The rain has returned to Seattle, which also means that my hay fever has kicked into high gear. Since I have moderate-to-severe allergic reaction to every single pollen, spore, and mold there is, hay fever season last most of the year. But there are certain times when I can count of sudden worsening of symptoms, and one of those is when the rain come back in the fall after the relatively dry period that usually lasts from about July 12th until the end of August/early September.
This year the coming of the rain meant the end of hazardous air quality from the smoke plumes from wild fires everywhere, which means that as my lungs were clearing and my cough was subsiding, the sinuses became painfully clogged and sneezing fits became the norm.
Just before that smoke came in and turned September into a new kind of hell, I had picked up some spot-color flowers to plant in some of the pots out on the veranda, because all the dianthus, violas, and pansies that had been growing in some of the pots had died off. Most of my planters are full of lavender, but most of them are going to seed, so there was suddenly not much color out there. But I didn’t get the plants in before the air quality turned really bad, so I set them up where I could water them and waiting for the rain to come clear us out.
I mentioned this elsewhere and was asked (for not the first time) why I grow a bunch of flowing plants on my deck when I’m allergic to all those pollens.
The amount of pollen produced by the number of flowers I can personally grow is negligible compared to the pollens put out by the thousands of trees and millions of flowering plants growing throughout and around the city. Since I’m going to have the hay fever regardless, I might as well have some pretty flowers to look at when I feel like it.
And I like seeing bumblebees going from flower to flower. I even get hummingbirds feeding on the flowers!
There is a challenge with the smaller spot colors in that we also get a lot of squirrel activity on the veranda. This was true even before I added a squirrel feeder to the mix. They like to bury things in the flower pots and later try to dig them back up.
The bird population coming to the feeder has finally gotten back to what it was two summers ago before a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk starting hanging around our deck and eating the little birds. The hawk only lingered in our neighborhood for a month, but it ate a lot of bird during that time! The small bird population has taken a while to bounce back. We have so many juncos, sparrows, chickadees, and finches coming to the feeder that I have to refill it every day.
That may change, because Tuesday afternoon I looked out in time to see another juvenile Cooper’s Hawk was perching on one of the drain pipes from the roof. Before I could take a picture one of the local crows divebombed it and it flew off. It was distinctly smaller than the one from two years ago, so it is probably a male.
I don’t know if it’s going to start hunting in the neighborhood and we’re going to have another mass die off of the little birds. The crow might have sent it packing. On the other hand, it may be a bit stubborn.
I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
At the end of the second round, the sore throat came back along with a new, keep-me-up-half-the-night cough. The doctor didn’t like how my lungs sounded, so I got chest and sinus x-rays along with more swabs before the next round of a different antibiotic. And so on.
And each time I was on antibiotics, I felt better, but never completely well. Which both I and my doctor figure was probably because the original viral infection was still lingering. Except during that three month period, at least two other bouts of some sort of cold seemed to run through my office. So it’s possible that it wasn’t one long lingering viral infection, but really three or four unrelated viral infections that each hit me one after the other.
But we have also had a lot of high pollen/allergy alert days during that time. Coincidentally, some of the highest pollen count days happened to occur right after the end of each of the first two rounds of antibiotics. So each time that the sore throat and sinus symptoms started to re-occur, I told myself it was probably just allergies, and didn’t call my doctor right away.
Regardless, it’s been ten days since the end of the last round of antibiotics, with so far no sore throat and no ear ache. I think that means that the bacterial infection is finally gone. And while I’ve been having sore sinuses, congestion, and itchy eyes throughout for that entire time, nothing that isn’t very typical hay fever symptoms have shown up.
But I’m still feeling paranoid. So when I woke up feeling overheated and more congested than usual, I panicked a little. Until I remembered that because of the work being done on the exterior of the house, we’ve closed up all the windows and disabled the air-conditioning vent in the bedroom. It merely took opening the front door when I took out the garbage minutes after waking up to make me feel much more normal.
Though I had pollen alerts on my phone from both a weather app and my pollen tracker, and I see we’re going to be in the red all week. So this congestion and itchy eyes and sinus headache are probably here for the long haul.
Anyway, could you pass me that box of tissue, please?
