Mike Dresser, a state government reporter in Annapolis for The Baltimore Sun, has quite a problem on his hands. He’s allergic to his job. More specifically to pine resin, which is found in newspaper ink.
A news reporter allergic to newspapers. Come on, what are the chances?
“The irony just overwhelms anything else,” he told the WSJ, which first reported the news.
Dresser sent a memo to his colleagues to ward off the impending grief he may get for having to do certain things to protect himself from the allergy.
As part of the treatment plan, he’ll don rubber gloves and light-colored clothing in creams and whites.
“The gloves were recommended as a way to continue to work around newspapers without causing the kind of symptoms I’ve been dealing with for years without any idea of why they were occurring,” he wrote in the memo.
The allergy-ridden reporter assured his colleagues that he won’t be performing any strange examinations on them.
He sees his admission as a public service for scribes who may be suffering in silence.
“In case one of you or some newspaper-handling person you know has been dealing for a long time with severe puffing and irritation around the eyes and hasn’t figured out why,” he wrote. “You or your friend should see an allergist or dermatologist and get patch-tested for pine resin allergy. Mr. Google tells me newspaper allergies more common that you might think – and not just among politicians and police spokespeople. And, yes, allergies can develop late in life.”
When reached for comment by phone, Dresser said he was in the middle of his regular job and couldn’t stop to discuss his allergy. “Let me guess what this is about,” he said, trailing off. Seeing as reporters work on deadlines, it was less than ideal to wait until after 5 p.m. to chat with him.
Despite starting the story in the first place with his memo, he said he felt the need to “shut this down” so he could return to his real job, however difficult that may be right now with the pine resin in his midst.
Other uses for pine resin: Native Americans have used it to address stomach ulcers and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be used to seal holes in boats and shoes. On a whole different front, it can be used to start fires in damp conditions, which is always helpful in a newsroom.
Dresser phoned The Mirror back after 5 p.m., saying we were colleagues and he didn’t want to blow me off entirely. So are the treatments working? “Can’t tell yet,” he said. “It’s going to take weeks or months whether this will help prevent another outbreak. I’ve kind of had one recently, but it’s gone down. The question is will it stay down.”
The reporter says he has been dealing with the allergies for about a decade. In the last few months, he had a feeling that it had to be something he came into contact with regularly. “This is not a life threatening situation,” he stressed to The Mirror. “If you see me on those mornings when my eyes puff up, it’s a dignity threatening situation. You don’t want to go into a gubernatorial interview when you’re looking grotesque.”
Dresser said he had no idea that the news would end up in the Wall Street Journal and was not seeking the limelight. “This is not about The Baltimore Sun. It’s about me,” he said. “… My 15 minutes of fame will be ending soon.”