Allergy (is Such a Lonely Word)

Symptoms vary in severity, but are often disruptive and unpleasant. *

Please forgive the awful title of this post, but as I lay on the couch, groggy yet awake in the night, surrounded by a pile of tissues, my twisted mind started singing to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Honesty:” “Alllllergyyyyy, is such a lonely word….” I’m going to blame this entire post on the Benadryl.

Allergy season caught me off guard this year. Usually, I can set my watch by allergy season kickoff on April 1 in northern California. This year? March 6. Sure, the blooming trees should have been a warning, but clearly my judgement had been clouded by the histamines.

How bad was it? For three days, random strangers came up to me and asked if I was ok, offering tissues and a shoulder to cry on because it looked like I’d been sobbing.

In people with seasonal allergies, the immune system has an exaggerated response to ordinary pollen that is present in the environment. The body releases histamines, a naturally occurring chemical designed to fight against the foreign substance. In the case of seasonal allergies, most people suffer from itchy, watery eyes and a nose that seems to run like a faucet.

The good news is that seasonal allergies can be treated with antihistamines, including antihistamine eye drops or nasal sprays. Don’t confuse antihistamine medications with decongestants. Decongestants, like Sudafed, relieve nasal congestion. Antihistamines block the effect of histamines produced by the body. The bad news (in my experience) is that once symptoms begin, it takes several days of medication to bring them fully under control.

A regimen of Claritin and eye drops had me back to normal in a few days; talk to your doctor about the combination of prescription and/or over-the-counter medications that might work best for your symptoms. Next year, I’m going to keep my eyes on the trees and start my preventive course of antihistamines at the sign of the first blooms.

* Image courtesy of A.D.A.M. Inc. via

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2 Responses

  1. i’m at this weird level where i’m considering shots that last about 10 weeks. not the ones where they test you extensively, just a general shot. my allergies aren’t terrible now, but last year they downright surprised me with a whole new level of awful [they have steadily increased over the years]. if they get back to that level, i’m thinking i might try it. have you ever done shots?

  2. Alisa says:

    I’ve known two people who have done shots: one went for them twice a week from 4th grade through high school graduation (and possibly beyond) and the other has gotten them regularly for years. Neither seemed to have any demonstrable improvement in symptoms.

    I should probably figure out what I’m allergic to in the first place. When we lived in San Jose, I realized with horror that I was allergic to the 100-foot-tall cedar in our backyard. At this house, there’s no cedar in sight, so who knows?

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