The Itchy, Sneezy Allergy Life

June Rose Gardens

“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.” ― René Descartes

 

If there is one thing in life I’ve known since day one, it is living with allergies.

The Itchy, Sneezy Allergy Life

I was the baby who had red, chafed cheeks, and the child who had bloodied inner elbows and knees. I couldn’t stop scratching. My grandmother used to prepare orange peel and oatmeal baths, and started me on the habit of slathering with Vaseline. And still I itched.

I love being outdoors. Every spring and summer growing up, I sneezed non-stop, and lived with constant bronchitis, a sinus infection, or walking pneumonia. I always itched and sneezed, and tried hard to power through it.

But powering through allergies isn’t always the best way to live.

flowers and allergies

The Need for Treatment

In college, when I felt as if I’d broken my leg, a doctor showed me the scarlet line running from my toes to my knee and labeled it a blood infection, severe enough for him to toss out the terms “near-miss” and “amputation” in a single sentence. The infection had started at an itchy spot between my toes where eczema had taken root.

Eleven years ago, I threw a party for my husband’s thirtieth birthday (can’t believe it’s been that long ago!), which was at the end of May. We had the party outside in the gardens, lush with spring blooms. It was a beautiful evening, but within five minutes of the party starting, I sneezed and sneezed until I couldn’t see. One friend’s wife was a physician, who suggested I get tested for allergies. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of why I hadn’t done it already.

My Allergy Treatment

The first time I had the back skin-prick test, several of the allergens swelled far past the doctor’s standard measuring card. Mine, instead of being 3 cm diameter of redness, were 33 cm, forming circles of redness which covered my whole back. I was a little bit off the chart.

It was then, with confirmation that I had an allergy problem that no medication could help, that I made the choice to do something, finally, about my allergies. I began with allergy shots (immunization therapy), one in each arm, two times a week in minute doses. It was a lifestyle change, almost a part-time job. But it was worth it.

After following the shots regimen of increasing the dose weekly to the maintenance level, the following spring, I experienced no allergy symptoms, and took no medication. I was allergy-symptom free for the first time in my life and I felt great.

Allergies in Europe

I’ve had to stop and restart twice since then, because of my move to Prague for four years. In Europe, allergists approach immunotherapy differently than in the U.S., yet my doctor there was one of the best, most positive surprises of my expat years. We had no air conditioning to escape to in Prague, and my allergies were in check. It felt like a miracle.

I have settled in to the fact that I will likely be taking allergy shots for the rest of my life. And that’s okay.

Living with Eczema

My eczema has not improved with allergy shots, but it has been manageable. I’ve learned to follow a very careful skin care routine, though it’s minimal: Vaseline, Eucerin or Lubriderm lotion, and a Cetaphil facial cleanser. I can only use certain makeup and one sunscreen, and default to Clinique.

Though immunotherapy and ointment have helped me tremendously, I think other habits help in managing the allergy life even more:

  • drinking endless glasses of water
  • eating carefully (I have Celiac disease as well, which I think someday doctors will find is related)
  • sweating out toxins through regular exercise

June Rose Gardens

Living Well

The one thing I know for sure is this: when we suffer, we learn to fully appreciate what it is to be well. I am deeply grateful to feel 100% and live well, in every day that comes. Health is a gift.

I often talk with friends and try to share my experience to help them and others (why I’m writing it here, too). I don’t suffer from food allergies, though two of the men in my house do. Food allergies are becoming more and more prevalent (an excellent article in the NYTimes here, if you’re interested).

In the comments below, please share your experiences with allergies and options you’ve found to help. I’d love to hear them, and others would, too. Thank you! To living well in 2015.

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

5 thoughts on “The Itchy, Sneezy Allergy Life

  1. I suffer from (mild, compared to yours) seasonal allergies. But each spring, and occasionally fall, my 8 year-old daughter is flat-out miserable. Itchy eyes, runny/stuffy nose, wheezing, a cough that sounds like a scorching case of bronchitis. Bless her little heart, when she was 6, and upon the suggestion of our pediatrician, we took her to an allergist who performed the skin prick test on her–30 pricks, 15 on each arm. Oh, the tears. But she never flinched. Luckily, no food allergies, only grasses/trees, cats, and only mildly dogs. However, they now seem to be lessening with each passing year, so I’m hopeful she’ll grow out of them. As for food allergies, I found out (the hard way) that I’m deathly allergic to pine nuts. The second I took a bite of my food, my throat and tongue swelled, swiftly followed by the plumpest lips I’d ever seen on anyone. I could literally feel them swelling like a balloon. This happened to me twice, both times ended with me in the ER. Up until then, I’d never even heard of a pine nut. Go figure. So now, I’m even less likely to try new foods. If I don’t know what it is, I don’t eat it.

    I admire your optimism, and you’re so right, our health is a gift we should never take for granted.

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    1. Oh, I hope your daughter is able to outgrow her allergies. And your pine nut allergy, Cathy! Oh my goodness. Anaphylaxis is never a good thing. I’ve had a similar reaction, but to a medicine, and it was terrifying. I don’t blame you for steering clear of all unknown foods. Whew! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share!

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  2. I find myself itchy just reading this! Knock on wood- we are all relatively allergy free. We only a few seasonal allergies in our family so I really admire your positive tone when you talk about what sounds just awful!

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