Is there an allergist in the house?

By Mir
September 22, 2009

Every so often I get an email asking me if we’ve finally resolved Chickadee’s skin issues and seeing a specialist, and my response is generally “Ummm… mumble mumble oh look, something shiny! She’s fine, thanks,” because—just like last year—as soon as the weather started to cool off, her skin healed up. Just like that.

And I’m left trying to figure out if if makes sense to go see a specialist while she’s perfectly fine. I do gesture a lot when I talk, so maybe I can convey the full horror of the height of the Creeping Crud days, but still. I just don’t know whether that’s the thing to do. But I also know that come next spring it’s going to start all over again, sooooo… yeah.

In the meantime, apparently life was not exciting enough. So I decided to have my own medical mystery. Except that I didn’t so much “decide” as I just “came down with.”

People who know the wild life Otto and I lead are aware that most weeknights involve an hour or two of Terrible Television™ before we go to bed. As far as I’m concerned, this offers the perfect trifecta of pre-slumber relaxation; it’s mindless entertainment, we get to snuggle, and it generally involves snacks. (Sing it with me: These are a few of my favorite things….)

We can tell that Licorice is absolutely the right dog for us because she is also a confirmed couch potato, and runs into the family room with unbridled glee when it’s clear that TV time has arrived. She leaps onto the couch and as soon as I sit down, she arranges herself on me so as to take up maximum real estate. As a result, these days I spend most of my Terrible Television™ time with a lap- and arm-load of dog. It’s lovely.

Now, the thing about me and dogs is that technically, I’m allergic to them. I’m much less allergic to dogs with hair than dogs with fur, which is part of why our breed preferences were so restrictive (though some dogs with fur don’t bother me, and some with hair do, so really, it’s a guessing game). When we found out that Licorice was a shih tzu mix, the first thing we needed to ascertain was whether she had hair or fur. She does indeed have hair. On our initial visit with her, I swiped my arms across her several times to see what would happen; if I’m going to have a big reaction to a dog, generally the insides of my arms will break out in hives from repeated contact.

I had zero reaction to Licorice. (Well, you know. Other than the falling head-over-heels and my inability to talk to her in a normal voice or stop calling her stupid little pet names.) (In my defense, she just wooks wike a snooky wookum Wagglesworth sometimes, OKAY?)

Anyway. Now we sit on the couch and I am draped in dog and we watch TV and then go to bed and it’s all great.

Except that on Saturday, we watched TV for a while, and when it was over and we got up to go to bed, my arms were covered in a rash. Not hives, exactly, but this weird, lacy redness that was only raised in a couple of places. And the strangest part was that it didn’t itch, but it LOOKED really freaky.

I took some Benadryl and went to bed. The next morning it was more or less gone.

On Sunday night we watched Mad Men and again, the dog pounced on me and promptly fell into a deep slumber in my arms. When the show was over, I got up, and… no rash.

Last night, it was the season premiere of House (yay!) (except: Seriously, two hours of House Has A Human Side? Meh), and again I took up my post—on top of the couch, underneath a dog—and when it was over… my arms were all rashy.

I was flummoxed, to say the least.

While I was brushing my teeth, a TERRIBLE THOUGHT occurred to me. On Saturday night, I had a glass of wine while we watched TV. And I got a rash. On Sunday, we had popcorn. No rash. Last night, it was House, which meant that really, we should’ve watched with handfuls of Vicodin, but we’re really not those sort of people, so we had margaritas, instead. And I got a rash.

So here’s what I’m wondering: Is it possible that through some cruel, mystical combination of alcohol and delightful furry friend, I’m having an allergic reaction to Licorice only when I’ve had a drink? Is that even POSSIBLE?

I totally think Licorice and I should guest-star on an upcoming episode of House to unravel this medical mystery.


  1. Katie

    HAHA! Sounds like no more booze for you! I think my uncle is allergic to alcohol, but I think it is more with his liver, not rash on the arms. Are you guys under water? I keep hearing DIRE things about flooding in Atlanta.

  2. Holly

    I sincerely, SINCERELY hope that it isn’t alcohol and the dog…it would be terrible to have to give up the dog over something silly like that! ;-)

  3. Tracy

    I was thinking that maybe Licorice has a flea collar or something that your arms are touching that is causing the rash. I don’t know, just a thought. I would hate it to be a reaction to alcohol.

