A Trip to the Allergist

IMG_1350I turned 34 last week. My age isn’t an issue, but my health and wellness are always on my mind. In the past couple of years, I’ve developed what seems like a pretty extreme dog allergy. That coupled with seasonal allergies that seem to last all year can be rather aggravating. Hell, I was aggravated enough without the dog allergies.

I actually made my appointment to see the allergist back in June, thinking I might be able to fit it in before dogsitting for my parents for 12 days. They couldn’t fit me in until August, though, so last week I went for my first ever appointment with an allergist.

A packet of paperwork came at the end of July, with all of the instructions for my appointment. The worst was not being able to take antihistamines for 7 days before the appointment. I had several sinus headaches and was stuck with Aleve and compresses for pain. It wasn’t unbearable, but it definitely wasn’t pleasant.

On the day of the appointment, I was in the office for about 2 hours, including wait time. The paperwork I received had actually said to plan to be in the office for 1-2 hours because they give every patient undivided attention and this sometimes causes a wait, especially if there are emergencies. I don’t have a problem with this at all, especially since I hope for the same care if I have an emergency or am actually ill.

That said, the office I went to was in a children’s hospital environment that I did not feel accommodated adult patients well at all. While in the waiting room, my only entertainment options were to watch Princess Sophia (?) on TV, color, or play with toys. There were some adult magazines in the actual back rooms, but… whatever.

The doctor was nice enough. I felt like she listened to me, but not with as much detail as I would have liked. She seemed to have her own agenda with questions to ask in order to determine what tests she’d do, but she didn’t actually listen to all of my answers. She heard me say I was concerned about dairy and wheat, but then she focused on dairy and didn’t even bother testing me for wheat (which I realized later).

They did scratch tests on my arms, testing for 24 different allergens, mostly environmental. The nurse marked my arms with pen, 12 on each side, so she could see where she was placing the scratches (above each mark). The scratches weren’t needles, but plastic pieces that looked like they had tiny teeth. It felt like she was stabbing me with a toothpick each time – annoying but not painful. We then had to wait 15 minutes to see which ones would swell. “Redness doesn’t count,” she said. The doctor made her determinations based on the size of the “wheel” that came up on my skin.

And that’s where things got interesting. My only allergies are to dust mites (east and west – who knew there were two?) and dogs.

That’s it. No pollen, no ragweed, no trees. Dust mites and dogs – and both were “very extreme.”

Now, the dog part wasn’t a surprise, as it was the ultimate catalyst for the appointment. But the dust mites and lack of outside environmental allergens? That surprised me.

A “very extreme” dust mite allergy isn’t a good thing. It means I’m going to spend a ton of time cleaning, looking for hypoallergenic bedding, investing in HEPA filters (which aren’t really super helpful for dust mites), and making a few other changes. She suggested I consider moving out of my apartment, as ultimately I should get away from rugs, but that’s not something I can do for at least a year. I’ve lived this long with it, I suppose I can make do with the other changes.

What irritates me about the dust mite allergy, however, is that if I had at any point in my life seen an allergist before this, I may not have wasted so much time with inaccurate treatments due to what is basically a misdiagnosis. Everyone has seasonal allergy irritations, but mine were far beyond that. Live and learn. I never would have second-guessed something I’d been dealing with since childhood.

The allergist did, however, say that my sinus headaches, post-nasal drip, and other symptoms indicated to her that I have a sinus issue that has not been treated properly. Regular antibiotic courses of 10 days are not long enough for proper sinus treatment, though they often make the symptoms go away. I said, “But I haven’t been treated for a sinus infection in over 8 years,” and she said, “No, you haven’t been treated for an acute sinus infection.” Touche. Ultimately, I’m now on a 30-day course of low-dose antibiotics and probiotics. If the headaches don’t stop by the end, or if the stop and come back, I’m to go for a CAT scan of my sinuses. We’ll see how it goes.

The end of the appointment was a bit overwhelming with medication explanations – antibiotics, new antihistamines so I can be near the dogs without incident, Flonase (I already take), and even a new inhaler for coughing/wheezing and shortness of breath – even instructions about what probiotics to buy (it’s simpler than you would think).

So that’s that. I have a lot of work to do, which overwhelms me a little bit. And I have to start saving my pennies. I don’t have the funds to run out and buy expensive bedding and air filters and don’t want to put myself into debt to do so. I’ve got an interesting road ahead.



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