The diary of a desperate allergy patient

by Lois Cooper

I have been struggling with severe allergies for well over 10 years. It got so bad that I was forced to see an allergist/ENT specialist. My allergies aren’t seasonal, they are year-round. I usually take an allergy pill almost every day so that by the time spring comes my resistance is built up. Not the case this year as I was very negligent in my routine and paid dearly when the pollen came to town. Rumor has it, if you live in DC long enough you too will suffer from allergies eventually.  

I was like an alarm clock for my condo neighbors, violently sneezing every morning. Everyone knew when I was in the office because they could hear me sneezing, coughing and blowing my nose. My daughters claimed it was extremely embarrassing out in public. The last straw came with all the mouth breathing, people calling me “sir” at work on the phone, and sneezing through the prayer and sermon at church.

We hear the word pollen, but do we really know what it is? Pollen is the powdery stuff that is usually yellow. It’s the release from the male part of a flower.

Each grain has a male seed that can fertilize the female eggs of a plant. Pollen is carried by the wind, insects and animals, which is why the stuff is everywhere.

I left work early one day and went to the doctor. I knew I had a sinus infection with all the disgust that was coming from my nose and throat. No worries, I would get antibiotics and be back to square one taking my daily pills once the infection cleared up. I was disappointed to hear that I did not have a sinus infection although there was plenty of pollen in my nostrils and some minor inflammation. I was given a prescription for nasal spray and a recommendation for use of a neti pot and over the counter meds. It was a mixed blessing because I was happy to see a doctor not willing to give a prescription when you don’t need it. However, I was suffering in that revelation.

I had the doctor call the prescription in and went to my local pharmacy for pick up. They didn’t have it and said I would have to wait until tomorrow. I declared the waiting game over and asked them to call another store to see if they had it. They transferred the prescription. I asked how long and waited two hours as I envisioned relief.

I was excited they had the medication ready for pick up when I arrived. I informed the pharmacy assistant that he had made an error in entering the price because I was told it was $100.00. I usually pay $7.00. I thought “this must be some serious nasal spray!”

The common treatment for allergies are antihistamine drugs that block the effects of histamine, (a chemical in the body that can cause allergy symptoms). There are allergy shots, but that’s a whole different ball game. Home remedies and over-the-counter medicines are also options.    

I didn’t come prepared to pay $100, and if I could I wouldn’t pay it any way. So in my nicest assertive tone I almost demanded that the pharmacist assist me with finding something comparable over-the-counter. He was kind and obliged. I left with a $15 Flonase spray and a new bottle of Zyrtec gel pills. I read and followed the instructions while in the car. It said to blow my nose, shake the pump, spray once in the air, and then twice up each nostril pointed towards the sinus. Afterwards, I drove home, popped a Zyrtec and went to sleep. Did the two shots to both nostrils in the morning, took my pill and noticed some relief that day. Even my co-workers agreed there was less sneezing.

I occasionally have itchy eyes. Thank goodness my glasses act as protectors and keep me from giving into the urge to rub them. My cough has subsided and the sneezing and blowing my nose has declined. I feel better than I have in months. 

The author, no longer sneezing...

I envy you if you don’t have allergies, but if you start to notice the signs and symptoms: your eyes water or are itchy and red, your nose runs or is stuffy, you keep sneezing, or you have an itchy throat and are coughing, call your doctor for advice to get ahead of the symptoms.

I did a little research and found that in 2011 the Washingtonian Magazine said it was a myth about Washington DC and allergies. That year we ranked 25th in the list “of bad places for spring allergies.” Be it fact or fiction, enjoy this season and stay ahead of the pollen!

Be Well! Literally.

Lois Cooper

Lois is a native Washingtonian and proud parent of two daughters who recently graduated from college. She is the founder and Director of the District of Columbia African American Legacy Foundation (DCAALF), a grassroots organization that helps underserved populations.

Lois is also the creator and producer of the “The Pride and Promise of Petworth” documentary. Ms. Cooper credits Petworth with helping her to develop into the person she is today. You can email Lois with questions or suggestions on articles about social issues.

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