One of my favourite scenes in the summer is the hay fields, with their bails (round or square, it doesn’t matter) all spread out in neat rows. It’s picturesque and beautiful and reminds me of my country upbringing. I have had seasonal allergies, or “hay fever”, since I was young and have taken some form of medication nearly every year from about May to October. The exception to that was when I was vegan–I didn’t seem to suffer from pollen enough during that time to warrant medication, which is interesting. Growing up, I had many friends with farms. I used to help with haying and would sneeze, itch, and get hives, but it didn’t really stop me from doing much. It was manageable.
In my twenties, I had cats. I knew I was slightly allergic, but had heard that you can grow accustomed to their dander and it didn’t seem to be a problem since I was taking allergy medication half of the year anyhow. My cat allergy got worse though and within two years of having cats, I started experience asthma attacks, mostly at night. I was tested then and pollen and cats were the two predominant allergies. I was prescribed a puffer for the asthma, but it became so bad that I had to rehome my cats with a good friend.
Fast forward to this year, I wasn’t symptomatic, so I didn’t take any allergic medication. About a month ago, I was at a park that we frequent and my palms got incredibly itchy and I noticed red dots breaking out all over my body. They weren’t hives, but my skin was burning. I came home and had a bath which helped and didn’t think anything more of it.
Not long after that, I went outside to take the dog for a walk and immediately started sneezing. Now, normally I’m at least a two-sneeze person, but I couldn’t stop sneezing. I was considering going back to the house for some tissue when my palms got itchy. Then, my throat and tongue started swelling. I turned around and made it back to my house, but by the time I did, I was having difficulty breathing. I was home alone and everything was happening so fast, I ended up calling 911. My face swelled and I started sweating profusely. I could breathe, but barely. I felt dizzy. It was awful.
The paramedics came and hooked me up to an IV and to give me Benadryl. They were a bit baffled because normally with a reaction like that, it’s a result of a food or drug allergy, not environmental (I certainly feel for those with food and drug allergies now that I’ve seen a fraction of what they experience). I spent seven hours at the hospital–two bags of fluids and a cocktail of something and they let me go home with an EpiPen. It took me most of the weekend to recover. I started taking allergy medication then and was doing okay, until two weeks later when I started having another reaction. I was already taking two over-the-counter allergy pills a day, morning and night, and in order to avoid a hospital trip, took some Benadryl. I was comatose for the rest of the day. My partner later asked, “What are the farmers doing right now? We’re surrounded by farm fields…” The answer to that is, haying. If someone was cutting hay or bailing and there were airborne particles that I inhaled, this could very well explain my reaction.
I’m now on a prescription medication which I’m taking twice a day and my allergies seem to be much better. I take my EpiPen with me wherever I go and I’m waiting for an appointment with an allergist to get retested. I won’t know for sure what the culprit(s) were until I’m tested, but I feel strongly that it’s pollen. All my reactions have been outside or with the windows open and a strong breeze coming in. I sometimes still have a weird sensation in my throat and a tightness in my chest. But all in all, I’m “back to normal.”
My reason for sharing this post is partly to emphasize strongly a few things that what we already know: your body changes significantly as you get older; pollen is bad this year and only getting worse because our winters are not cold enough for long enough (the same reason ticks are getting worse); and just because you’ve never had a reaction before doesn’t mean you never will. I may not have been able to avoid this second ambulance trip, but I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. Thank you to the paramedics who cut open my screen door at my request to get into my house and took good care of me (and the dog, who was very concerned). I don’t know if you’ve ever witnessed someone trying to hook up an IV in a vehicle while it’s in motion, but what they do is truly incredible.
It could have so easily been worse. Take good care and listen to your body.