The plot thickens

By Mir
August 5, 2009

So this morning I took Chickadee back to the allergist, our new second home.

To review (if you don’t feel like reading the whole rash saga): Our lovely dermatologist had suggested a number of tests when we last saw her, and “felt strongly that we’re looking at something autoimmune,” but then her skin biopsy came back negative for whatever they were checking for and she then said, “It’s looking more like an allergy.”

Which left me wondering what exactly they DID with the circles they punched out of my daughter’s arm. I know they looked at them under a microscope. Did the angry red bumps hold up little signs? “Allergy! Probably! Maybe! HA!”

Anyway. That all sent us back to the allergist with a list of tests to run. Except that the allergist decided not to run them.

Now, listen. I understand that it’s sometimes not prudent to run off half-cocked, running every single test in the book—particularly when some of them are expensive—but this allergist gave me a lecture about how he’s a detective and he likes to do things in sequential fashion, eliminating one possibility at a time, and basically made it clear that he thought I was being hysterical and pushy in wanting him to, I don’t know, RUN THE TESTS HIS COLLEAGUE HAD REQUESTED. It’s not like I consulted Dr. Google and marched in there with a million wild ideas, pushing my own pseudo-doctor agenda on him. The doctor HE’D sent us to see had requested these tests. And he said no. Because that’s not how he does it.

Very calmly I explained that I understood the reasoning behind his preferred protocol of trying one thing at a time, but that this is the second summer this has happened, we’re now going on over a year since this began and still we have no answers. I pointed out that this year was much worse. I told him that I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect an 11-year-old to just “wait and see” any longer, when she’s already suffered through most of the summer in long pants and long sleeves. I looked him in the eye and pointed out that this CHILD has been on steroids three times this summer alone because the other five prescriptions she’s been given haven’t handled the state of her skin, and then I quietly remarked that I didn’t know if HE had ever had the pleasure of a pubescent daughter on steroids, but that I was not so much enjoying the side effects, if he caught my drift.

I basically begged him to reconsider. And he listened and nodded and said, “Well let’s just do this patch test first and we’ll see, after that.”

I felt somewhat defeated, but still hopeful that what he was telling me was that if we didn’t learn something from this, he’d step it up a little.

Of course, then he added, “But I don’t think we’re going to see anything from this, because I sort of doubt it’s an allergy at this point.”

He may have said something else, after that. I really don’t know, because I was busy smacking my head into the nearest wall. And maybe crying a little.

So on Monday, Chickadee had 29 chemical allergens taped to her back. It’s exactly as pleasant and comfortable as it sounds, to have your entire back covered with plastic and tape. Yeah. And she’s been complaining that it hurts, and we headed out first thing this morning to have it read.

We were ushered into the exam room and she donned the paper shirt. The allergist and his assistant came in and explained that they would review the results, and that we would then come back again tomorrow to be checked a second time. (For… further reaction? Less of a reaction? Worms? It wasn’t clear.)

The tape was pulled off of the first strip. Then the second. And the third. We all stood back and looked at Chickadee’s back.

“Now, it’s ALL red from the tape and plastic and such, and that doesn’t mean anything,” warned the doctor. I nodded.

I pointed at one small, angry red square. “What’s that on the lower left, there? Is that a control?”

“We don’t do positive controls on this, so that’s a result. Let’s see…” he picked up the reference chart and matched the square up with his little allergen key. “Huh. That’s cobalt.”

All of the adults in the room looked at each other.

“Oh, no, COBALT!” I exclaimed. “Chickie! Your days in the cobalt fields are OVER! What will you do now??” She giggled and the doc’s assistant grinned at me. (Not the doctor, though. He has no sense of humor.)

“Yep,” agreed the assistant. “No more long days working in the cobalt mines. It’s a lucky break, really.”

We continued cracking cobalt jokes for another minute or two. Then there was a lull and I said, “Uhhh… so… what’s cobalt in?”

The doctor had been measuring and feeling the area, all this time, and now he looked up. “Well, this is a pretty weak positive, first of all. We’ll see if it holds up. And second, cobalt is in a lot of paints. It’s not real common in everyday things.”

This led to a fresh round of jokes about her aspirations of being a house painter having been cruelly dashed. Poor kid.

