinner, we had tomyam kai, a coconut drink, and paku-pakis in garlic sauce. That’s when the itch became unbearable: one spot became 100 raised red spots and aggregating as I keep scratching them. Luckily I traveled with my pharmacist bff (yay!), and she took me to this drugstore and recommended me some oral antihistamines and topical ones too. At night, the itch was unbearable, and even with antihistamines in my system, I woke up in the middle of the night to top-up on the antihis cream.
Back in Malaysia, the doctor commanded like Caesar: “Take steroids, and be gone is your urticaria!” But I refused to take steroids and willing to bare the itch with spreading Tiger Balm menthol cream. Tiger Balm burns my spots and causes me to temporary to forget about my itch. I somehow think I need antibiotics/antifungal (bacteria spores attack?/ fungal attack?) and not steroids. Never listen to doctor advice is like dat lu.
Old spots has since turned into pustules. Pustules are painful, but I felt super great with them around because pustules means that the whatever “foreign thing” in my body is in the process of being eliminated out from the body in the form of nanah fluids. And these pustules are no longer itchy! (yes!) Let’s see, I have 20-30 pustules all around my legs and heels which no longer itches, but I look terrible in my shorts or miniskirts. People asked if I had Chicken pox or…Ebola. Like what, Ebola!?! (Do you even freaking know what Ebola’s symptoms are?!)
4th week into this disease, it just got completely healed (no itch and no new spots, but scarred!).
Based on my thinking forensics, the culprit could be:
1. Fungal infection from public pool or changing rooms.
2. Fish, prawns and/or seacucumber from Sabah.
3. Mites on my Ipoh bed or sofa. Bed bugs are likely.
4. Dust mites or dust bacteria on the vintage organic chemistry textbook of 30 years.
5. Unwashed jeans of 1 year.
6. Tom yam chicken in Chiang Mai
7. Stir fry Paku Pakis with garlic dish in Chiang Mai
8. Coconut juice in Chiang Mai
9. Stress. No way jose, I am not stressful lately. I swear 🙂
10. Genetic predisposal. My family especially Dad has very bad skin sensitivity problems – to ants, to spiders, to caterpillar, while Mum can’t eat too much beef. Elder brother has eczema problems on and off.
My forensic findings: No.1, 2 or 4 are likely primary factors that led me to my ugly scars. Then, the elevation of severity (or seriousness) is caused by consumption of “toxic” foods such as tomyam and paku-pakis vege, while in Totality: genetics played a huge role in causing the sensitivity.
**Just pray I am not allergic to anything as I get all, especially not to common ingredients. Some people’s sensitivity to things change as they grow older. I have a friend that was never allergic to pineapple when young, but now can’t take pineapples in any form. She had allergies to squid (only!) and is now no longer allergic to any seafood, not even squid. I have another friend who was allergic to eggs, but could now take them as adults.