The Misery of it All: Allergies and Hayfever in the Autumn
The scene opens in Eagle Picher Industries, Silver Zinc Battery Manufacturing Department. A man walks into the restroom and disappears. Some thirty to forty minutes later he reappears, appearing groggy; disoriented. He has been a victim of....
The Allergy Medicine Zone!
Yes, this happened to me nearly thirty years ago. A wonderful new medication was available over the counter to those of us who suffer from Hay fever as it is commonly called. Diphenhydramine, or Benadryl, is an antihistamine designed to halt the symptoms of hay fever and give the sufferer up to eight hours of relief.
Who knew it would eventually be used for other ailments, including as a sleep aid? I found out that day back in 1985 that it was a wonderful sleep aid: I slept for over a half an hour sitting upright on the toilet!
Yes, I am one of the millions who are blessed with fall allergies. This time of year plants such as Ragweed, Pigweed, and Goldenrod are in full irritation power. Our systems, for whatever reason, are unable to handle this onslaught and as a result we are reduced to not being able to see due to our eyes tearing up and flowing like the Mississippi River; our noses produce so much discharge (read: snot) as to dehydrate our bodies to a point not seen since a traveler was lost in Death Valley; and our sinus passageways swell and cause severe headaches not unlike those associated with a concussion.
What a swell time of year!
Back when I was but a teenager, I underwent several hours of bliss in order to find out just what I was allergic to. The doctor had me lay down on my stomach while he proceeded to carve little circles into by back. Once he had oh, two hundred or so, he began to drop liquids into each of them in a pattern. Each liquid was unique and contained extracts from things such as chocolate, different trees, plants, weeds and such. Vegetables were included as was fruit. Basically anything one could be allergic to, he tested me for. When the results came back I had severe reactions to penicillin, Elm trees, ragweed, pigweed, goldenrod, chocolate, carrots, and milk among other things. He concocted a serum that he used to inject me with, a la Jekyll and Hyde, three times a week. After a few months of this, it went to twice a week, then once a week. Finally it became once every two weeks. He assured me I would no longer have any Fall allergies. And, he was right.
But what I DID have was seven day a week, fifty two weeks a year sniffles. non stop, constant sniffles that drove me insane. I had to keep a handkerchief with me at all times, washing it daily due to the amount of liquid I mined from my nose. Eventually I decided I would rather suffer for six weeks or so than be irritated fifty two weeks.
Those of us affected are unable to enjoy the cooling weather because we are miserable. Those of us who enjoy hunting must wait until the first frost kills whatever is causing our suffering for if we were to venture into the woods and tempt the fates, fates win hands down. No self respecting deer will come within earshot of us due to the constant barrage of sneezing, and if they did (purely to view and laugh at our crying, snotting, sneezing selves) we would be either unable to see clearly through the tears, or be unable to shoot them due to the spasms associated with the sneezing.
Can you tell this is both my favorite time of year, and my least favorite time of year?
Do you suffer from seasonal allergies?
For those of us who suffer in not so silent agony during the late Summer to early Autumn, drug manufacturers have a multitude of pills and liquids which are supposedly designed to help us through our time of trial and tribulation; but at what cost? Each of these medical miracles seem to have side effects which may or may not be worse than the symptoms we suffer with.
Let's take a look at some of them , shall we?
As a Sleep Aid
The Wonder Drug I mentioned earlier, Benadryl, is as good as any to begin with. As Wikipedia states, this is a first generation antihistamine which has properties which include the treatment of allegies. So, it supposedly works on allergies to reduce the symptoms of the common allergy attack, mainly the sniffling and itching associated with it. But is also has, and I quote, "a strong hypnotic effect". So, it puts one to sleep. How well does it work? Check out the Nyquil product Zzzquil. Active ingrediant: Diphenhydramine. Unisom? Diphenhydramine. Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM? Diphenhydramine all. The manufacturer also advises that a tolerance against the hypnotic effect builds rather quickly, usually after only three days. Well, perhaps to some; I still cannot take it without dropping off at inopportune times.
Benadryl as a Motion Sickness Aid and Beyond
Will wonders never cease?! Benadryl is also good for use as an aid against motion sickness. Look for it in your pills taken for car sickness and such; chances are it's there. What else is it good for? Morning sickness! Yep, doctors have told women for years to take a half of a pill each morning during their morning sickness phase. Oh, and lest we forget: it's used for skin irritations, as an assistance against bee stings and allergic reactions to peanuts and such.
Sounds to me like it truly is The Wonder Drug!
There I go, off on an allergy induced tangent again. Let's take a look at other medicines on the open market that are used for allergies, shall we?
Loratadine - a second generation antihistamine on the market, commonly referred to as Claritin. This is a supposed non-drowsy formula that still can, and often does, cause serious sleepiness in some people (me!). In its Claritin-D formula, it is combined with psuedoephidrine which makes it rather unique. It puts one to sleep while alternately hyping one up. Sorta like taking an upper and downer at the same time, don't you think? You want to sleep but you are cranky, wound up, irritated (as if allergies weren't enough of an irritant).
Cetirizine - another second generation antihistamine, commonly referred to as Zyrtec. Nowhere near as sleep inducing as either of the first two drugs, this one won't put you to sleep. It is a once a day pill which in reality is in your system for about 21 hours. However, don't let that once a day tag fool you. The average half life of this product is only 8 hours. The study goes on to say that about 70% of the drug is removed from your system by urination and another 10% through excretions (yuck). Again, this is seen combined with psuedoephedrine to make it a decongestant. And again, that being would up feeling returns. Oh joy!
Dimenhydrate - Basically this is Dramamine, a motion sickness drug. It does have some antihistamine properties however, and has the added bonus of acting like a stimulant along the lines of coffee. That being said, it still can and will put one to sleep.
These are a few of my favorites things
So, basically one has the following choices during this wonderful time of year. One can suffer (and not in silence!) through sneezing, snotting, tissue using madness; one can sleep through the next six to eight weeks or so; or one can spend the days hopping around, wound up tighter than a drum. Or any combination thereof. One can take pills, liquids, snort something up their nose, or shove something up their fanny. One can take a shot at the doctor's, or pay extra for a prescription for something which works no better than an over the counter drug. One can remain indoors, hoping the $20.00 air filter you purchased will remove most of the dust, dander, and pollen from the air before we inhale it; or one can say "Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!" and sally forth into into the outdoors while throwing one's caution (and one's dignity) to the winds. But be sure to use a large blue bandanna for I have learned that the large red ones seem to draw attention from unwanted things like bulls and bees and such.
Oh, the choices!!!
I suppose I will continue on as I have for the past forty years or so, taking the medication, dealing with the side effects, and keeping something near at hand in order to wipe my nose and dab at my eyes. I try, successfully at times, to ward of sneezes by clenching my forefinger and thumb across the bridge of my nose tightly when a sneeze threatens; after a few seconds the feeling subsides sufficiently to allow me to remove my hand from my face and look at someone with tear stained eyes and dribbling nostrils.
Then, at night I will take one of those sleep inducing tablets and lay down on my back, head hanging off the bed, mouth wide open and ready for spiders to venture into, and try to make it through the nighttime hours. Morning comes and I stumble to the bathroom intent on cleansing the crusties from my eyelashes, and the crusties from my nose enough to appear somewhat normal for another day at work.
Please, Jack Frost! Come visit early this year!!!