The Grass is Always Greener

As the saying goes, when people refer to “the grass is always greener” they think others have it better than they do and are never satisfied with their own situation. I will admit that from time to time I have had those thoughts.  But in this circumstance, I am literally referring to GRASS….and pollen and trees… and all the glorious wonders of nature that make an allergy sufferer miserable. The greener the grass, the more I suffer.

If allergies have anything to do with genetics, then I have my father to thank for it.  If not, then maybe the West Virginia climate is to blame.  Whatever the origin, I am the only child (of 4) in my family that has allergies.  This week I walked 13 plus miles on Saturday around Charleston, including Bridge Road, Carriage Trail (twice), Greenbrier St. up to the YMCA and the boulevard. Then topped it off with a little stroll at Kanawha State Forest. Everywhere you looked, the vegetation was in full bloom.  Gorgeous to look at, terrible to react to.  Yellow pollen covering everything.  The weather was great and brought people out by the dozens to cut grass.  Again, I love the smell of fresh cut grass but that is where my affection ends.Allergies-Symptoms

I was an adult, living with 2 cats and sleeping on a feather pillow. I woke up every morning with puffy eyes and congestion. That’s when I decided maybe I should see if I had allergies. Spoiler alert- I did, including cats and feathers!  I did a little research online to see how they check for such things and found out that typically it is a prick test.  They lightly prick you with the allergen itself and wait to see if and how you react to it.  I was also told that the doctor I was going to also did follow up shots to check for certain allergies.  I arrive for my appointment.  I lie on the table with my back fully exposed. The nurse puts a series of black marker dots in a grid shape on my back and she starts pricking me. I’m told I have to lay still for 15 minutes for the reaction to take place and that it might itch.  Immediately, I am itching like crazy and I can feel my back getting hot.  About halfway through, the doctor comes in and checks on me.  One look and he says, “Oh…My…God!  Yep, you are reacting!”  He starts out the door and I can hear him yelling to his staff “Hey guys, you gotta come take a look at this!”  I was like a science experiment to them.  Welts on my whole back, some as big as quarters.  Needless to say, when the 15 minutes was up the doctor came in the room and announced that I would not need the additional follow up shots.  No kidding??!!  He hands me a list of allergens with the ones I am allergic to checked off (see picture).  Out of 50 things, there are 7 that I am not allergic to!  Let’s do some math.  That mean there are FORTY-THREE common things in our environment that I am allergic to.

Allergy ReportI decided to start doing shots once a week as a treatment plan.  I did that for five years.  But after that it loses its effectiveness.  So I decided to switch doctors and get re-tested to see if there was any change. This time the test had pretty much the same outcome. But when the new doctor came in to give me the results he started with some professional advice saying, “You should probably just live in a bubble. And I’m going to mark the paper with the things you aren’t allergic to because it will be a lot easier.”  Well, all righty then.

At that point, I just decided to make the most of it and live with the allergies the best way I can.  Now I just take a Claritin every day.  Maybe I should do more.  But I don’t like nasal sprays and the shots didn’t make a significant difference.  Fortunately, I am not allergic to any food or drugs (that I know of).  So nothing truly life threatening or requires an EpiPen.  But still quite a nuisance, especially on a day when I’ve spent over 4 hours in Mother Nature’s proverbial bosom.

Ironically, while I was out in it I didn’t really notice much of a reaction.  But upon nightfall, the symptoms kept creeping up until eventually I was wheezing, coughing and could literally feel pollen stuck in my throat.  I had to resort to using my inhaler of Albuterol.  I haven’t had to use it in so long I was afraid it may have expired.  Good news!  I doesn’t expire until April.  I took about 4 puffs of that in hopes it would tame the symptoms.  I believe it did, to an extent  But, apparently not enough, as I was told I was snoring pretty bad that night.  In my defense, I did warn of that possibility before bedtime.

I know allergy suffering isn’t unique to me.  Almost everyone I know suffers from some form of environmental allergies.  I even know people who have allergies and are in denial saying they don’t. It amazes me how severely the beauty of nature can affect someone’s health and general well-being.  We all treat it in different ways.  I hope we all get some relief from the symptoms.   And I encourage you to seek medical attention if you think you have allergies.  You don’t have to just live with it.

What I do know is that I won’t let my allergies keep me from enjoying my life and the great outdoors.  Training for a marathon requires me to be outside for long periods of time.  And I intend to rock that race in June.  Bring on spring and summer.  ALLERGIES BE DAMNED!


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