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1195 Types of Allergies

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,195 – Types of Allergies.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,195. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to ESLPod.com and download a Learning Guide for this episode. The Learning Guide contains a complete transcript of everything we say.

This episode is a dialogue about types of allergies – a medical condition that you don’t want to have. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Bert: Doctor, give it to me straight. Is my medical condition serious?

Doctor: I suspect that your rashes and other symptoms are the result of allergies.

Bert: Allergies?! I thought I had some kind of serious disease.

Doctor: Allergies can be serious. I’m going to give you tests to see what you’re allergic to.

Bert: You mean I might have allergies to more than one thing?

Doctor: There are many kinds of allergies. Some people have food allergies and have adverse reactions when they ingest or even come near some types of food.

Bert: That sounds terrible. I hope I don’t have food allergies. I would have to restrict my diet.

Doctor: Other people have seasonal allergies to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds.

Bert: That would mean I couldn’t do some types of outdoor activities.

Doctor: Many people are allergic to pets, most commonly cat or dog dander.

Bert: Oh no, I’d have to get rid of my three cats or dog!

Doctor: You might also be allergic to dust mites, insect bites, or even mold spores in your home.

Bert: You mean I might have to move out of my house?

Doctor: If mold is detected in your home, you might need to move out temporarily while the mold is removed.

Bert: Are you sure I don’t have some kind of disease? I think I’d prefer that to allergies!

[end of dialogue]

Bert begins by saying to his doctor, “Doctor, give it to me straight.” The expression “Give it to me straight” (straight) means tell me directly without trying to make something sound better than it is, without hesitating. Usually we use this expression when you think the person is going to tell you something bad or is going to give you bad news, especially bad news about you – in this case, about your health.

So when Bert says, “Give it to me straight,” he means tell me whatever the bad news is right away. Don’t try to make me feel good about it or change it in some way to make it seem less serious than it really is. He then asks, “Is my medical condition serious?” Your “medical condition” is something that is causing you to be in poor health, something that is making you sick or ill. The doctor says, “I suspect that your rashes and other symptoms are the result of allergies.”

A “rash” (rash) is a red, bumpy area on your skin that is often itchy – one that causes you to want to take your fingers and move your fingers over that area of your skin. We would use the verb “to scratch” (scratch). “To scratch your skin” is to take your fingers, the end of your fingers – your “fingernails,” specifically – and move them back and forth over an area of your skin.

Bert has rashes on his skin. The doctor thinks these are a result of “allergies” (allergies). An “allergy” is a condition that causes you to react badly when you are in the presence of some substance. For example, if you have an allergy to, say, “dust” – small little pieces of dirt – you might sneeze or your eyes might begin to water. If you have an allergy to a certain kind of food, you may have difficulty breathing after you eat that food, or you might get rashes on your skin.

People have allergies to all sorts of substances. Some people have allergies to peanuts or other kinds of food. Some people have allergies to cats and dogs and other animals. The adjective that comes from allergy is “allergic” (allergic). Someone may say, “I am allergic to cats” – that means that person has an allergy to cats – or “I am allergic to my mother-in-law.” Whenever my mother-in-law is here, I start to feel sick.

Bert says, “Allergies?! I thought I had some kind of serious disease.” A “disease” (disease) is an illness – something that makes you sick. Clearly, Bert doesn’t think that having an allergy to something is very serious. But the doctor says, “Allergies can be serious. I’m going to give you tests to see what you’re allergic to.” Notice again that expression, “allergic to.”

Bert says, “You mean I might have allergies to more than one thing?” The doctor says, “There are many kinds of allergies. Some people have food allergies and have adverse reactions when they ingest or even come near some types of food.” A “food allergy” is obviously an allergy that causes you to have a bad reaction – an “adverse reaction” – to certain kinds of food. “Adverse” (adverse) means the same here as bad or harmful.

