Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's up, Doc?

I went to the doctor day, an allergy/pulmonary specialist. I filled out a bunch of paperwork, all about my seasonal allergies, food allergies, asthma, and eczema. Then I had to do a breath test. They put a plug on my nose, it felt funny and I felt like an idiot, but it did stop me from breathing through my nose. I had to take a big deep breath, then exhale out as hard, sharp, and fast as I could, and hold it out for a long time, which was hard.

After this "breathalyser" test, I got to talk with the doctor. He asked what I wanted to focus on, I told him pretty much everything. I've tried just about every allergy pill, Claritin, Zyrtec, Alevert, Singulair, you name it, I've probably tried it. Sometimes they work for a bit, but usually they stop working, which is very frustrating. I told the doc this. After this little discussion, and discussing that I've had allergic reactions to some foods like tomatoes, cantaloupe, and pineapple, we moved on to the testing part.

I had to change into a hospital gown (top only) and lie on my stomach. The nurse wrote more than 40 little numbers on my back, and cleaned it with an alcohol wipe. She then began to "scratch" by each number with little toothpick-like plastic wands, with a spiked tips, that had been dipped into liquids containing possible allergens, like pollen and dander. They asked me to try not to scratch the inevitable hives. Before she had even finished "scratching," some spots began to feel hot and itchy.

After all the scratches were done, including one saline and one histamine for controls, I had to hang around, on my stomach, for fifteen minutes . Then the doc came back in and ranked each hive on a scale from one to five. There were a lot of fives. You probably don't care, but here are my scores!

Boxelder- 4
Juniper/Cedar- 3
Russian Olive-5


Lamb's Quarters-5
Dock/sorrel Mix-4
Sagebrush Mix-5
Ragweed Mix-5
Russian Thistle-5

(All Zero!)

Dust Mites:


Common Foods:
Shellfish mix-5




How crazy is all that? My back was swollen, bright red, and I had 40+ hives! They gave me Claratin, rubbed some cream on my back, and then finally a scary steroid (prednisone) that tasted awful to ease the reaction. Also funny, the histamine control yielded no reaction!

So, now for treatment. I learned some interesting things. The doc listed options, and ranked them on a scale from 1-10, 10 having the best results.

First, over the counter prescriptions, like Claritin and Zyrtec. Guess what? They rank a 1, as least affective. Because they are cheap and easy to get, they are the most used.

Second, Nasonex or Flonase, which rank at a 4, if used twice a day consistently. If not used consistently, results are not so good. They also can take awhile to start working.

Third, Nasal wash every day, plus treatment #2, via a Netti Pot, which totally freaks me out. the picture shows a fountain of water coming out of this lady's nose. Ew. This ranks a 6 for results.

Fourth, Prednisone, the scary steroid. It is a 10, but can cause all sorts of things, like diabetes, osteoporosis, weight gain, etc. Bad news. I will probably take it for three days, to speed up the effectiveness of the nasonex/flonase.

Fifth, allergy shots. These are about a 9 on the effective scale. Essentially they'd shoot me up with all the things I'm allergic to, and each time inject a little higher dose so that eventually I'd build up a tolerance, or resistance. I could do up to three doses per visit, and two visits a week. These weekly visits would go on for 4-5 months, and then I would continue going once per month for five years. There is a yearly payment, to cover the cost making the concoction, and then a per-visit charge of just a few dollars. The shots would take care of all of my pollen and dander related allergies, but not the shellfish.

So, for now, I'm doing the nose sprays and eye drops, plus a daily asthma medicine. I'm also probably going to do the allergy shots. Apparently allergies worsen with age, and since I already have a mild pollen-food allergies, like to tomatoes and pineapple, it is likely I'll develop allergies to other fruits and vegetables. This is very sad news for me, and allergy shots could prevent it from happening. I'm willing to do just about anything to prevent an allergy to: apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherries, apricots, almonds, carrots, celery, parsley, caraway, fennel, coriander, aniseed, soybeans, peanuts, hazelnuts, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers, bananas, bell peppers, black pepper, garlic, onions, mustard, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli.

The doc said that these foods are cross reactive with pollens, and since I am so allergic to pollen, I could potentially be very allergic to them, or develop an allergy to them. How weird is that? Hence, the allergy shots, probably starting in a few weeks. I think I covered everything, a lot happened in that 1.5 hour visit. Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how things turn out.

(PS- Dustmites? Ew! I guess most Utahans are not allergic to them. They cannot "drink" water, but have to absorb it from their environment, and Utah is too dry for them. Since the first five years of my life were spent in humid places, somehow I am allergic. 6 months living outside of Utah is long enough to develop an allergy. Also, since I have a swamp cooler, dustmites can survive in my house. I asked the doc if I should refrain from using the swamp cooler this summer, but he said that since I'm not planning on staying here for more than two years, it wouldn't be worth it. He suggested that when I do move, I choose somewhere with air conditioning. Also really gross? Dustmites feast on dead skin, and live in couches and mattresses. They are sort of like spiders. We're allergic to their poop. Blech.)


Becka said...

My 7 yr old has a lot of the same allergies. Grasses, trees, animals. Luckily not the food but since he won't eat anything I think we'll be okay. He's been on allergy shots now for a year and is doing great. I think of Zyrtec and like medicines as giving him candy, it does the same amount of good. Allergy shots have been the only thing that has worked for us. This year as spring approached and his eyes didn't double in size and he didn't sneeze every other minute it was the best feeling in the world. Good Luck

alyddall said...

This is interesting. With your organic/natural tendencies, I think you should try the netti pot too! I have some similar saline stuff in a spray can that I have tried before, but only when I was so sick that my nose was basically too closed off for it to work. My stuff *did* help with sick congestion enough so that I could sleep. Perhaps I will get it back out and see if I can keep the hay fever at bay that way this year. It has been so wet I haven't needed to worry yet.

I think the shots are a good idea too. I hope they work for you. If it does, maybe I can convince Dave to try it.

Do you happen to know if they can do the same sort of test for man made items? I think I am more allergic to fragrances, make-up, those things you plug in that smell up your house... that sort of stuff.

Marta said...

Thank you for your well-wishes!

As far as testing for man-made stuff, I got the impression from the doc that you just have to learn if you are allergic by trial and error, figuring out what makes you react. It would be worth asking about though!

Emma said...

oh goodness marta, i am so sorry. i can't even imagine what it would be like!!!

Chelsea Lauren said...

You know I think a lot of things are gross, but Netti pot seriously changed my life. It gets all that uncomfortable pressure out, which i think is the best part!

and that whole needle pricking thing, wow, you're tough, my skin was totally crawling just reading it.

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