COLUMN:Allergy season nothing to sneeze at

Reporter's Viewpoint

It is June – my favourite time of year along with July, August and a bit of September, weather depending.

The sun is finally showing itself and sharing a bit of its heat with us, the flowers are in full bloom, days are long and the shorts are out from the back of the closet.

Even when it rains, it is still bright compared with the dark, grey, gloomy and cold days of winter.

But this is also the time of year my allergies go into overdrive.

It’s the season to go through boxes and boxes of Kleenex, feeling like I have a bad head cold for three months straight and popping anti-histamines to try to stay functioning.

My sinuses often feel like they’re about to explode, my throat is itchy and I’m generally feeling terrible at just the time of year I want to be outside enjoying the good weather, not lying down feeling like I’m underwater.

To top it all off, when my skin touches certain grasses, I break out in hives.

So, on my worst days, I’ve got red eyes, a runny nose, an inflamed throat and nasal glands and red, bumpy skin. Aside from the scary physical appearance, my allergies make it difficult to function normally.

On top of the expensive over-the-counter anti-histamines I take, my doctor prescribed a corticosteroid nasal spray last year.

For the first time since I was six years old, I could breathe freely in June and I was able to do my job and bike outside in relative peace.

But it did nothing for the hives problem, so it was still long sleeves and long pants when outdoors on a hot July day.

And the steroid inhaler can have some nasty side effects – nosebleeds, nasal ulcers, headaches, or back pain to name a few.

So last fall, I decided to try something new. Rather than popping pills with an array of chemical ingredients unknown to me, or use the steroid spray, I decided to try desensitization shots.

The basic premise is this: by injecting myself with what I am allergic to once a week for six months to a year, then every month for the next couple years, my body will slowly build up a tolerance.

I’m about seven months into the treatments now, which are administered by the nurse at my doctor’s clinic. And so far, while they haven’t had any effect that I can see on reducing my sensitivity to the outdoors – this has been a particularly bad year for me – I have had an anaphylactic reaction to the shots on two occasions.

Apparently, I am that slight chance my allergist told me about before ordering the serum for me. As a result, he’s modified the dosages and schedules for me so that it is going to take longer than expected to reach my maintenance dose.

Some of my friends have asked me why I continue through the process in light of the stress and time it’s taken – I have to hang out in my doctor’s office for half an hour each week after receiving the shot.

But several people I’ve talked to who have gone through the process say sticking it out is worthwhile.

Allergy-free people don’t realize what living with seasonal allergies, depending on their severity, is like.

It’s a condition that comes back every year and makes me sick for several months each year.

And it’s frustrating because the tree and grass pollen that my body reacts to is harmless to people. My body is essentially making itself ill by mistake.

If this works, it will greatly enhance my quality of life at this time of year.

That’s worth the time and effort.

If not, perhaps one day scientists will figure out a cure. I live in hope.

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