Sunday, October 7, 2012

Allergic to Iowa.

Who the fuck is allergic to an entire state?!

I used to always brag that I didn't have allergies. I was allergic to stuff, sure - specifically cats, smoke, and dust. But these things are easily avoidable. And so seasonal allergies came and went, and I was fine.

Until I came to Iowa.

Isn't this place beautiful?
In the spring, I went to Urgent Care when my inhaler stopped working and my asthma was bad. They gave me a daily inhaler. Eventually, I had another asthma attack that wouldn't get better, so the doctor did more tests types of things and warned me that corn wasn't going to work out. Corn made me sneeze and was otherwise fine, yet my breathing still wasn't great. After seeing several different doctors that didn't know how to treat asthma, I asked to see an allergist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (only an hour and a half away).

At Mayo, they tested my breathing, the effectiveness of abuterol (fast-acting inhaler for asthmatics), and did a skin test. After looking into my nose as most doctors do, they did a more intensive rhinoscopy - where they put a fiber optic camera in your nose. They even checked out my vocal chords ... from my nose. Slightly uncomfortable, but still kind of neat.

From these tests, I learned several things. First - at some point I probably busted my nose. There's a bone spur on one side that touches the membrane stuff, and the bone on the other side has been pushed really closely to the membrane stuff ... which means that any slight allergy problems I have will make it impossible to breathe out of my nose. I sort of knew this as a life-long mouth breather, but now there's some science behind it. Second - I am allergic to everything. Well, not everything - but rather, many things. All of the grasses, pigweed, walnut trees, several molds and fungal spores, dust mites of all kinds, and cats.

My allergist was most excited about the dust mites, and I think this makes sense since it was one of the bigger reactions on my arm. Essentially, he said that at night our cortisone and adrenaline levels are pretty low because we're sleeping - and this is a good thing. However, if one is exposed to any sort of allergens at night, the low levels of natural steroids means that allergen exposure is heightened, and that makes one 400x more likely to be sensitive to allergens during the day. If one were to remove all allergen exposure during the night, then eventually those daytime allergens wouldn't really be a bother. The trouble with this is ... well, a lot. First, he recommended bed encasements to prevent dust mites and dust mite things from getting out, which is pretty easy. But then, I am to wash all of my bedding every two weeks in extremely hot water in order to neutralize any dust mite and dust mite particles. This requires a special washer that will sanitize - a washer I do not have, nor do any of the laundromats around town. Furthermore, carpet is bad, of which (of course!) I have. I shouldn't have clothes in my room, where my awesomely large closet is. All air ducts should be sealed off, window frames sealed. Animals shouldn't be allowed in my room, let alone the house (they bring in allergens on the fur). And all of this will maybe, maybe make a difference in three years.

On top of this, he prescribed several medications - singular, nasonex, allegra, and zantac as well as a sinus lavage.

I left quite overwhelmed. The doctor had just told me that my dog shouldn't live in my house, that I need to buy a new washer to wash my sheets (and that, essentially, the new comforter I bought to feel like an adult needs to go away), and that I am allergic to everything. Harvest time around Iowa is pretty bad for me since it stirs up dust, grass, and all sorts of spores - and harvest plumes can travel up to two miles. So on top of all that, I can go nowhere to be safe from harvest plumes.

Obviously, I cannot do everything he suggested. And I don't want to take four medications a day, on top of my daily inhaler. So after sitting down with my options, I've decided to get bed encasements, be careful about dust in my room, and put Bailey's crate outside of my bedroom. I'll do the nasal lavage (which is just a neti pot/sinus wash), possibly take singular, and if I don't think that's working - some nasonex. The doctor said that unless I do everything and remove 90% of the allergens in my room, it won't make a lick of a difference. But I can't do 90% and sleep in some airtight bubble, and really something must be better than nothing.

It's good to know what's going on. What I thought was asthma turns out to be allergies too. The only downside to this is that the allergies constrict my throat and make me feel like I can't breathe. An inhaler can help this a bit, but not completely - so the big downside is that I haven't anything to stop my throat from constricting should I run into something allergy inducing. Which is fun, if you think about it. Thank you, Iowa.

Since I know ya'll miss her more.
In other news, I welcomed the First Frost (well, second - but the first deep frost of a blustery Autumn day) dancing to the awesome Bitterroot Band at an outdoor bar, reveling in the cold breeze in my hair while jumping around with my friends. And the next day as I did random things downtown, I walked along the Luther Homecoming parade for a bit, had a nice conversation with the Librarian, ran into more friends at the coffee shop while writing letters, and simply enjoyed this Decorah life. So yes, allergies suck - and I can't breathe well right now much at all. But all the other parts are going quite swimmingly, so it's really okay.