I haven’t had horrible hay fever symptoms most of the week. Itchy eyes and mild congestion on a couple of days. But when the weather started changing (the first real rain in months hit Friday night, there were drizzles in the early morning, but the rain didn’t come until quite late), my sinus congestion got worse and a headache slowly built up. I tried a couple different combinations of medicine on it over the weekend, but they didn’t help much.
It was bad enough that I pulled out the bottle of prescription strength nasal spray. I don’t like resorting to it because one of its side effects is having really intense disturbing dreams. Because it contains a steroid, it suppresses immune response in the sinus membranes, so I often wind up with a sinus infection after using it. But the headache was really getting to me, so I decided late Saturday night to give it a try.
Except I noticed that the expiration date on the label was a while ago. I have used it a couple of times since the expiration date, but I didn’t know what the risks were after the expiration date, and it was the wee small hours of the morning, so I didn’t really feel up to researching the issue on line. I grabbed an ice pack to put on my head, instead. And I was able to get back to sleep. The pharmacist got a good laugh when I stopped in on Sunday and put in the request to ping my doctor for a refill. I last filled the prescription a whopping five years ago.
We had a few other misadventures over the weekend, though nothing as bad as some of our friends. Event though the high temperatures during the day outside were in the mid- to upper sixties, I couldn’t got the house below 80 until quite late Saturday night. We had all the windows and the front door open, with fans placed strategically around the house to try to create a flow that would push the cool air from outside through everywhere. It’s one of the downsides of a brick house. Those bricks hold heat for an awful long time.
It was bad enough Friday night that the combination of the heat (and to be fair, we turned off the air conditioning because it was below 70 outside by sundown, so we had ourselves to blame a bit) and my sinus headache, I kept waking up getting no more than an hour’s sleep at a time. I felt as if I was waking up my hubby every time I woke up and tossed and turned, so I moved down to the living room in the recliner at about 5:00 am and aimed two small fans at me. Then I finally slept for four hours straight.
Along with the even heavier rain we got Saturday came a lot of wind. Trees were blown down all over the region, knocking out power lines everywhere. More than one of our friends was without electricity for over 24 hours. We wound up with a few of them over at our place Sunday afternoon, recharging all of their devices and just hanging out to visit.
There was also, Saturday morning, the incident of the overflowing toilet. Still not sure what caused that. But it was followed up Sunday with me not being able to get the bathroom sink faucet to turn off. We finally figured out I was being mildly dyslexic and turning the cold off while turning the hot on, then reversing the other way. In my defense, Michael couldn’t figure out what was happening at first, either. After he shut things off under the sink, he experimented a bit. Because of the low-flow fixture, there were no discernable difference in the flow of water between barely turned on at the faucet, cranked halfway, or cranked all the way to full. So you can’t really tell whether you’re turning one side (say the cold) down if the hot is on even a little bit.
We’ve now got the under-the-sink valves turned back to about a third pressure (they were turned on full force before), and now you can tell the difference as you adjust the faucets.
He did ask me if my horoscope for the weekend had said anything about trouble with water, since I seemed to have several incidents.
Since I virtually never look at such things, I couldn’t say. But I think it’s more likely that the sinus headache and the interference with my sleep pattern are more likely culprits.
Because of all the corporate mergers, selloffs, partial acquisitions, and so forth, you can’t go to a drugstore or pharmacy section of the grocery store and quickly find a familiar medication. For instance, when you’re suffering a particular set of allergy symptoms that you know used to respond best to Comtrex. You may find boxes labeled Comtrex on the shelf, but now instead of having he ingredients that used to be found in Comtrex, they contain exactly the same ingredients that used to be found in Tylenol Cold.
Similarly, in the old days, I could buy Tylenol Cold & Allergy, and be certain that is contained an analgesic for the headache, a decongestant for the sinus congestion, and an antihistamine for the hay fever. It doesn’t, any more. Now it contains analgesic, decongestant, and an expectorant (to help you get mucous out of your lungs). Lung congestion is not typically an allergy symptom, it’s a flu symptom. They should have the expectorant in the Tylenol Cold & Flu… but they don’t. What they have in Tylenol Cold & Flu is a cough suppressant, which might also be useful with the flu, but what would be better is the expectorant which is over in the allergy-labeled brand for absolutely no good reason.