  4. Jen

    Is it possible that Licorice was walking in a particular area of the yard where you have things that cause you to break out?

    I always used to get allergies from things the cats had traipsed through…

  5. Half Assed Kitchen

    Just keep experimenting with different genres of alcohol. There’s got to be one out there that likes Licorice.

  6. Kendra Lee

    Licorice is a GIN dog.

  7. Jenn

    Could you take a picture of Chickadee’s skin when she’s having problems to show a specialist?

  8. MomCat

    If it’s a matter of clashing allergens, the drink should be Sambuca.

  9. Dragon

    My SIL has an allergic reaction to certain foods only when she has alcohol at the same time. So it certainly is possible that you are only allergic to Licorice when you’re drinking alcohol.

    Maybe you could make some extra money by renting her out to allergic alcoholics who are having a difficult time with their recovery. “Want to stop drinking? Want to snuggle a smooshy-ooky wookums lovebug of a dog? Well, for just $39.95 plus food, travel and scoop fees, you can do both!”

  10. Beth R

    #Dragon : You’re brilliant!!! I’m rolling on the floor laughing over the image of that infomercial :)

  11. RuthWells

    Was it red wine? Red wine has higher sulfite content than white, and it gives me hives on my fingers.

    Don’t know ’bout the margarita, tho.

  12. Jamie

    Did you happen to take pictures of Chickie’s skin issue? I ask because when I was breaking out with hives on a not-while-you’re-at-the-doctor’s-appointment basis, I took pictures of them when I did break out so I’d have something to show the doctor. Wondering if you could do the same with Chickadee now so that you can still get the specialist’s opinion. And wow on maybe having a booze-dog allergy. That would really suck. Licorice would have to snuggle with Otto instead. :)

  13. Lori N

    Ok, this is going to sound bizarre – but have you ever had Fifth’s disease? It’s characterized by a lacy rash that usually doesn’t itch. It is seen mostly in children, but adults can get it if they weren’t exposed when younger. I think it is my favorite childhood disease because it is usually quite mild on the sickness scale & most of the time you may not know your kid has it until they have the rash — & by that point they are no longer contagious — they just look bad, but can go to school! Woo Hoo! The rash can come and go for up to 3 weeks and is aggravated by heat & sun. Perhaps your arms got warm from snuggling Licorice?

    I know my suggestion is probably a stretch, but the alternative is giving up alcohol — I’d go with my theory for a while. :)

  14. Lori N

    p.s. if you want to see freaky Fifth disease pictures — google images has several choice ones.

  15. Sara

    NOOOOOooooo!!! You simply CANNOT be allergic to alcohol in any form, because you are already missing out on delicious bread-y goodness due to allergies. I am now sticking my fingers in my ears as I refuse to hear anymore about the possibility. Lalalalala…
    (Also, is it frightening that I have a better hold on your allergy issues than those of my own children?)

  16. Megan

    Why is it we can’t choose our allergies? I, for example, would like to be violently allergic to certain areas of the country, lima beans, a select group of television channels, and a matched set of famous people. Further, I would like a prescription written outlining subsidized plans for avoidance of same. It might need to involve a small amount of overseas travel but I’m willing to face that with dignity and grace.

  17. Lindy

    Just throwing this out there, but it is my understanding (and experience *ahem*) that alcohol temporarily weakens your immune system (while heightening your sense of awesome), though usually it’s not a dramatic change. So maybe when drinking you become slightly more sensitive to dog hair.

  18. Kim

    My brother used to have an allergy to the sun when he was drinking. Red itchy rash where ever the sun hit. But only when he was drinking. It’s possible…

  19. Justin

    I would suggest a long sleeved shirt for television watching.

  20. pam

    Not to lessen your non itchy rashy situation but more important things to talk about.

    Take me with you to see House, please please please…

  21. joaaanna

    I occasionally get an allergic reaction when I drink. I keep drinking and either it goes away or I forget about it. Win-win.

  22. Brandy

    I’m allergic to alcohol, but I don’t get a lacey rash. This isn’t as cruel as it sounds, but you could shave the dog. Their long hair can matt easily anyway.

