Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Muggle remedy to allergies

A year ago, I wrote this post. I was inspired when I wrote it. Inspired, that is, by the allergies that bust out of hibernation every spring and race through my body until November.

It's a dark path I tread this this time of year. Even without allergies, Utah springs (aka still mostly winter) aren't that great, and I spend a lot of time wishing my nose into oblivion, or at least equal suffering for all.


The fact that I was contemplating evil to eradicate an obnoxious problem got me thinking that perhaps I should explore my other options a little bit more. Including one that, at the time, seemed just as annoying as the problem it was designed to solve: allergy shots.

I didn't love the idea of getting shots regularly—swallowing pills, and sometimes even gutting the symptoms out, is a lot easier. I don't really have a problem with needles; it's more the continual trips to the doctor's office that are unappealing. And I had heard that weekly shots were required for five years in order for the treatment to be effective. What if you want to go on vacation? What if you move? What if your work schedule won't allow it? What if something happens in year 3 that prevents you from continuing? It just didn't seem worth it.

Well, you shouldn't base important life decisions on hearsay. You have to do your own research before ruling something out.

Which is what my sister Kimberly did. It's always better when a trusted source does the work for you.

As soon as I learned that allergy shots aren't required weekly for the full five years (just the first 3–6 months, during the build-up phase), I sought out my own allergist. He educated me on the terrible injustice of allergy reactions being based on genetics, rather than being required for everyone, and the horrifying reality that allergies tend to get worse until you're in your mid-30s, after which they stay there until, finally, starting to dissipate around your eighth decade.

The thought of enduring a spring even worse than the one that sent me to Voldemort for help was too much. I scheduled an allergy test the next day. (Which verified that I really am allergic to many things in the weeds/trees/grass/critters categories. I felt strangely vindicated.)

The week after Thanksgiving, I got my first allergy shot. I was committed now.

It wasn't always smooth sailing. It's hard to coordinate two office visits per week during business hours. About a month in, I had to double my medication on shot days, which made me tired and killed my productivity for the rest of the day. I had a random reaction the day I hit maintenance, the wonderful day you get to graduate to only needing one shot a month. My head turned a shade of purple that would put my fellow Cooper-blooded relatives on a sweltering July day to shame, and they had to close down the shot room so they could put out the flames. (Aside from my head feeling like it was on fire, I didn't have any other exciting symptoms.) This led to an evening derailed, an $867 ER bill, and steroid medication for three days that—surprise, surprise—wouldn't let me sleep.

But there were positive signs, as well. Two people came in for their last shot ever while I was waiting in the lobby, and both told the nurses the shots had changed their lives. As we inched into February, I could already feel a significant decrease in my allergy symptoms, which typically happens later for most patients. March passed and April started, and I was still waiting for the allergy symptoms that love me so much to attack. For the first time in a long time, I started drinking in the smell of blossoms and spending time on the grass without wondering how long it would be before I would have to pay for such pleasures.

It seemed too good to be true, to be experiencing so much relief so quickly, but the following tests confirmed that what I hoped for was actually happening:

  1. Spring was in full force, and I was still very much sane.
  2. I survived a five-hour flight next to a lady with a cat.

I still haven't gotten through a visit to my parents' house without wanting to rub my nose off, but there's still time to reach that level of immunity. I have every reason to believe that some day soon I will no longer be allergic to my hometown (or rather, everything south of I-15 Exit 253. Where there is still more nature than buildings).

The moral of the story? There is a cure to annoying, non-life-threatening problems, and yes, it is worth it to take the longer, non-evil path to relief.

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