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An Itchy Situation

By Matt Cavallo

If you take anything away from this article, I hope it encourages you to be honest with your caregivers, even if it is embarrassing or inconvenient. Now that we know the takeaway, let me share with you my experience and the hard lesson that I had to learn.

I receive an infusion treatment for multiple sclerosis once every six months. Initially, these infusions were taking six to seven hours. At this appointment, I learned there was a change to the protocol, and they could now reduce the infusion time down to four hours. When I heard the news, I thought I hit the lottery. I was about to get almost half of my day back to do other things that I needed to do.  

I was asked if I needed the IV Benadryl and I said no because I wanted to stay awake and get some work done. Plus, I had never had a reaction to this medication before. My nurse explained, as he was starting the drip, that I needed to let him know if I became itchy. I wasn’t worried about it because it was never an issue in the past.

When the medication started to seep into my veins, I started to get an itchy sensation in my arm pits and private area almost immediately. It was tolerable at first, so I thought nothing of it. I wasn’t going to call attention to this because I was saving two to three hours with this new protocol, and I didn’t want him to stop or slow down the IV drip. 

As time ticked by, the itch became intolerable. I was unable concentrate on my work because all I could focus on was this itching sensation. It was so bad I also started to feel a burning sensation. Still, I didn’t want to call attention to this. I was on the fast track, and I didn’t want to derail the train. So instead, I asked my nurse if I could go to the bathroom. 

When I got into the bathroom, I checked myself out in the mirror. I could see through the short sleeves of my t-shirt that my armpits were red and covered with mosquito bite-sized hives. I checked below the belt and the same true. Now, I was in a pickle. If I am honest with my nurse, it will surely slow down the infusion process and I will lose the time that I was planning on gaining. However, if I am not honest with my nurse, I could be in a lot more trouble if this allergic reaction becomes more severe.

I left the bathroom and went back to my infusion chair. I knew the right thing to do was to be honest. Even though it was embarrassing and inconvenient, I told my nurse the truth. He examined the hives and asked if I was feeling any allergic reaction in my throat. Luckily, I was not. He said if I was, then I would need to go to the emergency room. 

Instead, he gave me the IV Benadryl. That knocked me out and when I awoke, the infusion was over and the itching was gone. I didn’t make my world record time, but it wasn’t the full six or seven hours that it had been in the past. I was lethargic from the Benadryl, so all my big, productive plans were put on hold. 

Had I been honest, we could have got to the IV Benadryl much sooner and I could have saved myself a bad allergic reaction. I did learn a valuable lesson that day. Always listen to your body and be honest with your care team, even if it is embarrassing or inconvenient.