I'm just an animal looking for a home



First, let me get one thing out of the way — I have no allergies.  Not to cats (thank Christ), not to any foods, not to any antibiotics.  I’ve lived in Austin since 1995 and never been bothered by the seasonal allergies that seemingly plague every single other person in this town.  Conclusion?  I am obviously either a superman of some kind, or an alien, or a robot.  Or maybe dead and just don’t realize it, ala that movie whose name I hesitate to type lest I spoil it for the one person out there who has lived their life locked in a basement and somehow never saw it.  Yes, I worry about writing spoilers for movies which came out 12 years ago.  Welcome to my brain.  Anyway, feel free to hate my allergy-free life.  I am aware that people can spontaneously develop allergies to things even as an adult, so perhaps I will not remain allergy-free for the rest of my life, but so far so good.  Moving on…

I know a lot of people who are troubled by allergies.  For one thing, as I said above, almost everyone I know seems bothered to some extent by seasonal allergies here in Austin.  I have no idea if Austin is an especially bad place for allergies compared to, say, Houston or Baltimore or Tokyo or the Olympus Mons (where, if I *am* an alien, I once lived, or if I am a robot, I was constructed, or if I am dead, I was killed).  But in addition to that, I know a surprising (to me) number of people who are allergic to cats.  And whenever someone tells me that they’re allergic to cats (or, really, when they tell me they suffer from any allergies), it makes me want to say “It doesn’t have to be this way! (maybe)”  Yes, that’s right, I may know a way to cure you of your allergies.  No, I don’t mean living your life doped up on Zyrtec.  No, this isn’t some scam whereby I profit or otherwise try to defraud you.  It’s just one piece of anecdotal evidence that there may be a way for you to make your allergies a thing of the past.  Tell you how?  Your wish is my command!

The longest relationship of my life to date was with a woman named Keri.  We met many years ago, back in winter 1999-2000.  Right away I thought she was great, and the more I learned about her, the more impressed I became.  But there was trouble in paradise.  Two problems, specifically.  First, I was young and dumb and immature and basically didn’t know a good thing when I saw it.  And second, she was deathly allergic to cats.  Back then I had only two — Rasputin and Frankenstein.  I don’t doubt such people exist, but I have never seen anyone more strongly allergic to cats than Keri was.  If I petted the cats and touched her, her eyes would practically swell shut.  Spending any amount of time at my place was a bad idea unless she had taken a mega-dose of anti-allergy medicine.  Anyway, more due to my idiocy than due to her allergies, we broke up.  Fast forward to 2003.  I had long since realized I was stupid for letting her go (I kind of hate that phrase, since it makes it sound like I was in control of the situation and her, and obviously that’s not the case, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN), and she had also come to conclude that we did have something special.  So despite the fact that I still had Raspo and Franko, after a whirlwind telephone romance, she moved down to Austin (from Denton where she was then living) and we moved in together.  How was this going to work?  Well, we worked carefully to try and accommodate her allergy.  Shortly after she got here we moved into a new, larger apartment.  We set aside one room in that apartment to be her private space, where the cats were not allowed.  Further, they were not allowed in the bedroom.  We bought a super-powered vacuum — a Dyson vacuum, animal model (I highly recommend Dysons for anyone who has carpet, whether or not they have pets).  And I think there were also some other steps we took which I am now forgetting (oh, I just found an old blog post written at that time which discusses this very thing).  Anyway, these things helped, but she still needed to regularly take medicine when the allergies would flare up.  I don’t know what would have happened long term if nothing had changed, but fortunately…

Keri had always been interested in eastern and alternative medicine/therapy/etc.  She learned that there was a local school here in Austin (the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin — aka AOMA).  But in addition to being a school, they also have a patient clinic.  And within the clinic, they have a student clinic.  And it was the student clinic which she ended up using.  How does it work?  Well, because you are being treated by a student, the cost is much lower than it would otherwise be — I believe the latest cost I’d heard was $30 a visit.  Okay, but is it a good idea to be treated by a student?  That’s an understandable reservation, but the students are treating you as part of their education, so there is an instructor present to supervise them.  So you essentially get the benefit of the instructor’s knowledge, but at a much reduced cost.  Anyway, Keri explained to them about her cat allergy and she started going every week or two (if I remember correctly, and I believe it tapered off to be less frequent as time went on).  During her appointments they would perform acupuncture on her (for those who’ve never had it and are scared of needles or pain, let me assure you that it isn’t painful and the needles are tiny and short — it’s not like getting a shot at all), and they would send her home with an herbal tea she was to drink during the week.  I was pretty skeptical about all of this, but within a matter of months she was pretty much entirely free of her cat allergy.  The cats were allowed on the bed and she could bury her face in their fur and not have a problem.  If I hadn’t seen firsthand how severely allergic she was, I would have had a hard time believing it.  Anyway, we did end up breaking up in 2008, but cat allergies were not a factor!

