It Turns Out That Jasmine Is The Least Of My Worries


A couple of weeks ago I went to my local GP surgery and had to fill out a form regarding travel vaccinations. It turned out it was a very long time since I had a tetanus vaccination, so I ended up having a booster.

One of the questions on the form was “DO YOU HAVE ANY ALLERGIES?”, to which I replied “NO”. However, I have had occasional allergic reactions. I just have never been tested for allergies.

I noticed as a teenager that any shower gels or hand creams or similar products with a jasmine scent would cause me to develop a rash and make my lips tingle and my face and neck become puffy and slightly swollen. It happened once. A year or so later I tried another product with jasmine, only to find I had the same reaction. I don’t think it was a severe reaction, however, as nothing else had ever had that effect on me, I felt it better if I just make sure I avoid any product with jasmine. So I have.

Also, as a teenager (I think I was about nineteen), I had an allergic reaction to some medication. I had a very bad chest infection and I had to go on stage in front of an audience of around a thousand people to give a presentation. I went to the GP and explained I needed to be able to speak on stage and I could not stop coughing. The Doctor gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and also told me to ask the chemist what would help with the cough I had. Now…I can’t remember what the chemist gave me…but I do remember explaining I had been coughing for weeks and I had a hacking cough that was making my voice hoarse. I asked the chemist if there was anything that would suppress my cough. I wonder now if the chemist gave me codeine linctus. I will explain why I wonder that later.

asleepNow on the day of the presentation, I had been taking antibiotics for about three days. I also had some of the cough suppressant the night before, early that morning and at lunch time. I gave the presentation. I came off stage and I knew something was seriously wrong. I went to the first aid station at the venue. I felt so ill. I felt as if I was going to be sick, my head was spinning with dizziness and I was so overwhelmingly tired. I slept for the whole afternoon on a gurney. The first aider told me I should stop taking the antibiotics. They told me to go back to the GP. I did so on the Monday. When I told my Doctor what had happened, he too thought I had experienced a bad reaction to the antibiotics. He gave me a prescription for a different kind of antibiotics. I seemed to improve steadily after that and my chest infection cleared up. I did not mention the cough suppressant to either the first aider or the GP, because I did not think it would have caused that reaction.

Now…some time later (I think I was around twenty-three/four), I had an eighteen month period of illness with several surgical operations. I was very run down at the time. After the first operation I had, I developed an infection in the wound. The hospital had asked me if I had any allergies and I had told them I didn’t think I did, but I mentioned that once I had a funny reaction to some antibiotics. Well, that was enough for the staff to mark me down as allergic to penicillin and put a red band around my wrist. My immune system was thrashed at that time and it was literally one infection after another, one course of antibiotics after another. More surgery, more infections. It was a horrible time in my life and it all happened just after I had broken up with my teenage sweetheart. so I was double down-hearted.

However, during that time, I was also given pain-killers. At the time, I just took whatever the hospital gave me without questioning it. I had some very unpleasant symptoms during those eighteen months. When I was being gripped with infection the fever was horrible. I remember my body shaking and I felt freezing cold. I thought I needed more blankets. The nurses were trying to cool me down by stripping the sheets off me and trying to cool me down. They explained why I felt cold when actually my temperature was high. I had times when I felt extremely sick and I could not eat. I was also confused and disorientated often.

I got used to being ill. I felt like a burden to my family at times because it seemed to be going on for so long.  One night I woke up realizing I had to get to hospital as soon as possible. Rather than waking any of my family. I just put a skirt on over my pyjama bottoms, put a winter coat on (it was early January) and a pair of black ballet pumps. I drove myself to hospital. They took me straight into the ward and before I knew it I had strong antibiotics entering me intravenously while I slept like a baby. I was in hospital for the rest of that night, the following day and night, and then the next day, I was allowed to leave with some more antibiotics and pain killers in tablet form to take at home.