  23. Charise

    My allergies to friends’ pets are always worse when I’m drinking, I swear. I also was thinking it had something to do with alcohol weakening your immune system? Although I guess that doesn’t really make sense, because a suppressed immune system should release less itch-causing histamine.

  24. Sheila

    Wait… non-itchy almost rash that only looks weird, does not cause pain nor discomfort? I fail to see the problem here. Drink away!

    P.S. Maybe your skin reacted to bad television? That House guy gets under my skin, so to speak. But when I watch Jon Hamm, I have a different sort of response altogether…

  25. cardinal

    I’m going to come from the other side of the problem, and look at Licorice. I am not allergic to my dogs, but there are times when they’ve been romping in things I AM allergic to that I react when petting them. With all the wise suggestions you’re getting, I’m sure you’ll be able to solve the mystery!

  26. Elizabeth Z

    It could be that if you’re mildly allergic to the dog, and mildly allergic to something in the drink (for instance, in my case, the sulfites in the wine and probably the salt rim on the margarita), the two added together go over a threshold and give you a reaction. (This is sometimes called the “bucket theory”, as in, you have a bucket, allergens fill it up, when it overflows Bad Stuff happens.)

  27. Donna

    I would love to know if you figure out anything about your daughter’s rash. I had a very, very, VERY itchy rash on the side of my foot all summer long that looked horrible, but since cooler weather has hit, it has completely cleared up. I never did make it to the doctor, and now it seems rather pointless. Rashes always seem rather mysterious!

  28. Karly

    I used to be fine, JUST FINE, when I’d drink alcohol and now sometimes my chest breaks out in a rash and my face gets all flushed. It’s not enough to actually stop me from drinking, of course, but it’s annoying. So, what I’m saying is maybe you’ve developed an allergy to alcohol? The smart thing to do would be to test my theory. Go get drunk immediately. ;)

  29. Katie in MA

    Was Licorice recently outside on rashy nights but not recently outside on non-rashy nights? Because if she has pollen/allergens on her, she might be too much for your system. Not much, but all I’ve got. Maybe book the allergist’s for Chickie and if she tells you you’re wasting her time until spring, bust in with, “Well let’s say *I* have this rash, but only sometimes…”

  30. Loisco

    My daughter has hive issues. Which I — mother of the year — discovered as we were sitting in the dark in a movie and she said her back itched. So as we watched, I gently scratched and rubbed her back throughout the film. Got outside and found I’d been scratching her hives until they were nickel-sized. She, it turns out, is allergic to a bunch of soaps. If you bathe licorice, you might be reacting to whatever you use for that.

  31. annette

    OHHHHHHH!NOOOOOOOO! You can’t be allergic to MARGARITAS!!!! You have yet to come to Missouri and have one(or more)with me!!

  32. mamabird

    If you’re allergic to alcohol, I can’t imagine a worse thing!

  33. MeganM

    Is it possible the benadryl was still in your system on the non alcohol night? I have exactly the same problem with our dog. Cuddling with the dog results in a rash on my arms sometimes, sometimes it does not. I’ve decided when I take the benadryl to relieve the rash, it stays in my system a few days and prevents further problems….

  34. Kris

    Anything is possible. I’m allergic to the hops in beer, and anything related (cannabis included – ahem…I’m just sayin’ – but those days are long gone.) I get terribly ill from it all.

    And tomatoes – raw tomatoes – will send me into a fit of gasping for air and turning blue. (It really is a good floor show on a Friday night in the middle of a busy restaurant.) But ketchup, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, tomatoes in soup – anything like that does…nothing.

    Something in the processing of said raw tomatoes kills whatever enzyme it is that I’m allergic to.

    So naturally I have to ask about whether salsa is fresh or processed and restaurants don’t typically liek the assumption that they’re “cheating” somehow…until you tell them, “If it’s jarred, it’s OK. If you make it fresh, you’ll be calling 911.” Then, and usually only then, do they ‘fess up that it’s industrially packaged stuff.

  35. Anna

    @ Megan- I would choose to be allergic to my mother. ;)

  36. Jan

    We have a family friend who has an allergic reaction to the combination of alcohol and shellfish. Only in combination.

