Long-Term Immunologic Sequelae Secondary to Tea Tree Oil Allergic Contact Dermatitis

A long time ago, somebody (I forget who, but I think it was a family that is very close to my own family; they were classmates of my parents in medical school) gave me a small sampler set of four or five men’s cologne. I enjoyed using them once in a while, and noticed that within this small collection there were definite differences. One seemed to be floral; another seemed to be based on spices; and another seemed to be more musky, more animal. The colognes were not labeled, but I did Google searches and was able to identify most of them online (I have since forgotten what each of them were!).

Then one day (probably 2001 or 2002) I noticed a patch of dry skin, and self-diagnosed myself with ringworm, which I had when I was a child, and which is very easily treated with antifungal ointments. Instead of using conventional medicine, for some reason I thought I’d try “alternative medicine” and treat it with topical tea tree oil. The patch of dry skin seemed to redden, and I thought that maybe the ringworm was getting worse. So I kept applying the tea tree oil. The reddened skin got even redder. I kept applying the tea tree oil. The very red skin started to blister and ooze. Finally, I figured out what was going on. The ringworm wasn’t getting worse. It was the tea tree oil itself that was causing the skin reaction. I immediately stopped applying the tea tree oil, and my skin cleared up completely. And the ringworm was gone.

But the tea tree oil was not through with me. I discovered that ever since then, I am allergic to my colognes; the tea tree oil had induced some sort cross-sensitivity to complex aromatic (the word evokes carbon rings, with alternating double bonds) organic compounds. And I found that I could no longer use the brand of antiperspirant that I had been using; now I use a hypoallergenic one. Years later, I looked up tea tree oil on PubMed (the national database of peer-reviewed biomedical research literature, and discovered a case report that described my case almost exactly. This case report included graphic photos that looked very much like the skin reaction I experienced. Interestingly, the patient in the case report was Chinese, and I am part Chinese; I wonder whether certain ethnic groups are especially sensitive to tea tree oil.

And years later, every once in a while, I’ll try my old brand of antiperspirant. I am still allergic to it. The immune system can remember for a long time; it has memory cells.

One more tangential link in this Thought Chain: memory cells makes me think of the song Memory, the most famous number from the musical Cats.

Optimal and Non-Optimal Running Speed

“… each individual has an optimal pace at which he or she can cover the greatest distance with the least effort.”

Also from the article:

The most efficient running speed determined in the study varied between individuals but averaged about 8.3 miles per hour for males and 6.5 miles per hour for females….

Interestingly, the slowest speeds — around 4.5 miles per hour, or about a 13-minute mile — were the least metabolically efficient … both a very fast walk and a very slow run can feel physically awkward.

The obvious conclusion is that a long-distance runner should try to find her own best pace for optimal performance.

A less obvious conclusion might be that if you want to lose weight and burn off lots of calories, go at an “awkward” pace that’s between walking and running (“4.5 miles per hour, or about a 13-minute mile”), because it’s metabolically INefficient! (Not that I’m recommending it — one might get injured.)

Published in: on 3 April 2009 at 8:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dr. Lesko, Cancer Researcher

For J.B.

I think you were referring to this Samuel Lesko. Note the association with “Northeast Regional Cancer” in Scranton.

And I think this is the Dr. Bill Heim you had mentioned.

The cancer cluster you mentioned may have been this one; it is said to be in a twenty-mile stretch between Hazleton and Tamaqua.

Published in: on 28 December 2008 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Record-Breaking Uterus

Largest uterus ever removed laparoscopically.

The picture reminds me of Ambassador Kosh from Babylon 5.

And of a Puppeteer, from Niven’s Known Space.

Lyme Disease

Brief notes for M.V.
Causative agent is Borrelia burgdorferi, which is of a curious type of bacteria called a “spirochete” (the “spiro” in the name suggests the corkscrew shape of the microbe). Transmitted by the bite of the deer tick Ixodes (yuck). The classic diagnostic sign is a bulls-eye shaped rash that appears about a week after infection, and that gradually grows. Treatment can be with tetracycline-type antibiotics, e.g. doxycycline, among others. Left untreated, long-term sequelae could potentially include arthritis and problems with the nervous system (specifically, central nervous system, and more specifically, the brain — yikes).

Addendum (12/11/08): I was thinking today that the names involved are curious. The first syllable of Ixodes is “ix”, which evokes “ick”. It reminds me of this dreaded fish disease. It also rhymes with “ticks.”

On the other hand, Borrelia burgdorferi is a pretty name. “Borrelia” sounds like the name of a beautiful woman with long golden tresses, wearing a diadem. And “burgdorferi” sounds to me like a delicious dish from central Europe — pieces of meat and potato in a rich cream sauce.

Published in: on 11 December 2008 at 2:36 am  Comments (2)  
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