We’ll go back tomorrow for a recheck, and after that… well, no idea. I tried (again) to broach the subject of the blood tests requested by the other doctor, and was basically told we’d “cross that bridge when we come to it.” Funny, I thought we were already AT that bridge.

And I bet they painted it with cobalt, too.


  1. Liza


    Not that I would ever foist unsolicited assvice on anyone, unless, say, I couldn’t help myself.

    I think you should consider a new allergist.

    In fact, I think you should very politely insist that the staff copy all of your records and hand them to you. Then I think you should make Chickadee an appointment with a fancypants pediatric allergist in that VERY LARGE metro area not too far from where you live.

    Yeah, it probably means missing half a day or a day of school, not to mention you having a day where you can’t get much work done. But I think a Major League Expert may be called for now.

    And you could combine the trip to the doctor with a trip to Ikea. Which seems like it might sweeten the pot for Chickadee too.

  2. Patricia

    Wow, an allergy to cobalt? I’ve never heard anyone being allergic to blue before — I’m guess she may need to rethink her wardrobe. ;)
    What’s next will they find that she is allergic to Prussian?

  3. L

    I just Googles “cobalt pool chemicals” and a bunch of stuff came up. Could you have cobalt in your pool liner? One also said that some pool chemicals combine to form cobalt compounds. Since this only happens in the summer, could it be the pool?

  4. Lisa in NJ

    Didn’t you just paint the house last summer? Wasn’t it the dinning room? Could she be having a reaction to the paint you just used? I agree with Liza to find another allergist.

  5. Mir

    L: The rash always starts up a good month before we open the pool. It’s definitely aggravated by chlorine (cobalt??) once she’s rashy, but I don’t think it’s the cause.

    Lisa in NJ: We did repaint the dining room last year, but well after the rash started, and she’s hardly ever in there.

    Really, the SUMMER component is going to be the key here, I think. Which is why I want them to run the damn autoimmune tests, already—there are a lot of things where reaction to heat/sun figure in that they haven’t checked yet. :(

  6. exile on mom street

    I am in awe of the fact that you still have a sense of humor, my friend.

    Also, I second Liza’s suggestion. Or am I thirding, at this point?

  7. Otto

    Well, I guess that decided it – Chickadee will have to hope Buster keeps running until she gets her license sense we can’t buy her a Chevy Cobalt now … oh, wait, we were never going to buy her a Chevy Cobalt, were we?


  8. Aimee

    Another vote for a new allergist. I know Chickadee’s a new patient for him, but this is a scenario where the other doctor’s recommendations and sense of urgency, and YOUR frustration and sense of urgency, should matter to him. If they don’t (and clearly they don’t) then kick the bastard to the curb and find someone better.

  9. divrchk

    If it’s blood test this allergist is hesitant to do, can you call the doctor that requested them done and have him put the order in at a local lab? Why does the allergist have to do the blood test? I hope you get some answers soon!

  10. dad

    The family secret has finally been outed.
    Long ago and far away our ancestors in in the Ukraine were forced from their cobalt fields by a scourge of rashes. The pogroms drove them all the way to the cobalt free shops of the East-side in New York City, and there they lived fruitfully and multiplied. The recessive nature of their malady remained hidden until Chicadee moved to Georgia, which confused her designer genes.

    I may be extraordinally silly but I vote for a different allergist and a second opinion.

  11. Heather

    Could it possibly be a latex allergy?

  12. Katie in MA

    No advice here. Just heaps more of hope that this is resolved soon. Poor Chickie. And poor mom!

  13. Sue @ My Party of 6

    I’m feeling the need to smack this doctor. Maybe you could spend a year in Alaska first, you know, before he runs any unnecessary tests.

  14. Leandra

    Good grief. That’s all I have to say about that. How abso-freaking-lutely frustrating. Poor Chickie and poor YOU!

    I know you’re probably sick of everybody tossing out suggestions and I apologize in advance — could it be sunscreen? I’ve googled around and it looks like it is used in some sunscreens?

  15. GrandeMocha

    My kid & I break out to the not fragrance free laundry soap, only when we sweat and it is hot outside. We break out from non Neutrogena sunscreen when we sweat too. In the winter we can exercise in clothes washed in regular laundry soap & it isn’t a problem.