When some people eat shrimp or other kinds of shellfish, they may have difficulty breathing or they may get rashes on their skin. I have an allergy to seafood, to shrimp in particular, and if I eat shrimp, I get red patches on my skin – rashes. The verb “to ingest” (ingest) means to eat or drink something.

Bert says, “That sounds terrible. I hope I don’t have food allergies. I would have to restrict my diet.” “To restrict (restrict) your diet (diet)” means to avoid certain kinds of food or to limit how much food you eat, especially in response to some sort of medical condition. If you are gaining too much weight and that is causing physical or health problems, you may have to restrict your diet – avoid, say, bread and pasta and candies and cookies, or change how much you eat at every meal.

The doctor says, “Other people have seasonal allergies to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds.” “Seasonal” (seasonal) refers to the four seasons of the year – winter, spring, summer, and fall. “Seasonal allergies” are allergies that bother you only during certain times of the year. These are often related to “pollen” (pollen). Pollen is a small substance – a “powder,” we would call it – that is produced within the flower of a plant.

Pollen is part of a plant’s reproductive cycle. It’s how the plant spreads, how you get new plants from that same plant. Well, pollen, when you breathe it in, can cause problems for some people if you have an allergy to that pollen. Pollen can come from trees. It can come from “grasses” – things that grow out of the ground that are tall and thin, or it can come from “weeds” (weeds).

The word “weed” refers to a plant that you don’t want. It isn’t so much a scientific classification as it is one that we use to refer to certain kinds of plants that we don’t want versus the ones that we do. Weeds are almost always what we would call “wild (wild) plants.” They’re not plants that you put there. They are plants that are just in the area where you live and happen to grow up on your property or where you have other plants growing. We refer to these in the plural as “weeds.” One of them would be “a weed.”

Don’t confuse this with another kind of plant, which is “weed” without the article, definite or indefinite, in front of it. If you talk about “weed” without saying “a weed” or “the weeds” or “weeds,” plural, you’re referring to “marijuana.” It’s an informal term for marijuana. Someone says, “You want to smoke some weed?” That person is asking you if you want to smoke some marijuana. And if it’s not legal to, you should probably say no. But “weeds,” plural, or “a weed” or “the weed” refers to a wild plant.

Bert says, “That would mean I couldn’t do some types of outdoor activities” – that is, if you were allergic to certain kinds of pollen. The doctor says, “Many people are allergic to pets, most commonly cat or dog dander.” “Dander” (dander) are small pieces of skin that come off of the skin of a cat or dog. Bert says, “Oh no, I’d have to get rid of my three cats or dog!” Bert apparently has three cats and a dog. If he’s allergic to cats or dogs, he may have to get rid of the cats or dogs. Let’s hope it’s the cats.

The doctor says, “You might also be allergic to dust mites, insect bites, or even mold spores in your home.” The doctor lists three other things that people are commonly allergic to. The first is “dust (dust) mites (mites).” “Dust” is small pieces of dirt. A “mite” (mite) is a small little bug that can live in your house, and some people are allergic to those bugs. An “insect” (insect) is a small bug that often has wings on it. An “insect bite” (bite) is when that insect lands on your skin and tries to get into your skin. It bites your skin.

“Mold” (mold) here refers to a kind of fungus. Mold can grow on cheese, for example. Mold can grow on the outside of a tree. Mold usually requires a warm, wet area. A “mold spore” (spore) is similar to pollen from a tree. It’s the part of a mold organism that can be used to spread to other areas and produce more mold. Again, some people have an allergy to mold or mold spores, and that can cause a problem. Bert says, “You mean I might have to move out of my house?” Mold is sometimes found in people’s houses, especially in warm, damp areas such as a bathroom.

The doctor says, “If mold is detected in your home, you might need to move out temporarily while the mold is removed.” “Detected” (detected) comes from the verb “to detect” (detect), which means “to find.” So, if mold is “detected” in your home, mold has been found in your home. It’s present in your house. You need to remove the mold, and that sometimes requires you to leave your house “temporarily,” for a short time, while they come in and get rid of the mold.

