Drawing as a Diagnostic Tool

April 18, 2016


Above: Sketches made while watching a movie—using one of those Cretacolor pencils that has multiple colors in the tip. This is the BEFORE image, the sketch made while I was stable on a group of allergy medications that had worked well for me for some time.

This past month has been “interesting.” March was also the month my allergist and I decided to change my allergy meds to see if I could move to lower dosages of different medications. (I got by on lower dosages with shots, but now, a few years out from shots I feel I’m taking too much medication.)

I’m very sensitive to medications. Because of that I’d rather not take them. But I make an exception with allergy meds because I really enjoy breathing.

Today, just for grins, I’m showing two images. The first image shows sketches made while on the old medicine regimen and the second image is a sketch made on a new medication I only lasted 4 days on.

I think you can see the difference without explanations from me. And even if all the other things on the list in the second image didn’t happen, if I just had this line disintegration reaction, it would be enough to tell me to stop the new medication. (Note: I'm a non-napper, so falling asleep during the day, usually when I was trying to do something else, is huge!)

Now a new wrinkle—I’ve been having severe (torso, arms, groin, neck) hives breaking out after eating some foods (including CHOCOLATE). This has all happened this weekend and I was able to avoid the emergency room with quick action and heavy dosage of Benadryl. We’ll see what the doctor says this week. One of my friends suggested that it might be stress related—because none of us can believe anyone is allergic to chocolate! Really, who has ever heard of that? Right?

In the meantime I thought you would enjoy seeing how drawing can be used for diagnostics!

Below: Here's a sketch I made after being on the new allergy meds for a few days, and just before I decided to go off them. Don't worry, I wasn't driving while I was on this new regimen. I also made this while watching TV to compare “apples with apples.” (Hint, compare line quality—steadiness, pressure, variation, decisiveness, and finally obvious loopiness of the second version.)


  1. Reply

    WOW… scary stuff… hope you and the Dr get it sorted out and you are able to breath and draw.

    • Christine K
    • April 18, 2016

    What about that new ductless air conditioning unit? Is it blowing something nasty around? Although hives does sound like food……nah…can’t be chocolate!

  2. Reply

    Christine, it’s not the a.c. we weren’t using it when the first incident occurred, and it’s really not subtle that it’s food related. We’ll see.

  3. Reply

    I think I’m past the 1/2 life of the meds I discontinued (one had a long 1/2 life that surprised me, something like 48 or 72 hours?????). But this is a very interesting thought.

  4. Reply

    Thanks Elaine, fingers crossed here. I’d just like to be able to eat without making an emergency evac plan!

    • Susan S.
    • April 18, 2016

    So sorry that you’re having all these problems. Sending you healing thoughts from here. Take care of yourself.

    • Julana
    • April 18, 2016

    Roz, I really hope chocolate is not the trigger. (I recommend Sirius from Iceland, found at Whole Foods.)

  5. Reply

    Funny (not your allergies)… while I always love your sketches, there is something in the searching contour line in the second pic that is very appealing to me.

    • Pat
    • April 18, 2016

    Wow! I have not been following blogs or FB much. I must have been meant to read this. My last nursing job was in an allergy office. I also volunteered at a Navy base as Red Cross Nurse in the same specialty and have had a personal experience with allergic reactions. Sometimes they can figure it out and sometimes they can’t. However, depending on when you stopped the new med there is also the possibility of a delayed allergic reaction too.

    As for the chocolate, keep in mind all the required disclosures about peanut contamination because the factory it was packaged by might use the same machines for the chocolate.

    Please make sure you have a current Epipen. Not sure if you can take this or not, but our allergy office used liquid Zyrtec (in the amount equivalent to 10mg) if we suspected an allergic reaction. You can now get the OTC (for children.) It enters the bloodstream faster than a pill and is therefore faster than Benadryl generally without the drowsiness. If necessary we would then direct Benadryl for home use and sometimes give it too along with of course Epinephrine.

    I so hope they figure out the appropriate thing for you to be on. Good Luck!


    • Miss T
    • April 19, 2016

    Roz, I’m really sorry to hear this! Particularly if the problem is chocolate. Eek!

  6. Reply

    Thanks for writing in Pat, this is all useful. I’m concerned that the reaction I had was due to chocolate ice cream made in a facility with lots of nuts etc. We’ll see.

  7. Reply

    Fingers crossed Miss T!

    • Leslie Schramm
    • April 30, 2016

    Big Hairy Chemist here. A lot of chocolate companies are using Lutein now as an antioxidant to extend shelf life (and as a source of a red-brown colour to hide the grey of Dutch Alkalized Cocoa which is cheap), as it’s less acidic than olde fashionede Vit C or adding a lot of emulsifier . It’s spun from plants, but is also extracted from egg; if you have an egg allergy the Lutein might be a problem.

  8. Reply

    Leslie, Great to hear from you. And thank you so much for this information. I don’t have an egg allergy so that’s a good thing. And I take Lutein as a supplement (eye health stuff). But I didn’t know that chocolate companies were doing this and it explains the change in taste (Dutch Alkalized Cocoa) I’ve been experiencing.

    The good news is that everything we tested I’m OK on. so we aren’t sure what was doing it.

    Have you ever heard of oranges causing enhanced reactions to things?

    We’re stymied.

    But I’m still going out for Latkes later today!!!!!

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