    I got allergy tested with 105 needles & got no reaction to anything. My allergist said it was a non specific allergy, meaning not allegic to anything he tests for.

    Try having Chickadee out in the sun sweating today & see if she gets a bigger reaction.

  16. MomCat

    I’m with ‘Exile on Mom Street,’ I’m surprised your sense of humor is still intact when it comes to this issue. I’d be, at the least, screaming and throwing things across the room. (Ever helpful, that.)

  17. Megan

    I’m starting to get an image of a pink, rashy Chickadee in a wire cage with various mad-scientist types (all wearing Neil Patrick Harris’s goggles from Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog) prodding her with instruments of DOOM. Then they scratch their chins a bit and go, ‘hmmmm… prodding her with THAT didn’t make everything better – how about we go with the really sharp and pointy one this time?’

    Grffff. Also, hadn’t they better step it up as this is a summer issue and the summer is, slowly, on the way out? So if they don’t figure it out in the next month or so it’s going to have to wait until NEXT summer when the whole lovely thing starts again?

  18. Sarah K

    Has anyone talked to you about SUN ALLEGIES? I’m thinking that maybe she has an issue with the sun, which gets more and more aggrevated each summer. It tends to be mostly mild through the winter, start picking up in spring, and be pretty horrible through the summer.

  19. Sarah K

    Allergies even.

  20. Ani

    I’m so sorry, that just sucks. There’s few things more frustrating than non-specific and itchy skin rash.

    Hugs to you and Chickie, and ice cream all around.

  21. Ani

    Oh, but going out on a limb…when did Chickie get her ears pierced? Cobalt is in jewelry…

  22. Gwen

    Being all red and itchy from the tape and plastic sounds like a reaction to me. I have a latex sensitivity, and that’s exactly what would happen if you put plastic! and tape! all over my back.

  23. Lucinda

    I am one who is slow to change doctors because I want to give them a chance, when they are working on me. But my kid. That’s a different story. You ignore me and I’m gone. Because I know my kid and I’ve been proved right by more than one doctor.

    The thing that is telling here is that he sent you to a specialist and then ignored the specialist. What was the point of going if he’s not going to follow the specialist’s recommendations? A second opinion is at the very least worth looking into even if you eventually go back to this guy. jmo. Good luck!

  24. Jamie

    What a complete pain in the ass! Here’s a virtual hug for both you and Chickie and a hope that your allergist pulls his head out of his tush and gets with the program. I loved my allergist in Tucson, but that’s probably too far for you to go. :)

  25. My Kids Mom

    The more I see doctors for what I assume are simple problems, the more I realize (1) how unique I am, and (2) how little medical science really knows. Now, both of those conclusions seem straightforward, but really, we like being unique until we find out that a doctor has never seen a problem like ours. Nor have the second or third doctors. Then we begin to wish we were “just like everyone else”. We know doctors are “just people”, but we do tend to think its just a matter of diagnosis. But when the problem can’t be diagnosed it can’t easily be treated and we suddenly see the limits of what they can – and can’t- do.

  26. Lylah

    No advice. Just hugs to you and Chickie. The allergy game sucks.

  27. Susie

    Sooo uh.. what allergist? I gather that we are from the same area, and I have two on my s#$! list here, Deutsch and Dillard. Also, just for the record, a GP on that list is Shiver. Your description sounds like an irritating mash up of all three. I second the commenter that urged you to head to a major metro allergist…

  28. Chris

    Is it wrong that I’m hoping something painful (but not deadly) happens to the allergist soon?

    Come to NJ and see my allergist if you want. I know how convenient that would be for you. He’s super fun.

  29. Jill W.

    For what it’s worth, herre is one more vote for a switch to a major metro allergist.

  30. Anna Marie

    Jeebus Mir, I don’t know how you kept from ripping his head off. I would have been screaming and flailing around and sprouting extra heads by the time he spouted off his last “wait and see” euphemism. Hugs to Chickie, and to you. And yeah, I think I’m voting for a different doc in the big city.

  31. Amelia

    this is just another vote for a different doctor. this one sounds like he’s got a God complex, even more than the usual.