And don’t get me started on why you can’t buy a cold or allergy medication containing actual pseudo-ephedrine any longer thanks to misguided anti-methamphetamine regulations that did absolutely nothing to slow down the cheap manufacture of meth. Now we get “Sudafed” (the brand name belonging to the company that first patented pseudo-ephedrine and named by phonetically spelling the name of the active ingredient) that contains no “sudafed” at all, but rather phenylephrine, which clinical trials have shown is not an effective substitute for the vast majority of people.
On really bad hay fever days, as I’ve been having for about a week, what I need is a medication that contains acetaminophen, pseudo-ephedrine, and diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine (analgesic, decongestant, antihistamine), in a tablet that is a nice, safe dose. And I do mean the safe dose. Back when I could find that combination, the recommended does of 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours was seldom what I needed to take to get relief. One tablet every four hours was usually perfect.
The closest I found on the day last week I was shopping, was Nyquil-branded “Night Time Cold Caps” which contain phenylephrine instead of the pseudo-ephedrine. It’s close, but much more expensive that any generics.
I can buy plain acetaminophen, plain pseudo-ephedrine, and plain chlorpheniramine. To get the pseudo-ephedrine you have to wait in line at the pharmacy counter, tell them what you want, then wait for them to dig the giant notebook out of the secure location. They will then scrutinize your photo ID, fill out a form, make you read a statement and sign the form before selling you this drug which was FDA certified for over-the-counter sales decades ago (and is still perfectly safe if all you are going to do is swallow a pill every 6 hours as recommended). But here’s the thing: box of 24 generic cold tablets with two of the ingredients I want and one I don’t costs just a little bit less than the stand-alone pseudo-ephedrine. Likewise, the stand-alone chlorpheniramine, and the stand-alone acetaminophen.
In other words, to put together my manual version of the generic tablet that has the right ingredients costs a bit more the three times as much as buying any of the already packaged tablets with nearly the right ingredients. And I have three times as many pills to keep track of, and the real kicker? They often recommend different times between doses. So I’m trying to keep track of one pill that I’m only supposed to take every six hours along with some that I’m supposed to take every four…
The answer is, obviously, to buy the Nyquil branded stuff, which has most of what I want, is more expensive than generic but less expensive than the collection of stand-alones. Which I did. It annoys me that the box is covered with all these dire warnings about taking them at night because they might cause drowsiness. And they there are sold in enormous gel caps, which seem to degrade more than the regular tablets. At least I don’t have trouble swallowing the giant capsules. Unlike my poor husband, who gags on the big gel caps.
Not that the meds are helping as much as I’d like.
There’s never a good time to be incapacitated by allergies, but this week I have a zillion deadlines at work, and my boss is out of the country under circumstances where he’s not available even via e-mail. So I’m scrambling to make my deadlines and hoping that my brain isn’t too fogged up to get things done.
Which means what mental energy I have is all going into work this week, and not to my personal writing or to any non-work projects. I only took three naps to get through Tuesday and two showers. It’s amazing how good it feels to hold your head under a stream of hot water when you’re so congested that even your teeth ache.
A shower is truly a magical invention.
I wish I had something profound to say. Other than, pass me a kleenix, please?
Why I hate hay fever reason number 5871, plus 4312 & 3786 & 3113 & 2488 & 2149, and don’t forget number 1364
Yesterday wasn’t too bad. I had to take over-the-counter meds in addition to my prescribed allergy pills to keep things to a point where I was mildly uncomfortable all day while hanging out with friends and working on editorial tasks (and later to go with said friends to see the Captain America movie). But about 11:30 or so last night, the headache and itchy eyes got much, much worse. I took some more meds and tried to sleep, but couldn’t get beyond dozing until sometime around 5 in the morning.
I crawled out of bed today, head and eyes still too miserable for words, and just wishing that I could destroy every last plant on the entire frickin’ planet. With fire.
I love the fall. First for all the cliché reasons: leaves changing colors, home grown veggies and fruit coming into season, et cetera. And also because I don’t like hot weather and I love fog, clouds, and rain. So fall is great.
Except that as it gets damp, while the pollen count may go down, the spore and mold count starts going up. My sinuses seem to react worst when something they haven’t encountered in a while shows up. So throughout the year as each species in its turn starts pollenating in earnest, I have an extra special surge in symptoms.
Waking me up in the middle of the night with throbbing sinuses, itchy eyes, and a headache that won’t let me sleep.
