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2002-06-20 - 12:33 p.m.

When I was younger, I thought that people with allergies were just wimps. All that sneezing and coughing just because of a cat or some pollen? Bollocks!

I was wrong. Oh, how wrong I was.

Since college, I have had seasonal allergies. Bad ones. They usually hit me in mid-May and last for 2-3 weeks. They were delayed this year due to the cold spring. Some years are better (or worse) than others. This year is about average. The worst they ever were was when I spent a summer in Cortez, Colorado. Instead of spring, they hit me in June/July and I was miserable.

Over-the-counter medication only helps a little. Benadryl takes care of most of the throat itching. A decongestant deals with the clogged sinuses (for a while). But nothing, absolutely nothing, I could buy helped my eyes. Itching bad enough I wanted to scratch my eyes out (literally) and my eyeballs themselves would swell up grotesquely. I'm now on prescription medication. Allegra-D (pills), Nasonex (nasal spray), Patanol (eye drops). It's amazing. I'm almost ok (medication-induced grogginess aside). Still, I have to avoid the triggers. In my case, the primary culprit is grass. Everyday, innocuous, innocent grass (not that other kind). Now I know why mowing the lawn was hell. I always thought I was allergic to cottonwood. My allergies are at their worst when the puffy cottonwood seeds fly around. I finally had an allergy skin test done last year. Not cottonwood. Not allergic to that at all. It just coincides with the grass pollen season.

Grass Pollen Map, from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

Avoiding my triggers means trying not to go outside. I've had to skip the last two weeks of co-ed intramural soccer practice with The Scientist's team. We don't go on walks. I'm not sure if it makes a big difference since we have our windows open all the time (no air-conditioning), but every little bit helps. I've turned into that sneezing, itching, watery-eyed wimp I used to dismiss as a hypochondriac.

I'd like to go on allergy shots to see if I can get long-term relief. But they're expensive (a $10-15 copay for every shot) and time consuming (weekly shots for 6 months, then a monthly shot for years, with each lasting at least 30 minutes). The Scientist's mother and sister have both had the shots and got great results. Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy. MayoClinic.com describes the process as follows:

"Allergy shots, sometimes called desensitization shots or hyposensitization shots, contain small amounts of allergens. Allergens are the allergy-causing substances to which you react. The purpose of allergy shots is to increase your tolerance to allergens.

To be effective, allergy shots are given on a schedule. Typically you�ll receive a shot every 3 to 8 days for about 15 to 30 weeks. After that, you�ll need a shot once a month for 3 to 5 years. If you don�t have an adverse reaction, the allergen dose is increased each time you receive a shot. Gradually your body learns to accept the allergen as the harmless substance it is. As this happens, symptoms of allergic rhinitis � stuffiness, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing � decrease."

Doesn't that sound like fun?

Allergens vary from region to region. Remember how mine were worse in Colorado? I've been tested for typical Midwest allergens, but we don't know how long we'll be here. The Scientist is looking for a professor-type-job and we'll move somewhere else if he finds one. Could be East Coast, could be West Coast, could be somewhere near here. But we don't know, and until we do, it doesn't make sense for me to start a multi-year allergy treatment in a region we might be leaving in less than a year. So I whine about it here and buy Puff's Plus tissues with lotion. At least I'm not allergic to our cats.

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