Allergy season is getting worse and it’s our fault
This struck such a chord with me. I live in Northern New England, I have allergies, my husband has allergies, and asthma, and we have a 3 year old who has been sick for months, can only sleep with an air purifier and humidfier and daily zyrtec... The way ~*the culture*~ presents how we ~*should*~ be in relation to outside - as in, we should be outside all the time, enjoying screen free self-made entertainment and exercise in the fresh air.... it's exhausting and makes us miserable and makes me feel like a moral failure, like literally every weekend. It can feel sometimes like those people whose families go back generations in this area are (ahem) better suited to this place than those of us who are recent arrivals, and that I, and my child, will never truly "belong" here.
Reading that White, and Webster(!) both had debilitating allergies has given me something I didn't know I needed!
My youngest has persistent allergies, which she probably (at least in part) inherited from her dad. But also, unlike her brother (who breastfed exclusively for a year and would probably still be on the boob at 20 if I'd let him), I supplemented with formula when she headed to daycare at 6 mos, and then cut her off entirely at 11 months. And I have spent years blaming myself. Like, if I'd just been more self-sacrificing she wouldn't live with a box of tissues constantly within reach. Her immune system would be PERFECT. (If I were just better she would never suffer. The perennial lament of mothers in patriarchy.)
Maybe that's partly true. Who knows? But it's comforting to know there might be other causes, even if those causes feel equally out of my reach to effect.
I wonder if this applies to food allergies somehow as well? I have mild asthma that's triggered mostly by cold weather but also sometimes heavy particulates in the air (rarely pollen, usually smoke of some kind) but my son doesn't seem to have inherited this from me (I did nurse him for a long time). But he does have his dad's seafood allergy. Allergies are so unpredictable and can be fatal. He's 25 and fine so far but still I worry.
I don't get migraines with allergies, but I do have constant sinus swelling, and allergy tests in the past have been indeterminate. We live in the middle of grass-seed fields, and of course, I'm allergic. Tree pollen gets me as well. Then there is the smoke from fires every year now - to the point of smoke haze blocking out the sun. I live in western Oregon, and this is all true in spite of a lot of rainfall. Or maybe because of it. But I take up to 3 medications (pill, inhaler, nasal spray) to manage my allergies and adult-onset asthma. In addition to the things you mention, I read that another way this is "our" fault is in highway and city landscaping. Landscape architects who work with cities often use only "male" trees, which creates super pollen. This proves that even female trees are doing unpaid labor to rein in male excess.
I remember whining I had to take Fluticasone daily, 365 of them a year, in the Discord, and finding out that was actually ROOKIE NUMBERS in the group. Allergies are no joke.
I grew up in Southern California’s Inland Empire, a very majestic-sounding name for “the mountain valley that captured and held all of Los Angeles’ smog”, and watched my baby brother grow up on a nebulizer. I developed “seasonal allergies” in my teens, taking Claritin daily, then moved to the Midwest and found my allergies went away.
For like two years. By then my body had decided Iowa was also too dangerous to breathe, and here we are.
I don’t know if letting my body “adapt” would work, since it seems to adapt in such a way as to make life absolutely miserable. But the topic of the environment we create, and how it impacts our bodies, is fascinating, both in world-altering scale and as a tale of inequality, and I look forward to reading the linked articles about it all.
Medicaid quit paying for Zyrtec this year for us (it was surprising that they did in the first place since it’s available over the counter).
There is no pediatric allergist in my city, Davenport. We have to drive to Iowa City to see an allergist. I made an appointment for 2 of my children in June - they were scheduled out until November!! A week before the appointment they rescheduled it for APRIL! 10 months to get in to see an allergist that accepts Medicaid.
I was allergy free for 30 years until I moved to Texas, where I now have (relatively mild) allergies. Texans laugh and say it’s the cedar but I don’t think so. The truth is, I’ve never lived anywhere in the US with worse air quality. My weather app tells me all the time: “the air quality is poor today.” It never ever told me that in New York or Chicago….
