Some people get a little extra sniffle certain times of the year. Others collapse into a frothing pile of twitching corpse if they so much as breathe the same air as a peanut. I am somewhere in the middle, probably leaning more towards the "sniffle" region.
I have dealt with allergies for most of my life. My first memory of it is sometime around kindergarten; I remember my mother seeing me open my eyes after having had a vigorous rubbing session and immediately go "I'm going to take you to the doctor," and so she did. Ever since I have been acutely aware of when my eyes begin to get itchy or my nasal passages start feel like they are filled with cement.
Is this a life-crippling ailment? No. Does it keep me from doing what I want? Mostly no.
But allergies are something that have defined who I am for the past twenty-odd years so I figured I would talk about it gosh darn it!
I felt prompted to write this after recently needing to deal with them moreso than usual (for the curious - I have a rash on my torso. I'm told it's an allergic reaction but I don't know what caused it). So let's jump in!
What am I allergic to?
At first my family and I thought I just had a pollen allergy. True enough - spring time rolls around and suddenly there's a lot of moisture coming out of my face that I would really rather would not.
Shortly thereafter, we learned I was allergic to grass as I was playing with my cousins and took a little shirtless lie-down in the back yard. I began to itch horribly and when I got up it was pointed out to me that I had these horrific red slash marks slicing up my back.
Suffice to say, I have not done shirtless grass-napping since.
Much later - sometime in high school - my family and I noticed that my allergies were not getting much better during winter; I was experiencing year-round clogged noses. I had an appointment with an allergist, which really should have happened years ago but whatevs. On top of pollen and grass, there were several new hazards added to the list - dust and dust mites, trees (so... I'm basically allergic to being outside. Like I needed more of an excuse to be a shut-in), and perhaps most damningly, cats and dogs.
I was living with two cats at the time. This was a problem.
Some changes were swiftly made in the Petriello household; I had to fit my bed with a hypoallergenic dust-mite cover, put an air filter near my bed, and - the saddest - not let the cats go in my room. This all helped, but it wasn't doing away with it completely so I also got put on allergy shots; a most delightful process that I will go into more detail about shortly.
So, the list of what I'm allergic to goes as follows - grass, trees, pollen (which made doing backyard renovations for a friend during the summer a completely impossible task), dust, dust-mites, cats and dogs. Irritation for days, yo!
What happens when I'm allergic to stuff?
Most commonly, my allergies simply manifest in a nose that is being used to house an entire village of evil snot-goblins.
Rashes are a thing, but significantly rarer, and my eyes can get itchy and puffy as well.
But it's that first one that has really shaped quite a bit of my life. Because I had a constant stuffy nose, I was basically a mouth-breather for a long time. I also speak with a very non-nasalized voice for this very reason. Even now, though it has gotten much better, there is often an ever so slight pressure in my sinuses that I have gotten used to, but if I focus on it too hard it'll bug the shit out of me.
Oh, and sleeping used to be the worst.
I have some other self-diagnosed sleep problems now, but that's a different blog post.
When I was a kid, falling asleep was like having to do some really esoteric math problem nightly. Let me paint you a picture - there I am, on my bed, waiting for the warm embrace of sleep with a bit of a clogged nose. It's not too much of a problem; I can still breathe.
And then the dreaded happens - one side completely clogs up. I can no longer breathe out of one nostril. Now, I sleep on my side because it is the most comfortable for my body, but it does not play nice with a mucous-drenched nose. Blowing my nose does not work, the only way to get the nostril free is by switching the side I'm sleeping on and letting all the gunk drain into the other sinus.
If you've been playing along and see a problem with this scenario - then congratulations, you are right.
Some nights, it was a matter of me figuring out which side felt the most comfortable being blocked off - i.e. the worst case scenario. Other nights, I was more lucky and was able to get the cruddy stuff to begin sliding over to the other side and then tilt my head at such an angle that it would not go any further.
Yeah. I know. Fudrucking ridiculous.
If any of you have a mind to comment, "Just sleep on your back," DON'T DO IT. In only the most extreme circumstances I have resorted to this, but a lot of the time my body finds it uncomfortable to sleep like that. Also, it's not even a guarantee of cloglessness because if my head is tilted just ever so slightly, one side will go ahead and stuff up anyway.
Still happens sometimes. Still annoying as all get out.
Yes, I will claim my award now for "First-World Bitching and Moaning," thank you very much.
How do I fight it?
Really; I have taken some form of allergy pill nearly daily for at least fifteen years. I used to take Zyrtec and Claratin (tm), but the former made me sleepy and the latter wasn't strong enough. Now I take Allegra and everything is hunky-dory.
I used to take nasal spray. I still have some to break out in emergencies, but the thing is…well...
I hate nasal spray.
It really irritates my nose and makes me sneeze. Maybe the medication that's in it helps in the long run. I wouldn't know because using it in the first place is me saying to myself, "I would like to be more irritated for the next minute or so, yes please!" So I choose not to.
That's really what it's like to live with the sort of allergies I have. A zillion constant little annoyances I need to either ignore or deal with. Sorta like life as a whole, really.
I mentioned allergy shots earlier, and while it was a hassle to be on them, I have to say that the time I was on it was probably the best my allergies have ever been. I haven't gone back on them partly out of laziness, but also because my allergies have yet to return to my pre-shot levels of irritation.
But yeah, it was a bit of a hassle. I had to go to the doctor's office weekly, sit in the waiting area, get a shot, wait twenty minutes, let the nurse observe the area where the shot was, then go. The serum used would sometimes really irritate the area where I got the shot - especially during my earlier visits - and it would swell up tremendously. There were times it looked like I was trying to smuggle something illegal through the side of my arm for how bulbous it was.
But now, though - I stick to Allegra. Actually, I take a generic brand. Semantics.