I have the worst allergies. In the spring, summer, and fall, it’s pollen. I’m allergic to every kind of pollen. When I work in the yard, I get rashes wherever contact occurs between my skin and plants. You should see my arms when I trim the hedges. I get these big red welts. In the winter, it’s dust and household triggers that cause my discomfort.
Between the allergies, sinus issues, and asthma I have a constant runny nose. I wake up in the mornings with a stuffy nose. Once I get up, I have watery eyes. It takes a hot shower and 2 or 3 hours every morning for me to be able to breathe and for my eyes to stop watering. It’s miserable. I don’t bother with eye makeup until well after I get to work in the morning. Even then, I wear waterproof everything. Sometimes, I can’t wear eye makeup at all because I can’t get my eyes to stop watering long enough to put my waterproof makeup on. And the sinus headaches can be unbearable. There are days I just have to take some Sudafed and go to bed.
I’ve become resigned to the fact that I will always have to deal with some allergy/sinus/asthma issues. But I’m still going to keep trying to find things that will ease my symptoms.
The first thing I did, when I was about 30, was to try and methodically experiment with treatment. Around that time, I was initially prescribed Advair. I hate taking medicines of any sort. But there is such a difference in my world when I take it that I do not question my need for daily asthma medication. However, I know there have been loads of warnings about this medicine. Due to these warnings I tried an alternate treatment, flovent, which has only one of the two medicines that Advair has. It didn’t work for me. I had asthma attacks when I ran.
Since I don’t generally have severe asthma attacks anymore, no turning blue and going to the emergency room, I figure I’ll take the low risk presented by Advair. I get so much benefit from it that I am willing to accept the small risk it poses to me.
Additionally, I of course have a rescue inhaler, Proventil, but I almost never have to use it. I was told I should probably take 2 puffs 20 minutes before hard exercise (running) but I usually don’t. A Proventil inhaler generally accompanies me to races. It fits nicely in my sports bra. After a few miles, I don’t even feel it in there unless I focus. Just as often, I completely forget my rescue inhaler. I’ve only had asthma attacks twice during races. Both times, I felt that tightening and started my asthmatic cough. I finished both races. Both times, I didn’t have my rescue inhaler. Both times, the symptoms eased once I stopped running and I was able to wait until I got home to take my medicine and the attack stopped.
A scary experience this summer showed that I may need to rethink my strategy on this though. I decided to run near the park while my middle child was there for softball practice. I ran a path I’ve run a million times. It’s through a residential neighborhood. I run on sidewalks. I didn’t touch any plants. But about 2 miles into my run, my chest started feeling tight and I just didn’t feel right. I let myself walk back to my car. Once in my car, I noticed a huge red, puffy patch of skin on my thigh. Then I noticed a patch on my neck. I looked down my shirt and saw that my entire chest was covered in red, swollen skin. My abdomen was similarly red and swollen. Although I was concerned with this severe allergic reaction, more concerning was the asthmatic one. My breathing became completely labored. It was the closest I was to needing to go to the emergency room for an asthma attack that I’ve been since I was about 6. Fortunately, I had the rescue inhaler in my car and it stopped the asthmatic symptoms. For the allergic reaction, I had to take a Benadryl and call it a day.
Really, running is the only reason I started experimenting with allergy medicines. See, around the same time I was prescribed Advair and Proventil, I also received prescriptions for Zyrtec and Nasonex. Even with prescription medicine insurance, four prescriptions start to get costly. I do get relief from all the medications, but I hate spending that much money. And I hate being that dependent on medicine. The only things I have consistently used are the Advair and the Proventil. So I only bother to refill the allergy medicine prescriptions when my symptoms are really bad. Lately, that has been more and more frequently. And, even with the allergy medicines, I am a complete mouth breather when I run. I simply cannot breathe through my nose when I run. As soon as I start exerting myself, my nose starts to run. I run with at least one tissue. My nose runs on bike rides too, but I have a bike bag that hangs on my handle bars. It is completely crammed with tissues and I use close to a dozen on a normal 2 hour ride. My runny nose during exercise is so frustrating to me, it made me want to look harder at allergy treatments.