Anyway, I realize this is just one anecdotal example.  I will say that since that time I’ve seen further evidence that eastern medicine in general tends to be very complementary to western medicine.  There are some things which western medicine is not very effective for — allergies, for example.  Or there are things where western medicine’s solutions are not ideal long-term solutions — allergies (how healthy is it to live a life on Zyrtec) or chronic pain (a life spent on powerful painkillers, while enjoyable in some sense, is probably not liver-friendly).  Eastern medicine does a good job of treating these issues, and it does so in a way which doesn’t have long term negative health effects.  For example, as part of my recovery from my ACL surgery on my right knee I am seeing an acupuncturist every week or two.  This is the first time I’ve really used acupuncture therapeutically myself.  My goal for the acupuncture is to reduce swelling and, to a lesser extent, reduce discomfort.

I’ve given the above information to a number of people over the years, and I don’t know if a single person has ever given it a try.  I’m kind of curious about why.  To hear people complain about them, I would think that a possibility to be allergy-free would be something worth pursuing.  I understand skepticism about eastern medicine, but I am about as scientifically-minded and logical a person as you’re likely to encounter.  I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I didn’t think it had a legitimate chance to help.  I do know that while $30 is cheap it’s not free, but I also know that at least some of the folks with whom I’ve shared this story certainly have enough money for that to not be a factor.  Anyway, it’s not a big deal to me, I suppose, whether folks heed this advice or not.  If anyone out there DOES give this a try, please write and tell me about your experience.  I’d be curious to hear about someone else’s experiences, and I’ll update this post with your remarks (unless you’d prefer I not do so).


Author: mitcharf

vegan, curmudgeon, animal lover, feminist, agnostic, cat whisperer, bookworm, hermit, Red Sox fan, Cthulhu enthusiast, softball player, man-about-town


  1. avatar

    I actually saw an acupuncturist for the first time when living in Austin in 99, for severe menstrual pain. It was great! I was terrified, but it was so unbelievably helpful and got me off mega doses of ibuprofen. It didn’t hurt, and was actually relaxing.

    When I got kidney stones in 2005, I found an acupuncturist here in Atlanta and between the needles and the stinky herbal tea, I got rid of them WITHOUT PASSING THEM…they dissolved. I’ve had a few since, and always go back for the stinky tea and it always works. The pain relief from the acu was amazing – I went from literally being on my way to the ER in agony, to doing yard work hours later, just from an hour’s worth of acu. I was an even bigger believer after that!

    When I had to have my tonsils out 2 years ago, which is an unbearably painful experience for adults, I saw an acu for pain relief – it helped significantly. I go back now and then for a tune up, and when things aren’t quite right. In so many ways, it gave me my life back!!!! Glad it’s helped you too!!

    • avatar

      I think you’d mentioned some of this to me before, but I’m glad you commented about it here, so others could heard about your experiences as well. And I’m really glad it’s had such positive results for you!

  2. avatar

    oh and about allergies — when I started eating locally-produced honey, mine decreased significantly!! not good for cat allergies, unless those bees are pollinating on kitties which ain’t gonna happen, but good for seasonal ones! unless you’re vegan, i guess :)

  3. avatar

    my cousin-in-law has done acupuncture and the tea to cure his allergies – and swears he’s cured – but the rest of us think he’s insane. he’s sick more often than anyone we know, and is always sniffling and clearing his throat. the only person i know at this point with worse allergy symptoms is me – who spontaneously developed them as an adult. well, in high school, but they were mild and easily controlled with occasional medication until the last six months to a year. ho hum. my test on monday told me that i’ve spontaneously developed allergies to numerous tree pollens, ragweed, and a severe allergy to dust mites, and that i am definitely allergic (though not severely) to wheat and borderline allergic to soy. damn. my teenage allergies to mold, dogs (i have two) and cats remain intact.

    anyway, none of that is to say that i don’t buy keri’s treatment option. just that the person i know who has tried that route, while convinced he’s cured, clearly is not (you should see his wife roll her eyes when he tells me i should visit his holistic allergist). also, you’re probably not likely to develop allergies as an adult, at this point. my doctor told me it’s most often women who develop allergies after puberty, and that if you develop them later in life, they tend to grow worse, rather than something you grow out of.

    • avatar

      Yeah, I definitely realize that there are going to be folks out there who haven’t had success with it. It could be their practitioner is bad, or it could be that it just didn’t work for them for some reason. I certainly don’t think that eastern medicine is magic or will necessarily work for everyone. But if you’re in Austin, it’s so cheap to try, it seems like it would be worth a shot.

  4. avatar

    I used acupuncture to help get me into labor. It seems like it might have done the trick. A day or two after my last treatment I went into labor. It took abother 2.5 days for my son to be born though… 57 hours of labor total.

    Anyway, at each of my three sessions the pre-labor contractions increased significantly following my treatment, so I know it was doing something.

    I’m also extremely skeptical. I’m a big fan of Randi and the Penn and Teller Bullshit! show. But I’ll concede that acupuncture does have an affect on our bodies.

    • avatar

      oh yeah… if anyone is needing an acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health, Melissa Light at East/West Family Health is who I saw.

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