Though I blame myself. Just a few days ago I was explaining to someone why I never want to move back to the Rocky Mountain region. “If I never have to walk through snow before Halloween again, I’ll be just fine.”
I know that this is the price I pay for not having the live through harsh winters. But it’s hard to think about that when you’re just waiting for the tylenol to kick in so you can go back to sleep and maybe not be a zombie at work.
Technically, this one probably ought to be titled “Why I hate MY hay fever, reason #7” or something.
Because my overeager immune system reacts to apparently every pollen, every spore, and every mold it encounters, and because I live in the Pacific Northwest on the west side of the Cascade Mountains (where winter mostly consists of lots of rain with the temperature only occasionally flirting with freezing), I have mild-to-horrid hay fever symptoms for a minimum of ten months out of the year.
And the variation from mild to horrid and back again is not predictable. Sometimes the pollen count goes down, but the symptoms get worse, for instance.
This particular reason is a consequence of all those aforementioned things:
I can’t tell the difference between the first few days of a cold or flu and just waking up on a given day.
So, Wednesday night/Thursday morning I didn’t sleep well. It wasn’t a night of tossing and turning, staring at the clock, wishing that I could fall asleep. I slept. I just woke up about every 40 minutes or so for no discernible reason. It wasn’t until the second alarm went off in the morning and I dragged myself to the bathroom that I realized that I was too fuzzy headed to actually attempt to do any work. So I called in sick, took some Nyquil, and stumbled back to bed.
Even then, I was taking the Nyquil because it felt like a worse-than-usual hay fever day and I hoped the Nyquil would make me sleep for real for a few hours. I didn’t take it because I thought I was sick. It just felt like a slightly worse than usual hay fever morning.
I vaguely remember Michael saying he was leaving for work. I blinked. I rolled over, and saw that more than six hours had passed.
I felt better only insofar as my brain was capable of thinking in whole paragraphs, rather than just simple sentences. My head, sinuses, and throat all still hurt. But it was, still, only at the “worse than usual hay fever day” stage.
I logged in remotely to work and took care of a few urgent issues. I ordered pizza for dinner, chatted with Michael, and so on. It continued to just feel like a worse than usual hay fever day, though with added time disorientation because I’d slept most of the day. I went to bed early, this time taking Nyquil before hand.
Friday I woke up still feeling like a worse than usual hay fever day. Friday is my usual work from home day, so I slept in a little as usual. The only real difference from a usual work from home day was that I took non-drowsy cold tablets.
Friday night, after we got home from dinner, Michael crashed because he was feeling worn out. But he often does that on Fridays, particularly during hot and hottish weather, because he works all week in a warehouse.
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Michael woke me up. It wasn’t intentional, he was just feeling extra cold and trying to get the blankets that had bunched up under me. He muttered something about thinking he had a fever. My thought at the time was, “Darn! I’ll have to drive to our friend, Sheryl’s place, without Michael.” And I conked out.
Hours later, when I shuffled to the bathroom, I slowly became aware that my aching sinuses, headache, ringing ears, sore throat, and queasy stomach were not all hay fever symptoms. And the house felt cold, even though the thermometer said it wasn’t.
I thought back about when I last took any medicine that had acetaminophen or something else that would mask a fever. It had been about ten hours, so I got out a thermometer.
Fever. Not a high one, but higher than my typical low-grade fever.
So I called to beg off on Writer’s Night (we weren’t hosting this month). I made some breakfast. Checked on Michael, then spent a few hours trying to work up the energy to go to the store to get soup and juice and general groceries.
I only had three dizzy-ish spells in the store.
The hardest part was putting the groceries away when I got home. I really just wanted to collapse.
I sat down, intending to just rest a bit before calling to cancel gaming tomorrow.
I conked out for almost four hours.
And that pretty much brings us to now.
I don’t have a fever any more. Throat and tummy are no longer being icky. My ears are back to their normal level of tinitus. My sinuses and head still hurt more than a typical hay fever day.
But I have developed a mild cough.
Not that I would have necessarily done much differently if I had realized Thursday that this wasn’t just hay fever. But it’s still irritating to realize I was probably sick for two days before I knew it.
I hate hay fever.
