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Gargulinski: Got allergies? Join Tucson’s 42% club

Tucson does weird things to you, and not just mentally. I found out the hard way about the physical ailments when I was floored by allergies.

Unlike my dad, who gets an allergic reaction just by glancing at certain brands of laundry detergent, I have suffered an allergic reaction only once in my life.

It was after a fast-food chicken sandwich kick, when I ate two a day for a week and developed a bad case of hives.

This time around, it was itchy, swollen eyes, an itchy swollen head and violent sneezing fits so loud they scared my dogs.

But then, picnic table umbrellas scare my dogs.

When it comes to allergies in Tucson, I know I am not alone.

Tucson allergist Dr. Martin Bartels said a University of Arizona study came up with some hefty numbers, such as 42 percent of the people who live in Tucson suffer from some type of allergy.

Ragweed, poplar, grass, paloverde, mesquite and olive trees are a few of the more common culprits.

Bumblebees, peanuts, coconut, wheat and oatmeal are others.

And then there are the weird ones.

Bartels, being the good doctor that he is, would not say that any allergy is “weird.”

“It is what it is,” he said, “and we treat it.”

But he does recall a few notable situations.

Like the pair of identical twins who came in with opposite afflictions.

One of the boys was allergic to the family cat but not the family dog. The other was allergic to the dog but not the cat.

Genetically identical. Go figure.

The patient he had who was a allergic to parsley was also a tad less common.

Although people don’t sit around eating the chunk of parsley put on the plate to make the meal look like a menu photo, Bartels said it’s amazing how many restaurants use it in recipes.

Maybe it’s used in fast-food chicken sandwiches.

Food allergies are probably the hardest to deal with, unless you decide to subsist on a diet of bread alone.

But even that can be hazardous. My friend Wendy practically passes out if she eats a slice of bread because she’s allergic to wheat.

I had a boyfriend who was allergic to shellfish so acutely that his throat would close up if he even smelled shrimp.

Other less common but no less interesting allergies include people allergic to chocolate, underwear or money.

Whatever would you get those people for Valentine’s Day?

Bartels said reaction to money has something to do with the formaldehyde used for printing bills.

A Web site called TheMedica.com says the underwear thing is because of whatever fabric is used.

The site also names cases of folks allergic to eggs, bananas, footwear and water.

Guess they would have to go barefoot in the desert eating only oats and wheat.

Another interesting aspect of allergies is their ability to strike at any time. They heed no age limits and can develop or disappear seemingly at will, especially in Tucson.

“We have a lot of stuff flying around out there,” said an urgent care doctor, handing me a prescription for 12-hour pills that promise not to make me drowsy and a bottle of nasal spray.

For extra measure, I’ll refrain from getting stung by bumblebees and steer clear of fast-food chicken, especially if it’s doused in parsley.


Ryn Gargulinski can be reached at 573-4598 and at rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

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