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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Allergies

Do hairless cats work for people with pet allergies? Are you, yourself, really allergy-free? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Allergies! Do they just cause big ol’ farts? Is a runny nose really that bad? Just in time for hay-fever season, we’re coughing up some facts.

Lie #1: “I Know All About Allergies, I’m Lactose Intolerant”

You shut your cheese-phobic mouth, you animal. There’s a big difference between an intolerance and an allergy: If you’re lactose intolerant, you might do some really nasty farts after a plate of mac and cheese. If you have a milk allergy, you might have a lot more to worry about than stinking up the joint. An allergic reaction involves your body overreacting to something that should be harmless, leading to an immune system response that can often involve multiple organs and be extraordinarily unpleasant or even fatal — anaphylaxis, brought on by serious allergic reactions, is a hideous fucking thing. Sharting after an ice-cream sucks, but it doesn’t involve someone frantically jabbing an adrenaline shot into your twitching, unconscious body. 

To demonstrate the difference, imagine your body is a nightclub, and your immune system is a bouncer. With a serious intolerance, when an unwelcome element comes in, the bouncer goes, “Hey, buddy, get the hell out of here!” and throws them out, maybe via your asshole. With a serious allergy, the bouncer is so horrified by the unwelcome element that he locks the doors, presses a big red SELF-DESTRUCT button, smashes a few bottles over both your heads and starts a couple of fires while waiting for the bombs to go off.

Lie #2: Having A Runny Nose Sucks

It does if you phrase it like that, but call it by its scientific name, Rhinorrhea, and it sounds fucking badass. You haven’t got a runny nose, you’re battling Rhinorrhea! It’s unacceptable that there aren’t any metal bands by that name (although there is an Australian deathcore band called Nose Blood Catharsis, and sometimes hay fever can lead to nosebleeds, so…). You would absolutely believe it if someone told you that Rhinorrhea was what they called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character Rocksteady in Germany. If you died of a runny nose, you wouldn’t even mind if it said on your gravestone, “Died Battling Rhinorrhea.” People would be like, “This dead person was extremely cool.”

Lie #3: “In The Old Days You’d Just Be Dead”

True, antihistamines and EpiPens weren’t exactly widely available back in the day. But in the old days you might not have been allergic — Medieval peasants living in all-dung houses weren’t suffering from hay fever while doing so. Because allergies are a lot more common than they used to be: One U.K. study concluded that peanut allergies were five times as common in 2016 as in 1995. Along those lines, allergies are more common in the developed world than the developing world, and more common in urban areas than rural ones.

Various elements are thought to be responsible, with both excessive cleanliness as children (leading to fewer infections and a less built-up immune system) and increased pollution to blame, as well as increased time indoors, leading to system-compromising vitamin D deficiencies (which have doubled in the U.S. in 10 years). We’ve somehow taken our world to a point where some animals are allergic to grass

We’re all going to die.

Lie #4: “I Don’t Have Any Allergies”

You don’t have any that you know of at this time. You might well have allergies that simply haven’t come up yet, or coincided with something else last time they did, so weren’t pinpointable as allergies. That feeling of non-specific shittiness you sometimes have? Might be an allergy you just never thought to get tested for.

And you can get new ones — adult onset allergies are increasingly common. You might have spent your life surrounded by cats and then wake up one day and not be able to go anywhere near them without your eyes and nose dripping like a fucked fridge. You might be unlucky enough to get bitten by a Lone Star tick and develop a potentially life-threatening allergy to red meat. 

You might even be unlucky enough to discover you’re allergic to jizz, which is an actual real thing — although, pollen is pretty much plant cum, so maybe it’s not that weird (still, though — there’s being allergic to nuts, and there’s being allergic to nut). Or you might find yourself covered in hives, vomiting and finding it difficult to breathe right after swallowing semen, as happened to a 31-year-old Spanish woman last year. She recovered (“Is she coming to?” “Not at the moment, she’s quite unwell, but she might have done so earlier” etc.), and was found to be allergic not to semen, but to an antibiotic her partner was taking. 

Amoxicillin-induced anaphylaxis isn’t only quite a mouthful, and a load to take on, but must really suck (okay, I’m done now).

Lie #5: If You Have Pet Allergies, You Should Get A Hairless Cat

Shaving a cat, or getting one of those Sphynx ones that looks like it’s been pieced together from offcuts at the scrotum factory, won’t necessarily help with your allergies. The thing on cats you’re allergic to isn’t their fur, it’s the protein Fel D1, which is produced in a cat’s sebaceous glands and saliva, which it then licks all over its little body. Cats, both hairy and not, constantly shed skin particles known as dander, which are tiny enough to drift about and spread that protein goddamned everywhere. Sphynxes are one of several cat breeds marketed as hypoallergenic, but there is ultimately no such thing. 

Don’t buy a cat you haven’t rubbed extensively against your face.

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