Sometime in the wee small hours, an alarm went off. My befuddled, barely awake brain was arguing about whether it was a fire alarm or the Emergency Broadcast System while I was stumbling around the dark house, trying to find what had made the noise.
Both TVs are off, and the alarm had stopped and I couldn’t find anything in the house that was smoking, ominously glowing, or otherwise in a disturbing state.
My head hurt, but I wasn’t entirely sure that it wasn’t merely because I had been awakened from a sound sleep. I crashed back into bed.
About an hour later I woke up, and my mouth was so dry it hurt. My headache was much, much worse. I lurched and stumbled my way to the kitchen, guzzled a glass of water, then refilled and drank some more water, and tried to make myself think. Everything seemed foggy, and I suddenly remembered the alarm from before. Maybe I couldn’t find what was wrong because whatever it was was happening in one of the other apartments, and smoke was slowly filling all the units?
I went to the front door and opened it. The cold air felt good, but didn’t seem to be any less foggy than the air inside the house. I concluded that everything looking foggy was just a combination of me not being fully awake, and the usual blurriness of not having my glasses.
My mouth still felt terribly parched, even though I’d had two large glasses of water. I went to the kitchen, had another glass of water. By which point the bad feeling of the dry mouth had lessened enough that the sinus headache was more noticeable. So I took some cold tablets, drank some more water, and collapsed back into bed.
By the time I woke up for real, it was clear that I was having really bad hay fever. I took some more meds. When I went to get some more water, I found my phone on the counter. There were two amber alert messages, the first at 3:30 am. The phones make a noise similar to the Emergency Broadcast System alert sound when the emergency alerts come through. That must have been what I heard. And it had sounded like it might be coming from either the kitchen or the living room because, by chance, both Michael and I had left our phones off the chargers. Mine was left in the kitchen, his in the living room.
Michael is also having a horrid hay fever day. We’ve both taken naps. All of my sleeping periods since the stupid alarm have included dreams about fires and explosions and the like. Earlier I told Michael I blame the alarms, but the hay fever contributes. In my bad dreams about fires and explosions, I keep getting eye and head injuries, for instance, which I take as my subconscious trying to figure out why my head and eyes hurt so dang much.
Plus, severe hay fever just messes you up. It isn’t just the drugs that make your brain go woodgie1. The histamine cascade causes changes in blood vessels, releases various enzymes, and other systemic changes. When you throw meds to deal with the pain or sinus pressure on top of that, it should be no surprise that one’s mental processes function differently than usual.
And I hate it!
1. Yes, that’s a technical term.
While driving home last night, I was just thinking that my allergy prescription dose from the previous night must be wearing off when Michael mentioned that his sinuses had started going whacko. He was attributing it to the change in weather.
Most of last week was very wet, with rain every day. Parts of Friday, all of Saturday, and most of Sunday were quite a bit drier, but only relatively. We had some sun breaks, and what rain there was came in very light, occasional showers. Sunday night we got the deluge.
Radical shifts in air pressure or humidity sometimes cause my sinus passages to either get tender or to close up temporarily, regardless of the pollen, mold, or spore count. And while most people living in the northern hemisphere with ordinary hay fever are free and clear by this time of year, I’m not. Pollen counts are so low as to almost be nonexistent, and fern spores are tapering off. But November is toadstool and mushroom season, which means fungus spores are just ramping up.
In addition to my usual prescription, I took a bit of over-the-counter stuff before going to bed. I awoke in the middle of the night with the sinuses in super-hyper congested mode, along with the itchy eyes. So I took another type of over-the-counter stuff and managed to go back to sleep.
This morning I broke down and raided my pseudo ephedrine supply. Can I say, by the way, I hate that meth heads and meth lab runners have turned thousands of innocent sinus-problem sufferers into suspects, forcing us to show ID, sign extra paper work granting the state, the feds, and the pharmacy companies permission to examine and share information about our purchase history of what used to be a cheap, over-the-counter nasal decongestant? Which is rationed by those same forces, now?
I’m sorry, the usual substitutions don’t work anywhere near as well for me. So at times like this, where everything above my jaw line hurts, aches, and stings, I just don’t understand how restricting law-abiding people from buying a legal medication (a practice which has had zero effect on the illegal trade of the substance that said medication can be used to manufacture) makes any sense.
Now excuse me while I pack some extra tissue into my backpack before I leave for work…