Monday afternoon, I found myself lying facedown on a doctor’s table as several red splotches bloomed across my back. A nurse had pricked my skin with a murderer’s row of allergens, and later, a doctor would look at the inflamed Rorschach blots to confirm, medically speaking, what I have known for most of my life, and often described in these terms: I am allergic as hell.
Almost every plant, tree, and grass pollen known to man, plus cats. My body’s enemies now had more specific names, itemized, given a numbered threat level, and listed on a printout I got to take home. The red birch tree. Bermuda grass. CATS.
It’s allergy season, which the Morning News aptly described as a “punch in the face.” I’ve avoided allergists since I was a kid and was hospitalized for a time with asthma-related issues, but after getting hit repeatedly in the face by a particularly brutal spell of allergies a couple weeks ago, I decided to consult a professional, in the hopes that I could at the very least share their advice with fellow allergy sufferers on the internet. Save you the trip.
This allergist tried to sell me on immunotherapy shots, which studies have proven to be effective in treating allergies like hay fever. If the needle doesn’t scare you off, though, the timeline might: weekly shots for six months, followed by monthly doses for two to three years. I was more perturbed by the price tag. My entire physical being will dissolve into a slick puddle of mucus before I can afford allergy shots.
So shots are out of the question. What if, hypothetically, I was going to run for it? North Texas is notoriously inhospitable to people with allergies, right? Where can I go, Doc? “Antarctica,” he says, clearly having heard this one before. Outdoor allergens, of some kind, will find you anywhere in the country, undeterred by geography and the latest developments of modern medicine. (And they will only get worse, exacerbated by a warmer climate and pollution.)
Great. Any advice? Keep the windows at home closed. Self-medicate. Something about a new mattress cover. Wash your clothes with hot water. Here’s a pamphlet. Use that inhaler we got you if you need it.
Given the professional opinion to, essentially, tough it out, I feel emboldened. There are many of us suffering from the seasonal changes that always make allergies worse. There are websites dedicated to tracking the pollen forecast. Most local meteorologists will note when conditions are deteriorating. We can prepare. We can share tips. Together, we can survive.
The over-the-counter cocktail that’s made life bearable for me has involved one 10 mg antihistamine (I find myself reaching for the Zyrtec) at night, couple sprays of Flonase in the morning. Green tea in the afternoon, Benadryl in emergencies. Good luck.