Ugh. Bane of my existence. I too get allergy-induced migraines, amongst other ailments. I joke that snow-on-the-ground is the only allergy-lessened season for me.
It got worse when I moved across the country for university. For four years, I got double-whammied—spring allergies in Vancouver from Feb-April, then southern Ontario spring allergies in May. The reverse happened in the fall. Fall allergies in August here, followed by Sept-November in Vancouver.
Every year, I lost my voice. In my second year of teaching, it was so bad that my gr 9s didn't know what my real voice sounded like until ten weeks into the school year 🤦🏻♀️.
Then during pregnancy, my allergies were about 10× worse. My doctor finally agreed to have me take my Reactine, Singulair, Ventolin, and Flovent during pregnancy—in his words, "Not being able to breathe is a bigger risk to your baby."
Now, I mostly have asthma attacks when I laugh too much, or when I encounter ANY fragrances. My dream cruise over Christmas was a disaster...1500 people with fragrances in every product, carpet everywhere, and feather pillows. I needed all the above meds PLUS a nasal rinse 4× a day.
Ugh, I'm feeeeeling all ya'lls pain. You can grow into allergies and grow out. I've been waiting and waiting...to grow out of my allergies to spring trees and grasses for a VERY.LONG.TIME. I have attempted all the tricks: stay inside, wash bedding often, wash clothes after one wearing, drink caffeine, don't drink/eat dairy, shower twice+ a day...it goes on and on. So many horrible allergy attacks have forced me to leave social events or my job! cuz my face and eyes were falling off my face from sneezing. And the snot! WHERE does it all come from?? I go home, chug Nyquil and try to pass out hoping I wake up feeling better. What's actually worked for me? Kenalog injections in spring and fall backed up by OTC meds. Good luck everyone! It sucks.
Great article, Liz! I have been dealing with allergies since I was 18 (I have to take allergy medicine year round and have had allergy shots) and they have gotten significantly worse the last few years. I break out in hives more than I have in the past, too. I also just developed a shellfish allergy in my 40s (primarily scallops and shrimp - I don't really eat the other stuff anyway), and now I wonder if that has to do with climate change?!?!?!
The solution exacerbates the problem: air conditioning/global warming and probably a million other things. Ugh.
I discovered Dr Mark Hyman a few years ago. He suffered from black mold in his home and it changed the way he “doctored” from traditional western medicine to functional medicine. Here’s one example from him. https://drhyman.com/blog/2016/06/24/4-steps-to-getting-rid-of-seasonal-allergies/
I'm 60. I moved from England to California in 1999. I never had allergies growing up. I started getting allergies about five or six years ago and they seem to be getting worse. After the awful wildfires a few years ago we invested in three high-end air purifiers and that seems to be holding the allergies at a stable level, for now.
This is really interesting. Thanks for writing.
I’ve been experimenting this year with getting off antihistamines in pill form and going on a generic of Flonase. I can’t take Zyrtec, when I stopped after a few months my body would not stop itching for a month, had to switch to Claritin and wean off that. We’ll have a bad year this year as all the rain (a blessing mostly) will be producing so much pollen in the next few weeks.
In 2005 I moved my family to Tokyo to work in the Embassy for three years. It was very stressful right out of the box because I had a new job, I went from part-time to full-time, I was the only one in the family who spoke the language, etc. After about three weeks I started waking up every morning with a headache. I'd never had a migraine before but my younger sister had them and I started to suspect that was what was wrong with me. Long story short I had a headache every day for three months while going to every doctor I could find - and having at least one MRI - trying to figure out what was wrong. Finally a doctor on one of our bases in Yokohama told me I had an allergy to tyramine, a naturally occurring chemical in aged, fermented or otherwise not fresh food. It is found in lots of different foods - cheese, olives, nuts - but for me the culprit was...soy. I was suddenly eating tons and tons of fermented soy products like miso, soy sauce, etc. Problem identified!