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Turn on the Air Cleaner and Enjoy the View

I went to an Open House at a lovely little private school this weekend, and I heard about all the wonderful characteristics and educational philosophy. There were teachers, parents, and school staff available for information and to answer any questions. They were all warm and friendly people who had a great love for their school and were excited to share their experiences. “We’re very informal here,” they said. “Our teachers wear t-shirts and shorts in the summer, and they even bring their dogs to school.” HOLD THE BUS! They bring their DOGS??

Now most people would think that’s a wonderful idea – what a special place! You know what was going through my head? What about all the kids with allergies? My kid is allergic to dogs, and Janet’s son would have a major asthmatic attack from a dog in school. And what about all the kids who are afraid of dogs? I guess they don’t have kids like that at this school, although I didn’t see that question on their application.

It’s times like this that you realize you’re not living according to the same rules as everyone else in the world. You have to be more cautious. You can’t just enjoy life like other people. People with food allergies can’t just go to a restaurant or a party and enjoy themselves. It takes planning and preparation to go out anywhere. You have to know in advance what obstacles you might encounter and have a strategy to deal with them, and you’d better be prepared for all those little circumstances you didn’t see coming, like the person sitting next to you in a waiting room who decides to have a snack of the very food that could kill you. It takes the Boy Scout oath of being prepared to a whole other level!

Going on a nature walk on a beautiful spring day is torture for those of us with pollen allergies. Visiting an historic site is both interesting and costly because by the time you come out, your mold and dust allergies have kicked into high gear, and now you can’t breathe. And don’t even think about escaping the chemicals in everyday life – the cleaning supplies, the perfume, the plastic toys….better keep your headache medicine and inhaler with you. You’re gonna need them.

Experts all agree that our society’s allergies are getting worse and worse. Unfortunately, they can’t agree on why, and they can’t seem to find a solution. “Maybe our environments are too clean,” they say. “Our immune systems are not exposed to all the germs and bacteria as they were in the past, so they’re going haywire.” It seems to me that although that may be true, the likelier reason would be the damaging substances in the cleaning solutions we’re using to kill all the germs and bacteria. Have you read those labels? That stuff could kill you! And don’t even get me started on what manufacturers put in our food these days and pour into our air. I’m pretty sure we weren’t eating those items that I can’t even pronounce on our food labels back in the old days, and is it really necessary to use artificial colors and flavors that are made from petroleum products to enhance the taste? The FDA has established they’re safe, but do you really want to be eating something you could start your car with or use to kill insects? Probably not.

So we’re left with a world full of obstacles for those of us with allergies. Everywhere we go, we’re bombarded with things that trigger any number of allergic symptoms, from mild sneezing to a full blown anaphylactic emergency. We love the outdoors, but we have to keep our windows closed and our air cleaners on high. We’d like to eat out, but we don’t know what’s in the food, so it’s safer to eat at home. We need to go to the store, but there could be a hundred things there that will make us sick.

It reminds me of the boy in the plastic bubble. Remember that movie? It was based on a real person whose immune system couldn’t fight any kind of illness, so he was forced to live locked away in a sanitary room behind plastic walls. This is definitely not as extreme as that, of course, and I mean no disrespect to anyone that has to deal with this life-limiting illness by making such a comparison. But it does make me wonder – where would I be safe? I’m allergic to plastic!

Nancy, Co-Founder