When I went to the car park to the car, I realized I did not have any money to pay for my parking. I went into the hospital reception and explained I had driven myself in but had forgotten to bring my purse. The receptionist was absolutely horrible. I tried to make a reverse charges call to our family home. Nobody was in. I tried to make a reverse charges call to a few other numbers, but nobody was answering the phone. I was becoming distressed. So I did the only thing I thought sensible. I started walking. It was freezing. I walked the fifteen miles home in those little ballet shoes. My feet felt sore when I reached home. I let myself into the house and went straight to bed. I was woken up by my sister asking where the car was because she needed it. I explained it was in Southport. My family were so upset when they realized what had happened. But I was just utterly bamboozled. I did not mean to upset them. Ironically, my oldest sister actually worked at the hospital I had been in. Dad told me she would have been devastated if she knew what had happened.

After the last operation I had, there was no more infection. I seemed to be much stronger now. The next time I had any problem was ten years later when I had to have my wisdom teeth out. The dentist gave me paracetamol, ibuprofen and codeine. I was also sedated during the procedure. My friend Suzie came to hospital to make sure I was able to make it back home safely. She said I was hilarious on the way back through London.

Well, that night I slept like a baby and then the following morning I woke up and went to work. Only I felt so sick and dizzy. The mini-bus had to stop and let me out because I could not bear the nausea. They put me in the front seat so I could see the road. Everyone was telling me to go home and rest. Even my manager told me he was not expecting me at work after having had the surgery the afternoon before. Anyway…I was refusing to go home. I worked that day, but I was lost. I was so confused. I was all over the place. I felt so sick and achy (anywhere except my teeth!) For the next three days everyone seemed very concerned about me. My friend Marta was really anxious about me. Then one of my friends who is a nurse asked me what I was taking. She told me to stop taking the codeine. The GP who sometimes worked with us agreed. He wrote out a prescription for Naproxen instead.

Well…the long and short of all this is…everyone seemed in agreement that I am sensitive to codeine. Looking back to the occasions I have been ill, I think it was codeine linctus that I reacted badly to as a teenager, rather than the antibiotics. I was very ill during those eighteen months, but mum said she is sure the hospital gave me codeine.

The next time I had problems was after the head injuries I received. It was now in my notes that I was codeine sensitive. But the hospital gave me other painkillers round the clock. When I left hospital I was given a vast quantity of paracetamol. I took eight tablets a day, two tablets every 4-6 hours as the instructions said to. I did not take more than the recommended dose. But overtime I became more and more lethargic, lost my appetite and started to find I was sick even when I drank water.

I had also had a few other incidents. I kept on having black-outs and fainting. I fell down the stairs three times at my sister’s home. I collapsed a couple of times in the shower. I fell and banged my head several times. I was in and out of hospital when I lost consciousness and had breathing difficulties and intense head pain. But the lethargy and nausea were just put down to problems with my head injuries. It was a very worrying time for my family. All the focus from the hospital staff was on the effects of my head injuries understandably.

doctor.jpgAnyway, because the nausea and sickness and lethargy were increasing and I could barely move from my bed, Mandy said she would take me to A&E. I felt a little better for being outside the house for the first time in a week. We waited around the hospital for hours waiting to be seen, during which time I had some bloods taken for testing. One A&E doctor said something really stupid to me. He said that maybe my symptoms were all psychological. He referred to the trauma I had been through. He seemed to think that with mental willpower I could get better. He recommended joining a gym and doing more of what I enjoyed. He insisted I eat a sandwich in front of him. He stood over me looking victorious and telling me if I wanted to eat, I could eat. He also wanted me to have some counselling. (For the first few weeks after I was attacked I had counsellors come to my sister’s home, but I asked them to stop coming because most of them were eeeed-yats, I might one day share my experience of how unhelpful some of them were.) Anyway, he sent me home feeling very discouraged. My sister obviously thought he was right because she lectured me all the way home about being more positive and joining a gym etc.

distraughtI went to bed feeling completely dejected. I felt so ill and now I was being told it was all in my head. Anyway, my mobile phone started to ring. It was the hospital. They told me to go back into hospital immediately and not to drink any alcohol. I wasn’t even able to drink water, I had not touched alcohol in months. That night in the hospital the sandwich he had made me eat was desperate to leave my body in any way it could! It turned out that hours after I left hospital that day, the blood test results came back. They showed amongst other things my LFTs (liver function tests) were extremely high, I was very ill. Almost 2000! I was in hospital for some time. The verdict is I can’t handle a normal adult dose of paracetamol. The doctors told me never to take more than half of the recommended daily dose.