    Human beings are weird, yo.

  37. Liz

    I’m allergic to cats – itchy eyes and runny nose, not rash. The reaction is worse or starts sooner if I am drinking while around a cat. Alcohol opens up the blood flow – it’s why they recommend wine to prevent heart attacks – so whatever you are allergic to gets into your system faster if you’ve been drinking.

  38. just beaux

    I think you need House to unravel this mystery. But I would hide Licorice in a closet or something, because it’s House you know, and anything can happen on House.

  39. mama speak

    I was going to suggest that maybe the alcohol speeds up your metabolism, which causes the rash?

    But I vote for the “bucket theory”. So, what else are you sensitive to, besides alcohol & dog, cuz we know you aren’t giving those up.

    Also, I had 5th disease last yr (my kids did not, so go figure). I looked like a freak & just felt mostly run down. That would be good too (since it doesn’t last). Does Monkey have any rashes, now that he’s done running a fever? Just a thought.

  40. Randi

    Two things – alcohol thins your blood, so maybe it’s possible that your allergy does get aggrevated (wow I can’t spell that word w/o spell check) by the alcohol.

    2. fifth’s disease is AWESOME. It’s a lacy rash that doesn’t itch – but adults don’t generally get it, and when I did get it as a child, the rash was there until it was gone, it didn’t come and go (sing with with me – karma karma karma karma karma chameleon…)

    Sorry. Obviously the Nyquil is having some sort of weird affect on my brain… :)

  41. Debbi

    First, the comments on here are making me laugh so hard that I am crying! They are great today.

    There is a chance it is from the alcohol and dog combined, there is a technical name for that but I can’t think of it. Basically, each one on it’s own is ok, your body can deal, but together it is just too much. One idea might be to wear long sleeves and then shower before bed.

    Did you notice how NO one, me included, said to stop drinking? ;-)

    I have horrible allergies and know to avoid or just limit my drinks while they are flaring. I have to say that tequila and rum are lower on the list of alcohols that bother people’s allergies, wine and beer are near the top.

    So…go buy some long sleeve shirts for cuddling/drinking! :-)

  42. Stephanie O'Dea

    I know nothing about the rash. Nothing. I’m sorry.

    But, what did they DO to House? I don’t get it. Thankfully we DVRed it so I could fast forward the commercials, or it would have been unbearable. I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing did. Nothing. We learned nothing about his weird quirks, we learned nothing about his past, we didn’t even get fun flashbacks to medical school.

    I felt let-down. House was already wearing thin on me due to the formula: oh let’s almost kill the person 3 times, then rummage through their home (completely freaks me out, btw… that’s *legal*??!!?!1!?) and then figure it out and live happily ever after. except for House, because he’s just. so. mysterious.

    I hope you figure out your rashies.
    xoxo steph

  43. Aimee

    As Kendra Lee so astutely pointed out above, that’s because you’re not drinking gin!

    Seriously, though. Try the long sleeves. You should not have to give up delicious alcohol.

  44. susie

    If you can handle one more piece of allergy related advice … I have been told by the wine merchants here in Durham that often when people think they are allergic to wine that it is not the sulfites or alcohol so much as the 200 or so chemicals that are allowed to be put in wine that are never on the label. They say to stick with small wineries (doesn’t necessarily have to be organic) and ask your reputable wine merchant for advice.

  45. Heidi

    I know someone mentioned this in the past, but hey, I’m nothing if not redundant: Could Chickadee’s woes be pool chemical-related?

    House has a human side? Guess we’ll have to wait until re-runs to find out. Heroes is on at the same time, and that gets top billing.

  46. Jennie

    Oh my, even worse would be a reaction to just alcohol, irregardless of Licorice! Now that might even be worse than poor Chickie’s allergy woes (adding redundancy to redundant, I have also wondered if her reaction might be pool-related).

  47. mythoughtsonthat

    A lacy rash CAN mean Fifth disease.

  48. Kailani

    Say it isn’t so…
    No wheat or booze?!?!
    Shoot me now!!

  49. carolie

    Maybe it’s something Licorice is rolling in/rubbing against when she goes outside? I mean, something on her fur from a plant or something, that she doesn’t get on her hair every day…just a thought!

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