Adventures with Niacin

Finally! This is the tale you’ve all been waiting for since last Wednesday!

The office I work in is hermetically sealed. I have three coworkers, give or take, who like to smoke out back. As time has passed, I’ve started having stronger reactions to something in the office—first clearing my throat more and more frequently, and now feeling as if my throat was constricting, which makes breathing a slight bit more difficult. As best I can figure (and as I’m sure my foreshadowing—forebludgeoning—indicated to you), it’s the cigarette smoke getting to me. It’s either that, or paper dust…though I’ve worked around paper dust for a whole lot longer than there have been smokers around, and have never had a problem until now.

Last Tuesday my throat constricted, so I popped some Benadryl to see if my symptoms were indeed the result of an allergic reaction to something. This was quite the daring move on my part, as Benadryl generally knocks me cold for its duration—and it’s not like my job features people with guns shooting at me. Things seemed to improve a bit, save for my impressively drooping head.

On Wednesday, Dad decided that I should try taking some niacin. Apparently niacin triggers the release of histamine (the primary agent behind allergic reactions; Benadryl is an anti-histamine), and—in theory—if I’ve already used my supply of histamine, I won’t have any left to give me grief when I come into contact with allergens. Dad had me take two pills, and told me to expect a slight flush around my head and neck when it kicked in.

Dad had forgotten about the part of the theory where you build up the dosage level, though, and gave me his already-built-up dose. Beginning dosages were supposed to be about 250 mg; I popped 1000 mg.

I turned beet-red. When I say “I,” I mean all of me. My extremities (head, arms, legs) started itching like mad, in addition. [I essentially triggered a systemic allergic reaction…not so cool.] I also got a powerful stomachache (dunno if that was related to the niacin, though), and a massive headache that pretty much kept me from opening my eyes.

Dad laughed at me, while making sure I didn’t react too much, and Marin kept calling me a wuss for not being able to handle two niacin caplets. She claimed to be able to take ’em better than I did, and even went so far as to offer to prove it, but Dad stopped her. That was good for two reasons: Marin reacts much more strongly to most things than I do, and she absolutely will not let an itch go unscratched. Having been through the experience, I can confidently say that she would have been one large scab at the end of it.

After a half-hour or so the headache and stomachache subsided, and I was able to crawl my seemingly-sunburned (and still itchy) body into work. There I started getting damn cold—the beginning stages of shock?—but somehow recovered, aided in part by the ninety degree weather we’ve been having, and made it through the rest of the day.

Needless to say, I’m staying far away from niacin and its ilk from now on. The one good thing out of all of this? I didn’t have any allergic reaction at work. Beyond the allergic reaction I was already having, that is.


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