Dear Papa Bear,
I have an allergy to trees, and people tend to laugh and think I'm joking. Last night I ran out of my medicine and today sucked, sneezing 7 times in a row every minute. How do I get them to quit laughing? They have no idea about what I go through, and it hurts a bit when they laugh and start telling their friends and making jokes about it. Or is it my fault? Getting a bit upset over the jokes...
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Thanks for your letter on an important topic. It's a rather puzzling thing in American society in which many think that allergies are funny. They aren't. Allergies, when pronounced, can cause serious medical conditions, even death. The most common allergies are allergies to food and to pollen. You have the latter. The trees that cause you the most problems include Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Box Elder, Cedar, Cottonwood, Elm, Hickory, Mountain Elder, Mulberry, Oak, Pecan, and Willow.
Sensitivity to tree pollen can aggravate health conditions such as heart disease, COPD, and pneumonia. A 2000 study showed that having pollen allergies can increase the death rate for these diseases by as much as 17%. Also, a severe allergy by itself can be serious enough to cause anaphylactic shock and death.
I'm going to go ahead right now and blame the media for making people think that allergies are kicks and giggles. Sadly, one of my favorite shows, The Big Bang Theory, contributes to this. The character Howard has a peanut allergy, and they play it up for laughs even when he is so swollen and in pain that he has to be taken to the hospital. In another example, the recent movie Peter Rabbit has the bunnies throwing berries at Tom McGregor, who they know is allergic to them (i.e., they are deliberately trying to give him an allergic reaction). He swallows one by accident and has to use an Epipen on his leg. Not funny. The scene was widely criticized.
Nesston, it certainly is NOT your fault for being upset by this. I think your "friends" believe it's funny because they don't realize how serious allergies can be. Perhaps they believe it is humorous because you say it is a "tree allergy," which may not be familiar with them. Step one: start calling it a pollen allergy instead. And tell them it isn't a joke and that allergies can lead to serious, even lethal, respiratory and heart problems if they go uncontrolled. Tell them if they think it's funny that you could die from this that you don't think they are very good friends. Maybe they will wise up.
And try to be sure to keep your medicine cabinet stocked.
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