illWell, since that time, I have preferred to only have NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. They seem best for my body. Almost four years after my head injuries, and every morning I still wake up with terrific head pain. It am much better when I am vertical than when I am horizontal! But for some time I have found that I can take either one or two ibuprofen and once they have kicked in, I very rarely need to take painkillers again during the day. I avoid napping during the daytime because I wake up in pain. Being horizontal is definitely an issue. Almost all of my hospital appointments have been about my head and some of the damage to my heart. But I have sometimes mentioned to my consultant that I wondered if there was anything else wrong with my kidneys or liver, because I have never been able to drink more than a glass of wine without becoming severely fatigued and nauseous. The horrible effect that codeine and paracetamol have had on me – it makes me wonder why my body does not seem to able to deal with either alcohol, codeine or paracetamol like normal adults.

It turns out that jasmine is the least of my worries!!!

24 thoughts on “It Turns Out That Jasmine Is The Least Of My Worries”

    1. It’s quite a saga isn’t it. But it has helped me realize what I need to avoid. When I worked in pharmacy I had to ask people if they were codeine sensitive. Some of them used to take offence and presume I was refusing to supply because I was suspicious of them (which is always a reaction that raises your alarm bells). I knew what being codeine sensitive means.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. That’s scary. You want to trust doctors, but they move patients in and out so quickly sometimes you wonder if they’re reading your notes. I too was marked as allergic to penicillin for years, and then I had a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away for 6 months. A new doc asked why does it say you’re allergic? I said well because my mother said I was. He said hmm let’s just try it because it’s ideal for this. Well, it knocked out the infection immediately. I had really been suffering! No idea why some doc had told my mother I was allergic and then I had dutifully been passing along this incorrect info.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must admit, there have been times when I have felt just like a number. Some great doctors and nurses and some awful ones! The one doctor I was furious with…after I was attacked and left hospital, I was sleeping a lot. Around 20 hours every day. I guess partly physical reasons and partly emotional ones. A few weeks after I left hospital I contacted the services who were supplying counsellors and told them to stop coming (after several eeeeed-yats said stooooooooooopid things to me) and I was told to have a check-up with a doctor. She was not my regular doctor. She told me that the counsellors wanted me to take medication. I said I did not need any medication. I told her the only thing I was finding difficult was being tired all of the time and that I was sleeping for so long each day, the few hours I was awake I was showering, eating and having a walk and then I needed to go home and rest again. I wanted to be able to help out cleaning my sisters house etc but I was so exhausted I could only do one room at a time and very slowly because I seemed to have so little strength. I may as well have been talking to a wall! She gave me a prescription for zopiclone. I was so angry.

      The neurology staff have been wonderful though. Wonderful wonderful wonderful. I could not have asked for more.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. So do you know if you are sensitive to Penicillin?? It might be quite important sometime?

    As for why? All of us are somewhat different to everyone else in varying degrees – no-one has an identical genetic make-up to you.

    It may be that your liver metabolises some chemicals slightly differently to anyone else or that your kidneys do not react as fast in some ways, or your stomach and intestines may extract certain chemicals more readily from the various things we eat or swallow. The overriding factor however is your brain. How your brain functions in determining your blood pressure, hormone levels, sense of balance, breathing, heartrate, etc, etc. It is the body’s chief regulator making sure that things remain as far as possible within the delicate balance ranges that let us all function ‘normally’ (or normally for us!)

    Some ‘external factors’ affect the brain’s function, and therefore bodily health (oxygen from the air we breathe, water we drink, foods we eat, medicines we take.) but the brain is also able to alter/maintain regular function partially through will power. Through deliberate and concentrated intent.

    Most people do this unconsciously – they run on Automatic pilot and may just let ‘whatever happens, happen’. Some make the conscious choice to have some ‘say’ over how their mind and body co-operate.
    We can have far more say in how our bodies function than has been realised by most of the world’s population. Western doctors included.