Bert says, “Are you sure I don’t have some other kind of disease? I think I’d prefer that to allergies!” Bert is saying that he would prefer to have another kind of disease other than allergies.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Bert: Doctor, give it to me straight. Is my medical condition serious?

Doctor: I suspect that your rashes and other symptoms are the result of allergies.

Bert: Allergies?! I thought I had some kind of serious disease.

Doctor: Allergies can be serious. I’m going to give you tests to see what you’re allergic to.

Bert: You mean I might have allergies to more than one thing?

Doctor: There are many kinds of allergies. Some people have food allergies and have adverse reactions when they ingest or even come near some types of food.

Bert: That sounds terrible. I hope I don’t have food allergies. I would have to restrict my diet.

Doctor: Other people have seasonal allergies to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds.

Bert: That would mean I couldn’t do some types of outdoor activities.

Doctor: Many people are allergic to pets, most commonly cat or dog dander.

Bert: Oh no, I’d have to get rid of my three cats or dog!

Doctor: You might also be allergic to dust mites, insect bites, or even mold spores in your home.

Bert: You mean I might have to move out of my house?

Doctor: If mold is detected in your home, you might need to move out temporarily while the mold is removed.

Bert: Are you sure I don’t have some kind of disease? I think I’d prefer that to allergies!

[end of dialogue]

There’s no need to restrict your diet of English. You should get as much as you can of our wonderful dialogues from our wonderful dialogue writer, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2016 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to give it to (someone) straight – to tell something to someone directly, without softening it and without any hesitation

* Give it to me straight. What happened to my new car?

medical condition – something that causes poor health; the cause of an injury or illness

* The doctor said that Sheila’s medical condition is treatable, but she might not feel better for a few months.

rash – a red, scratchy, and/or bumpy area on the skin, usually caused by exposure to an irritant (something that causes redness, swelling, and/or discomfort)

* Ever since we started using that new brand of laundry detergent, I’ve had a rash on both of my arms.

allergy – a condition that causes a person to react badly when exposed to a particular substance that is normally harmless, often resulting in red eyes, sneezing, itchy skin, or difficulty breathing

* Mitchell has a severe allergy to shellfish. If he eats any, his airway closes and he has to go the hospital right away.

disease – an illness or disorder; something that makes someone sick

* People are still arguing about whether alcoholism is a disease or a choice.

food allergy – a condition that causes a person to react badly when exposed to a particular substance in a food or drink that is normally harmless

* Peanuts are such a common food allergy that many schools have banned peanut butter and other peanut-containing foods in the cafeteria.

adverse – harmful; creating problems or damage

* The expansion was beneficial, but there were a few adverse consequences, such as increased staffing costs.

reaction – how one’s body responds to something

* The psychology students have to write a report about people’s physical reactions to extreme sadness.

to ingest – to consume; to eat or drink something

* If you suspect that your child has ingested poison, call an ambulance immediately.

to restrict (one’s) diet – to monitor, control, and limit what one eats, especially to improve a medical condition or to lose weight

* Harold wants to lose weight, so he’s restricting his diet, avoiding almost all white flour and white sugar.

seasonal – occurring at certain times of year; in summer, fall, winter, or spring

* Toy industry earnings are seasonal, with more than half of all sales occurring in the month before Christmas.

pollen – a yellow powder produced within the flower of a plant, used for reproduction

* When a bee visits a flower, its legs get covered in pollen, which it transports to the next flower that it visits.

weed – an unwanted plant that grows quickly and easily even though no one has planted or watered it

* We spend about an hour each week pulling weeds from the flower beds.

dander – small flakes (pieces) of skin that come off by themselves or with scratching, especially referring to dogs and cats

* Julia sat on a couch with a lot of cat dander and she began to sneeze.