    (and why, exactly, did cobalt make the list of 29 allergens if it’s so very uncommon? his answer seems dismissive to me.)

    hope chickie gets some relief, and quickly.

  32. Nicki

    Keenan’s tests were all done with the needles, subdermal. There were 37 shots. It sucked for him, heart-wrenching for me. I did the same thing…making jokes to pass the time. (Look at that! That reaction looks like Italy!) Somehow we always survive it.

    Best of luck to you all!

    PS. Keenan’s not allergic to cobalt. Of course, he wasn’t tested for it…and I’m not giving his specialist any ideas. We like our cobalt.

  33. JennyM

    I hope I’m not the only one humming “I am the very model of a major metro allergist…”

    That is so incredibly frustrating! I hope you get some answers soon…

  34. Half Assed Kitchen

    That doc is all kinds of annoying. I, too, say ditch him.

  35. getsheila

    Sounds like a devious billing strategy on the doctors part to get as much cash out of the patient/insurance as possible. The patient is miserable and has to wait? So what! Mr. DoctorMan needs a new vacation home!

  36. Zilla

    Mir – I agree with the others…sounds like a second opinion is in order. I would have been sooo out the door – paint, cobalt and all, would have peeled off the walls. Another doctor will help find the answer. Hope Chickie feels better and less itchy soon. Good luck!

  37. Pepper

    I believe the Dr. deserves a big ol’ kick to the head. I dont know how you have been able to not injure the man.

    If it is actually a cobalt allergy, when did Chicki have her ears pierced? Cobalt is found in alot of jewlery, it may not be the answer but it might be worth looking into, there are alot of alternative’s when it comes to jewelry out there.

  38. Em

    Question: How come the doctor that suggested the blood tests didn’t order the blood tests?

    Wouldn’t it be nice if things made sense?

  39. Tracy

    Sounds like this doctor doesn’t like being told by another doctor what test to run. How about a third opinion?

  40. Randi

    One thing that gets to me is that some doctors don’t realize that THEY WORK FOR YOU. You are their patient and you’re the one who pays the dang bills, so you’re the one who has to be taken into accounts. Dr’s with God-like complexes tick me off to no living end.

  41. Melissa

    So sorry, I’ve got no advice, but much sympathy.
    And JennyM, thanksverymuch, I wasn’t humming that until you started. Now I can’t stop.

  42. jadine


    And I don’t particularly wish something *painful* upon the doctor, however, something bumpy, scaly, and especially itchy would be good. I’m sure the wait-and-see approach is how he’d go.

    Poor Chickadee.

    And I think your Dad is my Dad :) But the story would be about ancestors from Czechoslovakia. Or Ireland. Or Mars.

  43. Lucy

    Delurking to say ‘ugh’. So sorry that Chickadee is having to deal with such an uncomfortable problem for so long. :-(

  44. amy

    I’m going to agree with the change of allergists. As someone who is allergic to basically everything in the out of doors, cheese, beer, and silicone (good-bye boob job), I can get you a list of a couple of good folks in your “metro area” even some that might take your insurance! If my guy doesn’t he might know of someone who does. Poor Chickie, at least she has a wonderful mother!

  45. paige

    Wow. Just had an annoying encounter with an allergist. I had to go have a test for a nickel allergy. I had a patch test and it was horrible. I feel so bad for Chicky.

    I am “beyond allergic” to nickel, which means I’ve got a 99% chance of being allergic to cobalt. Which also means I’m going to have to be careful if I ever need a joint replacement.

    I think allergists are among the most annoying of the medical specialists. I’ve had nothing but irritating and exasperating encounters with them. My mom says she thinks they all practice a form of voodoo.

    I’m beginning to agree, since it’s so difficult to pound an answer out of one. I’m sorry Chicky’s having such a rough time…but one positive thing is that cobalt’s pretty easy to avoid, I guess!

  46. Michele Bardsley

    Dear Mir, I would like to be adopted by your family.

    Also, the allergist should be pinned to his own wall with allergy test kits. I can’t imagine how frustrating this is for poor Chickie and for you. Kick that doc to the curb and find someone who LISTENS.

  47. Jane

    Demand it. period.

