I have been dealing with allergies for a while now. A few years really. And before we continue - let's get this straight: I. Don't. Have. Allergies. I don't. I never have until about three or four years ago. They have been annoying. Runny stuffy nose, sneezing for two months (April and May) - this is not fun. Especially when it has just become spring and the only thing I want to do is be outside. So I've sneezed and blown my nose and popped the Zyrtek (after trying Claritin and Benadryl) every morning. So far it has worked to keep things under control.
The spring allergies returned this year - milder than the year before and I thought okay - I'm getting over whatever this is. And then, this August...whammo: runny nose, eyes glued shut when I woke up in the morning, sneezing like explosions (there's no suppressing it), complete gummy brain, and no relief in sight. No relief at work in air conditioning, nor in fresh air at home. I used the Zyrtek, the Benedryl, the Japanese eucalyptus oil I love, to try to breath. Nothing helps. So I had no sleep, just misery and giant bags under my watery eyes and general fogginess of mind for the entire month.
At the beginning of August I had some weird enough things happen that I needed to see a doctor. I'd googled my symptoms and had concluded: I had a tumor on my pituitary gland. Of course I didn't - or at least - we're all pretty sure I don't. Fine by me. At any rate - I had the good sense to ask for a referral to get an allergy work up done. I put it off and put it off, suffered and suffered - I don't know why - until these last three weeks where NOTHING was helping. I finally called an made an appointment. Great! Until the receptionist informed me about "In preparation for your appointment..." I could not take any antihistamines for 5 days before the appointment. None. Zip. Nadda. Oh boy.
Figuring I might as well get a jump on the misery - I stopped taking anything a full week ahead of time. Counting on a miserable Friday in the studio editioning an exchange, I decided to treat myself. Earlier in the summer I happened upon a recipe that sounded really yummy, Mint Vinegar. (Mint chopped fine, lemon zest, a bit of sugar, and white vinegar. Let it steep 3-4 weeks.) Trepedatiously I'd sampled the product and found that it tasted just like the frozen lime pops we'd eaten as kids. Not too bad. I put two tablespoons in a glass added cold seltzer and ice. Delicious! I sipped this all morning. Around noon I realized, I felt pretty good! No sneezing, no nose blowing, no watery - itchy eyes, and a functioning brain! Zowie! Things were looking up. I had lunch, came back to the studio and within an hour - misery had set in once more. I went back upstairs and made myself another cocktail - of the same as the morning. By four in the afternoon I was feeling wonderful again. A thought occurs - does vinegar have anti-histamine properties? A quick google search shows that in fact it does! You can find all kinds of reference to using apple cider vinegar for antihistamine properties. (By Friday's appointment I had run out of the yummy tonic and was drinking straight rice vinegar. It's not so bad as you'd think.)
I decided, since google had proven me right on the crazy idea about the vinegar, to ask google if I could be allergic to sunflowers too. Probably. As it turns out sunflowers are in the top five flowers that cause the most allergies. Augh! My beautiful flowers! Five of which were on the kitchen table right next to me as I was googling, shedding their pollen. I couldn't accept it. I continued to sneeze and blow my nose every 60 seconds. Because I was not going to throw the flowers out!
To sum up, the week was pretty miserable. By Tuesday morning I'd managed to sneeze so hard so many times I'd pulled a muscle on my back by my right side. Really painful. The only position I could take so it wouldn't hurt when I sneezed was to squeeze my arms as tight as possible to my body. I sneezed so much and so loud, passers-by on the side walk outside my house would call out - "Bless you!" Additionally, the mosquito bites I sustained this week were awful! I really haven't noticed anything all summer - probably because of the antihistamines. But this past week - I scratched myself bloody in a few places. Not very sexy. Worst of all was work. Once I removed the sunflowers from the kitchen my symptoms lessened and I was much more comfortable at home. But at work - I kept sneezing, even though we vacuumed and turned the air filters up full blast.
Friday I went to see the doc. I can't tell you that the allergy testing is a fun appointment. It's not. But it is also really not as bad as I'd anticipated.
They took my blood pressure. Good. 120/80. They sounded surprised.
They gave me a breathing test. Great! - I actually improved with each test (they do three). They seemed even more surprised.
They poked my back all full of stuff and left me for 15 minutes. I fell asleep.
They came back and the doc read some numbers and then told me it looked like I was allergic to pollens, mostly trees. But it didn't look like I was allergic to indoor issues such as dust and mold. And especially not cats and dogs. (Can I just say, phew!?)
To be sure, they gave me more tests in my arms. The nurse walked in with a tray so full of needles it looked like a plastic porcupine. She said, "I'm not going to lie to you, this will hurt."
I didn't fall asleep this time. Instead the nurse and I talked about flying to Mars.
I am extremely allergic to rag weed. (currently blooming - everywhere)
I am allergic to most pollens, trees especially and grasses etc.
I am not allergic to pet dander etc., nor am I allergic to mold or dust - all of which is great news! But doesn't explain my allergies at work. This is very concerning.
To treat my pollen allergies I am supposed to do the following:
- keep my windows closed during pollen season (spring, summer, fall)
- no laundry outside
- no activity outside between 10am and 4pm
- take a shower after I've been outside during these hours
- shower before going to bed
- wash the cat after he's been outside
- take a prescription stronger-than-zyrtek medication
- use a nasal spray
- consider shot treatment (1x/week the first year, every 2 weeks the 2nd year, 1x/month the third year) which is supposed to boost my immunity to the allergens.
I got the feeling the doctor was really pushing the shots. I mean really pushing. She called in the prescriptions for me, made an appointment for me two months out and said we would discuss the shots then. I'm not doing that. Period. I've found mixed reviews about how well those work.
I went home and picked up the prescription on the way. The pharmacist told me to wait until later in the evening to take it as it would probably make me drowsy.
I'm not really sure what happened after I took it. I'm not really sure what I accomplished on Saturday morning either. Could I breath - yes. So that was nice. But I felt like i was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But I can't be sure - It's all sort of - gone. All of the things I usually do so efficiently I couldn't do. Finally I decided I needed to go for a bike ride. That only took half an hour to organize. Water, shoes, feed the cats, water the cats, run around, laundry? No - rain. Okay finally I got it together, got on my bike and was off. I was a good way away before I realized I was not wearing my helmet nor sunglasses. It had not even crossed my mind to put the helmet on. I never. never. forget my helmet. Not in this town. So - I'm not taking this medication either! I think I'll live with my vinegar and try the mild Zyrtek when I need it. This morning I took a good look around at where the rag weed might be lurking, and there was a nice bunch of it growing right under my bedroom window. There is also a fantastic patch of it in the empty lot up the street. Maybe I can talk Mr. El into going in there and whacking all of that down.
This whole allergy nonsense has got me thinking about things. I'm not convinced I have allergies. I think it is a weakening of my immune system due to some other medication I'm taking. My allergies came on only after I started taking the other medication. It is very frustrating. I really need to take this other medication - but "allergies" as such, is not actually one of the recognized side effects. I wonder...
I spent today in the garden. It was glorious. Cool enough to wear yoga pants, but warm enough in the sun to wear a tank top. I did all of my laundry and hung it up outside. hmph. I'm a little congested this evening. But right now - I'm ready to approach this problem conservatively and see if we can't treat the cause and not just the symptom. Because so far, that hasn't really worked.
More soon - with lots of pretty pictures. Promise.