I have no memory of the event but my mom said that when I was playing with my hula hoop, a popular craze in the late 1950s, she noticed I was having trouble breathing. Diagnosis: asthma. Protocol: allergy shots. Family history has recorded me, at age 4, saying if they got rid of our boxer, I was leaving too, so the boxer stayed.
So I started my first series of allergy shots then. I had a few years of reprieve but sometime in my teens I went through a shot series again. I had another series around age 30 after 2 pregnancies and then again around age 40 after a 3rd pregnancy. Finally, here I am again, in my graying years, enjoying being a pincushion again.
Part of the reason I have needed so many series is because I have moved and have been exposed to new regional allergens. Part of the reason is that, as a woman, my body chemistry has changed a bunch: puberty, childbirth, and menopause all do a number on hormones and other internal chemical interactions. One of the joys of being a woman.
Sitting the requisite half hour to make sure I don’t have a reaction (I never have and hopefully, never will other than minor itchiness at the shot site) I have had a chance to observe and interact with other patients. Most are adults, but there have been a few kids. One girl cried out once when she got her shot and I assured her that her arms will become numb after a while. Since then she has been more stoic even though I know it must still bother her.
Allergic reactions are caused by the body’s immune system recognizing an exposure to something as an attack. Sneezing, excess mucous flow and tissue swelling are all ways the body tries to expel or repel the offending allergen. Why I inherited this gift from my father and neither of my sisters did is one of the mysteries of hereditary influences.
And environmentally I can reduce factors that can affect me. We sadly found new homes for our two young dogs several years ago. We kept the aging cat primarily because no one would take the little
monster darling. She is now about 14 years old but I suspect she will live well into her 20s just to spite me. We bought an artificial Christmas tree. (My allergist was surprised I was having issues at age 50 with that. I told him I had recently married a nonJew and it was my first couple of years with a real Christmas tree that helped me correlate the issue with major sinus problems.) I had other family members do the lawn mowing and vacuuming. Those were no-brainers.
A bigger step was to eliminate certain whole foods and all artificial foods from my diet. That meant no more packaged foods. This was about the time I started visiting farms in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio as part of marketing local foods. I learned a lot about the food that is sold at the supermarket and how so much of it, even much of the produce which looks so healthy, is full of chemicals. Those chemicals, dyes and the herbicide and pesticide residue that remains in the food and can not be washed off, can cause the body’s immune system to react.
If you are having allergy issues either as a continued lifelong event or as a new annoying event in your life, get to know your allergist to reduce your reaction to many of your allergens. Read about the food-allergy connection and run a two-month trial, eliminating all chemicals from processed foods you eat. See how you feel after that amount of time. I hope you can feel better like I did. Good luck!