I know that the Zyrtec/Nasonex combo did provide allergy relief. But I didn’t run or bike at the time I was first prescribed it so I don’t know if these meds were enough to keep my allergies in check enough to keep my nose from running during exercise. Since I was initially prescribed Zyrtec, it became over the counter. And recently I found I can get a 30 count bottle of generic from Marc’s for $2? $3? I can’t remember exactly, but it’s cheap. Regardless, it is much cheaper than I paid for my prescription. Now that I find this so cheap, I don’t skip it. I can tell if I skip the Zyrtec for a while that my allergic reactions are worse, I have more rashes. But Zyrtec alone doesn’t control my allergies enough for snot-free running.
So I’ve been looking for other things. I’ve tried bee pollen. It’s expensive, but hopefully it would have less side effects than a medicine. I haven’t seen any reduction in the spring/summer/fall allergies. My bee pollen is from a local apiary, I know that part is important. But I still have the morning watery eyes and the runny nose.
I went to my doctor this summer for help. She prescribed Nasonex (my prescription had long lapsed) and Singulair. My stupid prescription medicine insurance company gave me so many problems filling these prescriptions that it took 2 months to get the Singulair and I just got generic Flonase this week!! It took 5 months to get my nasal allergy meds. I could go into a political rant about how private insurance, according to the Republican Party political campaigning propaganda, will allow more choices and will prevent a panel of people from deciding what treatments someone can have. And I will, but just a little. I have private insurance, provided by my employer. And my doctor wrote 2 prescriptions for me. For both, they required the doctor to then fill out additional paperwork, called prior authorization (isn’t a prescription prior authorization?) and then still wouldn’t fill my Nasonex prescription. They didn’t give me the option of paying full price, they simply canceled my prescription. I had to go back to the doctor and have her rewrite the prescription for generic Flonase and jump through several other hoops in order to get my meds… several months later. So, private insurance already has panels of people deciding someone’s treatment. As long as there are prescription meds and insurance companies, there will ALWAYS be other people deciding what treatments you can have. Ok, my political rant is over.
Anyway, I’ve been taking both Zyrtec and Singulair every day. It’s not enough to prevent my nose from running when I run or bike. That’s completely depressing.
While I was waiting for my Nasonex/generic Flonase, I decided to do some more research on alternate allergy treatments. I read about nasal douching. I am just not coordinated enough to try the neti pot. But then I saw the spray bottle option. I read a bunch of reviews on Amazon and settled on the NeilMed kit.
I’ve read enough to realize that I don’t need to buy the replacement packets, but the kit was about the same price as the spray bottles alone. I’ve been doing this every morning for the past 3 weeks. I can say that although my allergy symptoms haven’t lessened, I don’t have that congested feeling any more. That is enough to make me keep using it. Here’s the recipe for the solution. If one is too enthusiastic when spraying water, it can kind of stick around and leak out at inopportune moments. I get a little enthusiastic when I’m in a hurry, as I was this morning. As I bent over to stretch out my back, my nose spouted a small leak of solution. It was inconvenient and yet humorous.
As I have such bad allergies, I occasionally find myself explaining my red, watery eyes and runny nose. I don’t want people thinking I’m inebriated or ill. Recently, an explanation resulted in a long conversation with a fellow allergy sufferer. He explained the he gets the most relief from periodic switching of medicines. He likes to switch from Zyrtec to Claritin. He suspects he builds up a tolerance to the drug after time and therefore needs to switch. This seems like a logical theory.
So I started looking up alternate allergy meds. I remembered Clarinex. I never took it but I remember the commercials. And Allegra D, I recall using that for a time. And of course, Claritin. I recently purchased some generic Claritin to add to my pool of allergy medicines. I don’t know how I should use it. I just got my generic Flonase and I want to see how adding that to my Advair, bee pollen, Singulair, generic Zyrtec and nasal douching affects my allergies. So far, it has made no difference. On the treadmill or on a park trail, my nose runs when I do.
It’s so bad that I seriously spent my Columbus half marathon finding new places to blow my nose on my hoodie sleeve. My poor, crusty hoodie sleeve. That hoodie has been with me to every cool weather race I’ve run. I may have to burn that thing, after saying a few kind words naturally. I just wonder how much faster I’d be, how much harder I could push myself, if I wasn’t spending so much energy breathing through my mouth and blowing my nose.
And so, for now, my self-experimentation and search for the perfect way to control my allergies continues.