Ahhh-Choo!!!

The sneezin’ season turns summer into suffering

By Deborah Salomon

Spring-fling-April-showers-May-flowers-June-moon-birds-and-bees-and-trees . . . and hay fever.

I do not welcome spring/early summer. I dread it. All that chirping and buzzing means misery. While others are frolicking in the meadow, rolling in the grass, picnicking in the woods I am either binge sneezing or stoned on antihistamines.

That first ominous tickle appears in April, this year earlier, when trees begin budding. I can’t name which tree or grass or weed because it doesn’t matter; I’m allergic to them all. The tickle feels like centipedes doing the hokey-pokey inside my nose. Rubbing only aggravates the dance. Then sneezing commences — consecutive loud ones, eight or nine without a breather. At 10 I get dizzy. Fourteen or more and I’ve been known to faint.

This leaves my besieged nose red, raw and irritated. Years ago, a fellow-sufferer advised against using Kleenex because the fluff further inflames, causing more sneezing. Men’s hankies, she said, only ones that are 100 percent soft cotton. I have dozens but still run the washing machine almost every day, in season.

About the season: Used to be, hayfever would abate in June, return in September, just in time for school, and last until a hard frost killed the leaf molds. What could be more embarrassing than having to flee the classroom consumed by sneezes? I remember some mean kids that, during a grand mal episode, counted them down until I fled, in tears.

Tears? Who could tell, since my eyes commiserate with my nose?

Every region is different, according to the flora. My hayfever is awful in Manhattan, where there’s little, but better near the ocean. I thought the Sandhills would be OK, since I’m not allergic to that gold dust emitted by longleaf pines. Bad guess. Not only is it present, but unpredictable, since plants never really die here. Last year I suffered bouts into December.

Oh, you’ve just got a cold, an allergy-free friend said, not understanding the telltale tickle.

After a few weeks of sporadic attacks comes sinus involvement, when turning my head side-to-side pains more than walking on red-hot stones.

Do something, Deb!

As a teenager I took then-popular Chlor-Trimeton, which worked OK until I became immune. One year I had shots, twice a week, all winter, with minimal results.

Since then I’ve tried every new “non-drowsy” OTC remedy. They calmed the sneezing and, as advertised, didn’t make me drowsy, more like comatose — awful, since my job requires putting one word in front of another. At least I’m not a cat burglar. Or a neurosurgeon. And, I’m equipped to play either Sneezy or Dopey for Walt Disney.

Recently the doctor prescribed a nasal spray that would treat all my symptoms without inducing stupor. Which it did, for a few glorious days, followed by blurred vision and headaches — two possible side effects listed in the tiniest print on the package.

Look, hay fever isn’t serious or life-threatening; maybe life-altering, but not enough to live in Arizona. There’s no magic pill or abracadabra spray. I overreact to insect bites but don’t have food allergies, thank goodness. Best of all, I was excused from the 10th grade botany class wildflower field trip.

But if you plan to invite me to a garden party, a lawn wedding or a picnic, please wait until January.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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