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A Toronto Allergy

Indulge me in a moment's vanity.

A year after I moved to Toronto, I developed a chronic cough. A cold moved in and the cough never left. Self-conscious of quite how loud the cough was during the class I was T.A.'ing, I went to the doctor, who referred me to a specialist, who sent me off for various exams which made me appreciate the Canadian health care system, or at least my experience of it, including my speediest hospital visit ever. She offered the diagnosis of "post-nasal drip" and sent me away with a steroid inhalant. After three months, the cough was more or less gone.

But the next time I caught a cold, it came back, in full strength. Several times a week, strangers and acquaintances would ask me with great concern if I was dying. It sounded far worse than it felt.

So the cycle went. About once a year, I'd have another run of steroid inhalants, the cough would recess. Then it would gradually return again, as bad as ever. ("I'm too young to have a chronic cough!" I exclaimed in my more dramatic moments.)

And then, this summer, I left Toronto and moved to London. Within weeks, my cough had entirely vanished. As an added bonus, my skin cleared up beautifully - it hasn't looked this good since I hit puberty. London's air and water is full of pollutants too, but they are not the same pollutants as Toronto; whatever Toronto has, my lungs and skin are less happy with.

If I had any doubts that Toronto was the source of these mild irritants, I had only to return to prove it. After a week in Toronto, the cough was back.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2005 06:31 pm (UTC)
hmmm. Hmmmmm!!! was the post-nasal drip caused by some form of environmental allergy, perchance?

very glad it cleared up.

my skin did the same thing in London, that's funny! cleared right up.
Oct. 18th, 2005 12:10 am (UTC)
Quite possibly. I didn't associate it with any particular time of year - other than that it was exaserbate by colds and I have more of those in winter.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 18th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
But it's true!
Oct. 17th, 2005 08:23 pm (UTC)
We should swap. I was much healthier in Canada. Six months back and I have bronchittis again.
Oct. 18th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC)
I haven't been here 6 months. I may yet change my mind.

On the other hand, past experiences of living in the UK have only given me odd fungal infections, nothing more serious.
Oct. 17th, 2005 09:32 pm (UTC)
It *is* possible. Although part of it can be stress-induced, too. But when I was in Atlanta, I regularly had bronchitis several times a year -- separated a couple of ribs one winter. I still have the occasional asthma attack, but really nothing since I moved to Germany and then back to the less-humid states. My GP swore it would stop when I was less stressed, and moving to Germany coincided with passing the prospectus, but who knows?

I have been a lot healthier overall since I've moved gradually back to academic mode, though.
Oct. 18th, 2005 12:12 am (UTC)
I know that illness can be stress-related, but I doubt this was. I didn't notice any fluctuations in it corresponding with exams or deadlines - and I had this cough for four years or so.

Was non-academic mode more stressful for you?
Oct. 18th, 2005 01:39 am (UTC)
Oddly, no. I was really good at my non-academic jobs. Paid more than I have been as an academic, substantial pay rises after three months' probation, doing things for which I had absolutely no formal training ... I trained people on DSL technology and helped sell DSL provisioning to ISPs for a start-up company, for which I was also a marketing manager ... But I did a lot of presentations and training, which are transferable skills. Then working for a dot.com with a great product for the real estate business -- another thing I know nothing about.

I was travelling about 50-60% of the time... eating badly ... dealing with accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars ... and not stressed. I think it's because I didn't have any training, so what could they expect? I knew I'd always be better than many of my peers, plus I had the "still learning" thing to fall back on.

But when it's academic stuff, I'm generally scared to death. Then I'm in front of my real peers -- the people who do what I love and whose respect (and face it, approval) I most desire. I'm fine in the classroom, and presenting on pedagogy is not at all frightening. But presenting at conferences? Turning in anything I've written to someone else? Migraines and bronchitis. Spots. So I guess you could say I'm stressed when I care.

Sorry ... long procrastinatory answer. I'm supposed to be marking.
Oct. 17th, 2005 11:04 pm (UTC)
One reason why I moved to Minneapolis after my first visit here is that when the return flight landed, I realized I was literally allergic to Los Angeles.
Oct. 18th, 2005 12:08 am (UTC)
Having been to both places, I can certainly see Minneapolis being a more breathable place than LA. I prefer Minneapolis for other reasons - what little I remember of it - to LA's oceans of parking lots.
Oct. 18th, 2005 02:14 am (UTC)
Sounds like you should be glad you weren't living in Hamilton while you were here in Canada... we get car smog AND steel mill smog. Although I think I remember hearing that overall, with all the cars, Toronto is actually worse....
Oct. 18th, 2005 02:45 am (UTC)
Sabs hasn't had bronchitis since we moved to the Bay area. We still catch the odd flu, but we have on the whole been much healthier here, including no eczema for me except for what seems to be an unfortunate allergy to my wedding band.
Oct. 19th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
Here in Toronto, I have daily sneezing fits and chronic nasal congestion. I often visit family in B.C. , and every single person in the family smokes. Amazingly, I don't feel congested there, and never sneeze.

As soon as I returned to Toronto after visiting B.C. in April - even driving home from the airport - I was congested and sneezing all over again. So, I hear you, and whatever it is in Toronto's air, it has a worse effect on me than a house full of the cigarette smoke of four people.
Oct. 20th, 2005 05:24 am (UTC)
I'm allergic to practically everything that's green. Trees, grasses, pollen, molds, you name it, I'm allergic to it. I've been tested twice, and both times my entire body broke out with hives (separate from the local reactions to the test serum).

Some places (in America) I've found my allergies are much worse than in others. Sadly, stuck on Oahu I don't have anyplace to run except to indoor air conditioning that also includes air filters.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )