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A couple of months ago, I had an incident when I was out walking, and I felt my hands start swelling. When I came home, I could feel this swelling throughout my body. It wasn't visible; there was no edema. But it lasted for a while, and the next day, I felt it again. At the end of the day, the feeling increased, and, thinking it was an allergic reaction to something, I took an antihistamine, and it got slightly better.

The next day I went to see my GP. He said he thought it was some kind of allergy, and gave me some cortisone. I took that for 4 days, and the swelling went away.

A few weeks later, the same thing happened, and it seemed that walking set it off. Back to the doctor, who was, by now, intrigued, and who ordered a bunch of blood tests to check for allergies. Another episode - after the tests came back negative - led him to start wondering about this problem, and he mentioned that he no longer felt it was an allergy, but mentioned mastocytosis, because, oddly enough, given the rarity of the disease, he had a patient affected by it.

So, recently, this swelling feeling has been occurring pretty much every day. I notice the feeling first in my fingers - I write for a living, and type a lot, so when my fingers are affected I feel it right away. Then the feeling spreads to my feet, and sometimes I get a kind of antsy feeling all throughout my body. Antihistamines seem to reduce it a bit, but not entirely. I've noticed some triggers that increase it, such as red wine. It generally begins late morning, and waxes and wanes during the day, usually being strongest at night.

I had a very serious reaction on Friday. Interestingly, the most serious episodes I have had have been on Fridays, the day a cleaning person cleans our house.

I was working (I work at home), and I had taken an antihistamine late morning. It worked for a few hours, but around 3pm, I started feeling symptoms in my mouth and nose. I was tired, so I went downstairs to lie down in bed. After about 15 minutes, I started having some trouble breathing. It got worse, to the point that I was almost gasping for breath. I went to my doctor's, and he said that, first, it was not an anaphylactic reaction - my BP was high. Second, I mentioned that there's a cleaning product that the person uses on the tiles on the ground floor, and that I could smell it more than usual. The fact that this has happened on days when the house was cleaned suggests that it's related.

So when we came home, we opened all the windows (fortunately, it's the warmest day of the year), and my wife washed the floor with plain water. After I had been away for a while, the symptoms reduced, but when we came back in the house, I could feel them increasing immediately. I've been outside for a while; while I have some symptoms, it's much less than earlier. The sun will go down soon, so we'll have to close the windows, but I'm pretty much convinced that this is some kind of systemic allergic reaction to a cleaning product.

I couldn't spend the evening at home; I went to a hotel. On Saturday and Sunday we opened all the windows, and cleaned the floor where this product had been used. Today, Sunday, I'm still feeling pretty bad, with symptoms coming and going. The two main symptoms are the feelings of swelling, which I described at the beginning of this post, and a feeling of irritation in my mouth, nose, and all over my skin. It's similar to that you get from eating a hot pepper, yet it seems to be present over much of my skin. This afternoon it was so annoying that I took a dose of cortisone (methylprednisone) and that calmed it down a bit.

Several things are worrying me. I know I am allergic to several things. First, about two years ago, something burned in one of my computers, and I couldn't go in my office for about ten days; the smell - or chemicals that were emitted from the burning - irritated me too much. Then there are old books; I have recently bought some books just a few decades old that have a moldy smell. If I read them, I get similar irritation in my mouth and nose, a slight feeling of difficulty breathing. One night I woke up in the middle of the night with an odd smell, and belabored breathing. It turned out that my wife had put one some hand cream that was irritating me. And last year, I had an air conditioner installed in my office. For several weeks, I was irritated by the air coming from it, presumable from something in the plastic.

But the incident on Friday was quite scary. I only had one experience seeing someone have an asthma attack, and it seemed similar. Can one develop asthma late in life (I'm 51)? Or can acute allergic reactions cause an attack like that?

This was very long, and I apologize. I have an appointment to see an allergy doctor in two weeks, and I'm going to try and move it up. I'm also going to see my GP tomorrow and ask if I can take cortisone regularly until then, or until things settle down. (I can't take other anti-inflammatories.)

Any thoughts you might have to share would be welcome.


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