dust mite – a microscopic (very small; seen only with a tool) bugs that live in homes, especially in kitchens and bedrooms, where they eat very small pieces of human skin and live among dust particles

* People who are allergic to dust mites have to clean their rooms frequently and wash their sheets in very hot water.

insect – bug; a very small animal with six legs, an exoskeleton (a hard exterior), and often wings

* Ladybugs and dragonflies are some of the most beautiful insects.

bite – the irritated mark left when an animal closes its mouth around one’s skin, usually to eat it or to drink blood

* Stop scratching that spider bite, or it will just keep getting bigger and redder.

mold spore – the reproductive part of a very small organism that grows in damp areas, usually as a large green or black patch on a wall or a piece of old food

* Look at the mold spores growing on this old piece of bread!

detected – found, seen, or observed

* The scanners detected high levels of radioactivity.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Bert tell the doctor to “give it to me straight”?
a) Because he wants the doctor to speak slowly and clearly.
b) Because he wants the doctor to tell the full truth very directly.
c) Because he wants the doctor to make him laugh.

2. What is cat or dog dander?
a) The fur or hair on the animal.
b) The noises that the animal makes.
c) Small pieces of the animal’s skin.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
rash

The word “rash,” in this podcast, means a red, scratchy, and/or bumpy area on the skin, usually caused by exposure to an irritant: “I picked some leaves in the forest, and now I have a rash all over my hands and arms.” “Diaper rash” is the rash that appears on a baby’s bottom when it is not kept dry: “Parents can prevent diaper rash by changing their baby’s diaper more frequently.” The phrase “to break out in a rash” means to get a rash: “Kylie breaks out in a rash whenever she eats tomatoes.” Finally, the word “rash” can be used to describe doing something too quickly, without care and without thinking about it ahead of time: “Let’s ask questions and get a little more information. We don’t want to make a rash decision.”

bite

In this podcast, the word “bite” means the irritated mark left when an animal closes its mouth around one’s skin, usually to eat it or to drink blood: “I’m lucky that dog bite didn’t break through the skin, because I could have gotten an infection.” The phrase “to bite the dust” means to fail or die: “The first eight contestants all bit the dust in the first round.” The phrase “to bite off more than (one) can chew” means to try to do too much, more than one can successfully do: “I thought I could go to school and work full-time, but clearly I bit off more than I could chew.” Finally, the phrase “to bite the hand that feeds (one)” means to hurt someone who has been helpful or supportive: “After everything she has done for you, why would you turn around and bite the hand that feeds you?”

Culture Note
Avoiding Allergens

“Allergy sufferers” (people who have allergies) have many tools and strategies to help them avoid “allergens” (the things that people are allergic too). People who are “sensitive to” (easily affected by) “airborne” (carried in the air) allergens pay attention to “allergy forecasts,” which are special maps that show when and where allergy “concentrations” (the amount of something) will be highest. They can plan to stay inside or wear a “mask” (something that covers part or all of one’s face) on those days to avoid “coming down with” (getting sick with) the “symptoms” (how one’s body reacts to something) of their allergy.

People with “food allergies” must be careful about what they ingest. They always “read the labels” (read the nutrition information printed on food packaging) to determine whether a food or drink contains allergens. They might follow special diets, such as “gluten-free diets” (food that does not have gluten, as substance found in wheat and many other grains) or “dairy-free” (without milk or milk products) diets. When they go to restaurants, they might explain their allergy to the waiter and ask whether the “menu items” (foods sold at a restaurant) contain allergens.

When people have more severe food allergies, they might need to change the environment they are in. Many American children have severe allergies to peanuts, so in response many schools have “banned” (not allowed) peanuts and related foods “on school grounds” (in school buildings and the land surrounding them).

Unfortunately, even the best strategies cannot always prevent exposure to allergens, so many allergy sufferers (or their parents) carry an EpiPen or a similar device that allows them to “inject” (put inside the body through a needle) medicine that can “relieve” (lessen) the most severe symptoms.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c