Saturday, July 25, 2009

Duck Face Mystery

Several of my friends have already heard this story, so if you’re one of them, I apologize for the redundant redundancy. I suggest you avert your eyes and find something else to read so that I don’t bore you to death with a story you’ve already heard. For the rest of you, I thought this tale might be kind of funny and semi-educational.

Let me just give you a little background to start the story. Several years ago I discovered that I was allergic to mangoes after cutting some up at home and eating them straight off the skin—which was a big mistake for me. Being that I’m extremely allergic to poison ivy, and being that mangoes and poison ivy are in the same family of plants, touching the skin of a mango causes me to break out in a poison ivy rash. So picture me learning my lesson by getting poison ivy all over my mouth, which was lovely. Sadly, it took me a couple of times of doing it to figure out the cause! The good news is that as long as I don’t cut up the mango or touch the skin, I can eat as much as I want, which is good since I love mango and pretty much any other fruit known to man.

So back to the present. On the Saturday of moving weekend, I noticed a slight rash on my upper lip, which was similar to the allergic reaction I have to mangoes—only I hadn’t eaten any mangoes. I didn’t think much of it at first, but by Sunday evening, my lip was really getting swollen. When I woke up Monday morning, the swelling had gone up to my eyes and there was a red rash all over my neck, mouth, eyelids and around my nose. I pretty much looked like a freak, and I felt really terrible too. My breathing wasn’t really constricted, but my throat was uncomfortably swollen. Plus, I had tried to combat the swelling by taking Benadryl before leaving for work, and although it didn’t really seem to help my puffiness, it made me about as functional as a piece of spaghetti. Needless to say, I didn’t really get much done that morning.

I was still feeling miserable after lunch, so on the way back to work I stopped by my doctor’s office because they have a handy walk-in clinic. I saw a doctor who prescribed a steroid, but she couldn’t really tell me what it was that I’d had a reaction to, although she did seem to think it was something I’d ingested and not something I’d rubbed all over my face. She mentioned that there were a lot of other foods in the mango family, but she couldn’t really think of any of them off the top of her head. After picking up my prescription and getting back to work, I did some Googling of my own to see if I could track down any potential culprits. I found that cashews are in the same family as poison ivy and mangoes (who knew?), but since I eat cashews all the time, that didn’t seem like a logical food to consider. Then one of my Google searches brought back this post from some discussion forum:

A few years ago I had an allergic reaction to mangoes. My lips became very dried and chapped and a day or 2 later I developed a rash. I had mangoes previously without problems but they had been cut into pieces by someone else. The times (unfortunately it took 2 reactions before I associated it with mango) I had the problem I cut the mangoes myself and sucked every last drop out of the skins. It turns out that the skins of mangoes contain urushiol which is the same toxin in poison ivy. People who are very sensitive to poison ivy often react to mangoes as well. I had a similar reaction a few days ago although not quite as bad. The only new food in my diet was cashew butter.

I did a quick search and to my surprise cashews and pistachios are in the same family as mangoes. The strange thing is I've eaten cashews and pistachios lots of times without any noticeable problems, but this was the first time I had cashew butter. The toxin is supposed to only be in the shell and roasting is supposed to destroy it. I guess some managed to get into the butter. I think I'll just avoid all cashews and pistachios in the future. Has anyone else had a problem with cashew butter? Does anyone know of any other foods containing urushiol? My list of foods to avoid so far is mango, cashew, and pistachio.

This still didn’t really make any light bulbs go on for me until later in the afternoon, when I realized that Chad had brought home a new cashew based granola bar that I’d eaten over the weekend. I rushed home after work and checked the label, and this is what I saw:

See that little banner on the label above where it says CASHEW in red? Sure enough, it's Dipped in Cashew Butter Coating. So the good news is, I think I solved the mystery of what caused my allergic reaction and I no longer look like a duck!

Mind you, this was several hours after I started the steroids, so I don’t look quite as bad as I did Monday morning, but you still get the duck-faced idea.

Oh, and obviously I found the camera cable! :)


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say you looked like a duck, but you looked very itchy!!!
I hope that you are feeling much better. Mom

Erin said...

holy cow! I'm glad you figured out what it was. That would have driven me nuts if it happened to me and I never found out the culprit.