    In a little research i just did i found the interesting fact that no-one currently understands exactly how paracetamol actually works to decrease pain in the human body!!
    It works, so it is prescribed for some patients.??

    Also, that the liver breaks down codeine into Morphine in our bodies!

    I won’t invite you to smell my Jasmine plant – OK? 🙂


    1. I have worked in pharmacy for a number of years, and also within healthcare caring for patients with terminal illness. No I do not believe I have any problems with penicillin.

      I have enough Doctors and nurses in my family and many friends who are medics to have heard all sorts of ideas about why I have had these reactions. The one thing everyone is adamant about is that I am codeine sensitive. But I need to be cautious about alcohol and paracetamol.

      Every body is different and what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why I never ever wanted to be a doctor myself. I preferred working in finance where things are more straightforward. But when I realized how many dishonest people I was working with, I jumped ship.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well it was not all due to the reactions I was having. The illness I had in my mid-twenties was probably because of years of pushing myself to the limit and not looking after myself properly. When I became ill and had surgery, the recurrent infections revealed how run-down I was, my immune system was hopeless. It took time to build my strength up. But I think during times of illness/surgery I have had, the codeine I was supplied with was causing some of my symptoms and it took years to discover that.

      I am still not sure why my body has struggled with normal amounts of alcohol and paracetamol. But it has made me very wary. Thank goodness for NSAIDs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are many people allergic to coding or its stronger derivative, morphine. I am too. And paracetamol allergy is quite common too. The people at the hospital should have checked for it when the first symptoms appeared.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Because there was so much else going on, I think it was overlooked. NHS is a wonderful service…but perhaps they are better at treating the obvious than they are at looking for problems/causes. My friends from other lands say the NHS is not great diagnostically. However, I think they are marvellous considering the amount of services people receive completely free – and they are stretched, always stretched.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I too have been counselling.

      The eeeeeed-yats were the individuals who came to my sister’s home and behaved unprofessionally.

      One man came very late. He was wreaking of tabacco. My sister had cream carpets. Everyone else knew to remove their shoes, he walked right in with his boots on leaving mud all over the carpet. The first thing he said to me is “on a scale of 1-10 how much do you want to kill yourself right now?” I asked him what on earth he meant. He told me to just give him a number. When I objected, he started to challenge my reluctance to answer the question. I said “zero”. He said that was the most important part of his job done.

      He then asked me for a cup of tea (I would have offered anyway) and then huffed and puffed about what a terrible morning he had had, and how because he was running late, he had not time to read my notes before he arrived, so I might need to fill in the gaps. One thing my notes said was FEMALE ONLY counsellors.

      He sat down and told me all about his wife’s breakdown and how she tried to take her life several times and was sectioned several times. They are long since divorced.

      I sat there seething with rage. After listening to him talk on and on for some time, I stood up and asked him to leave. When he asked why, I explained to him that I was the victim of a serious attack by a man. I was disgusted that he had not read my notes. I said to him how dare he, clearly a smoker, slowly killing himself, knock on my door and ask me how much I wanted to kill myself.

      He was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Several of the others who had come had already left me with serious concerns about their abilities and professionalism. He just made the whole situation seem completely farcical.


        1. Not all the counsellors were bad. There was a lovely woman who came and she was just the type of person that was good to be around. She was positive and energetic but extremely empathetic. What I did found helpful is that she and a couple of the others who came were in unanimous agreement that I seemed to be far more effected by the bullying than I was by the night I was attacked. And that was very helpful to me.

          But there were several counsellors who seemed to want to make goals for me (not my goals, their goals – they wanted me to get married, have children, give up hope of returning to my career and go to university and train for a new career???) and some of the cliches they used were really provoking me. I could not understand why some of them were being so opinionated and clearly saying how they would feel, what they would do. It was becoming more and more stressful to me to have strangers who knew nothing about me and my life come in to my sister’s home and make comments that were upsetting me. I was massively relieved when they did not come.

          But the lessons I learn from what is not helpful made me think very carefully when I am acting as a counsellor with others.

          Liked by 1 person

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