The Allergic Reaction

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Author: Brandi of Sunshine & Succulents

If you haven't yet read our last post, The Cambodian Treehouse, you should check it out because it's a good intro into this Plant Story. Why? Well, apparently I was allergic to something that I stumbled across on our treehouse journey in Cambodia. Very allergic. I'm not sharing photos because this one is way more fun if you use your imagination.

For someone who had never had hives in my life - hell, I had never even had seasonal allergies - waking up in the middle of the night because my hands were itchy was incredibly confusing. I was 20 years old, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) Wes and I had just returned from a month-long trip to Thailand and Cambodia. We were taking a couple days to settle back in and visit family, show them photos, etc. before heading home to our house in San Francisco. While crashing on Wes' dad's floor that first night, I woke up at 3am because my hands were insanely itchy. I went to the bathroom to try to find some lotion, thinking my skin must be really dry. That's when I realized that I had hives on my stomach and all over my hands. My sleepy brain vaguely remembered that one should take Benadryl when having an allergic reaction, so Wes and I left our warm blanket floor-nest to drive to the grocery store in the middle of the night to pick some up. I somehow managed to get back to sleep, despite the itching.

By the next morning, the hives were threatening to take over my legs. Luckily they were no longer itchy. But there were so many hives on my calves that my skin was basically one giant hive, with only a rare indent of normal amidst the raised redness that was now my skin.

We made it back to San Francisco that afternoon without a furthering of my strange symptoms, but when I woke up to go to work the next morning, my hands felt weird. After half an hour, I could barely bend my fingers because they had swelled up like tiny sausages. At the time, I did production work for a jewelry designer, so my ability to use my hands was incredibly important. I had to call in to work to get the day off with perhaps the weirdest medical excuse ever- sausage fingers. I swore up and down that, even though I had just taken a month off to travel, I was seriously telling the truth about why I couldn't return to work that day.

The swelling in my hands went down throughout the day, and I thought it was finally out of my system. But alas, upon waking up the following day, I discovered that my body was still rebelling against whatever foreign invader had my immune system on high-alert. My top lip had swelled to three times its normal size. I looked like a muppet. Or worse, I looked like a muppet that had had a bad lip job. I finally called the doctor.

My doctor, kindly not laughing hysterically at my giant, giant upper lip, prescribed me some strong anti-allergy drugs. She then admitted that, despite all our advances in Western medicine, doctors have no way of knowing what has caused an allergic reaction. Apparently you can have a reaction to something up to two weeks after coming in contact with it! Her best guess as to the cause: I had brushed past a plant somewhere in Cambodia or Thailand that I was allergic to, and was just now having a reaction. A plant! After all my love for the wily green bastards, what I got in return was sausage fingers and a bad lip job.

Luckily the swelling went away fully within a couple days, and I've never had another incident like this again. But whenever I remember the hives, I still mentally shake my fist at whatever plant it was that made my life a hilarious hell for a few days.