  48. Sagey

    Not to play Devil’s Advocate, but pin pointing an obscure allergy can be a process. I am sure your current allergist doesn’t want to go off half cocked and say it is “A” and make you think you have an answer just because you WANT an answer, when it reality the answer was “B” but he was just never allowed to get there. I know it is frustrating, but regardless, be patient and come up with the right answer to help Chickadee in the long run. I have been to a lot of allergist in my day with moving about the country as a military family and I have never felt like any of them performed Voodoo, I have always felt like they were looking out for my best interest (regardless of if they were in a major metropolitan area). And seriously, if you want the tests the other doctor recommended doing, have that doctor perform them! I hope you all come up with an answer soon and please keep your humor about you all. Laughter truly is the best medicine! :-) Oh, but the best advice I do have for you is go with your gut, your mother’s intuition, that is what is really best!

  49. JennyM

    All together now! You all know the tune…

    “I am the very model of a major metro allergist,
    So if your summer holiday’s been itchier than you’d have wished,
    For any obscure allergen your other doctor might have missed,
    Just come on in, we’ll poke and prod and run through the entire list!

    I’ve got the very thing to get your histamines all in a twist,
    We’ll even do it twice or thrice or maybe more if you insist.
    I’ll tape this here and scratch this there and watch it with a microscope —
    Before you know it you will be clear and pay me lots of dough, I hope!”


    I think I should go to bed now.

  50. Heather Cook

    Wow… I’m impressed by JennyM’s singing!

    I think your beautiful daughter is allergic to your allergist.

    According to Wikipedia, your daughter has also been making quick day trips to the Congo and Zambia. Where she rolls in cobalt.

  51. Rebecca

    Have any of the doctors mentioned uticaria? There are many different types such as solar uticaria. I have (I think) pressure uticaria where my hands and feet will swell and I’ll get hives/rashes with any kind of pressure, even walking on hard floors It sucks and you may never find exactly what is causing the uticaria.

  52. mama speak

    FIRE HIM!!!
    I agree with Randi, he works FOR YOU!
    Get a doctor who is willing to work WITH you. I’ve had a lots of experience w/God complex doctors, leave him to his kingdom & move on to someone who is more concerned with helping you than being right.

    Also, just a thought; what if you’re allergic to the tape?

  53. daysgoby

    JennyM, you are EVIL.

    And very talented.

  54. ChristieNY

    I would call back the doctor that had wanted all those other tests run, explain that this doctor is not doing them and ask them to be called in to a lab that you can go and have them done.

    I’ve done this before to get answers about my son when one doc was asking another to run tests and the other wouldn’t, I had to go back to the first and ask if he could just send the request himself and bypass the other doc. Big relief to some get answers, even if they’re just to rule out the big scary stuff.

    Hang in there, and yes, this doc works for you – you have every right to have Chickie’s stuff sent to another doc, and at this point I’d be tracking down a pediatric derm specialist – the best you can find, even if it’s a further drive. Chickie is worth it!

    Big hugs, Mir! =)

  55. radioactivetori

    I am with your dad on this. The serious part of his comment, not the silly, although I was cracking up at his silly part. Have I said before that I love your dad?

    Good luck. I know how frustrating this all is. My son finally got a diagnosis for his stomach stuff, and it was such a relief. I hope you get answers very soon!

  56. Lacey

    I wouldn’t have been “crying a little” I would have been balling in frustration! You are such a good mom!

  57. Anna

    Wow. Well, my husband keeps turning around to look at me as I gasp and cry “oh, no!” repeatedly.
    Then, I see where you get your humor- your dad is very funny, too.
    I don’t know where some of these other comment people get their humor, though. Very funny.

    I’m so sorry, Mir. I would have cried, in that get-out-of-a-speeding-ticket kind of way. And I think the doctors are flipping their opinions so much (flip floppers??) because they’re only experts in their own field, and it’s easier to pass the buck than it is to actually FIND THE PROBLEM.

  58. Jess

    Ugh! I think we went to the same allergist with my daughter. We actually went back twice. Then I said forget this. I can’t believe we had to pay him. Aside from telling us she’ll probably get asthma when she’s older, he didn’t do anything! I have giving my daughter steroids. It creeps me out.

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