For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a problem with dust. Any encounter with dust gives me a headache, itchy ears, and a general feeling of misery. I thought nothing of my reaction to dust until my experience with allergy testing. Reflecting on my past with what I know now, I’ve been suffering from allergy symptoms for a long time.
If you’ve been following along on my Instagram stories for the last few months, you know I’ve been on a mission to discover the source of a lingering headache. I visited an ENT, who sent me to an allergist, and we learned quite a bit. After two rounds of allergy testing I found out I’m allergic to 16 of 25 inhalant allergies.
What are inhalant allergens?
An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction in a person. An inhalant allergen is something breathed in that causes the reaction. Typical inhalant allergens are pollens, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites.
What happens when you’re exposed to an allergen?
When you’re exposed to an allergen, you might experience a variety of symptoms. Red irritated eyes, constant sneezing, and a runny nose are common symptoms. For me, it’s a headache, itchy eyes/ears/throat, a runny nose, and what feels like mucous running down the back of my throat. If I encounter an allergen my body releases a chemical called Histamine, which in turn produces the symptoms. You know how they always say to take an anti-histamine for allergies? An over-the-counter anti-histamine does NOT work for me.
The Back Story: I took allergy and cold medicine every day for two months.
PSA: Don’t self prescribe.
Back in November, I woke up with a headache one morning that didn’t go away no matter what I tried. The headache intensified, as did other cold-like and sometimes flu-like symptoms. I don’t even want to think about the havoc I wreaked on my body by abusing over the counter medications to treat myself. In January, I finally went to a walk-in and was diagnosed with a sinus infection. After two rounds of antibiotics and nasal sprays, I felt worse. I was then prescribed steroids and instructed to make an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat Specialist).
My ENT is amazing. After a full examination, she determined my sinus infection was gone but I needed to see an Allergist for my lingering symptoms. Did you know Histamine can be present in the nose, sinuses, ears, and throat? She suspected I was allergic to something I was encountering on a daily basis and needed to be tested asap.
Fact: Allergy testing is not fun.
My first round of allergy testing was not fun. Not only does it hurt, but if you are allergic to something, it is extremely uncomfortable on the site where it is pricked into your skin. The lowest injected of the allergens revealed I’m HIGHLY ALLERGIC to both kinds of dust and June Grass instantly. The testing also showed allergies to a few other things. One big find was that I’m allergic to cats and their saliva. Thankfully we don’t have to get rid of Mcmuffin, but it sure does explain why other people’s cat make me itch like crazy.
My second round of allergy testing was a little bit worse in terms of pain. Maybe I’m just sensitive, but those needs HURT. The allergist checked off a few more allergens on the list – black mold, every weeds possible, and a big positive next to Rye Grass. We only had to go through two levels of allergens because the results were instantaneous.
To summarize what all of the allergies I’m allergic to: Weeds (ragweed, english plaintain, russian thistle, lamb’s quarters, goldenrod), Grass (June Grass, Bermuda Grass, Timothy Grass, Rye Grass), Dust Mist, Oak Tree, Ash Tree, Molds (Penicillium and Aspergillus), and Cats.
How I’ve Changed my Lifestyle Since My Allergy Results
After the first round of allergy testing, the allergist recommended I make a few changes to my lifestyle immediately. The first change – AVOID THE ALLERGENS. It’s sort of impossible to avoid everything on the list, but there are ways to reduce the amount of the allergen in my life.
- Invest in an Air Purifier – I’m so excited Rabbit Air sent me an Air Purifier to try out in our bedroom. It’s been working wonders for me since I spend so much time in our bedroom (sleeping and working in my mini office). The BioGS2.0 Air Purifier detects pollutants in the air and turns on automatically to clean the air.
2. Hypoallergenic Pillow and Mattress Covers
3. Use a Robot Vacuum for dust maintenance – we haven’t bought yet but it’s on my list.
My Next Steps for Allergy Treatment
My ENT says the best way to treat my allergies is with immunotherapy – injections that would administer diluted doses of the allergens over a three year period. However I am waiting on insurance to give me a quote. In the meantime, I’m taking four prescription medications. There are two nasal sprays and two pills. The pills are taken before bed at night and definitely make me drowsy, while the nasal sprays are done in the morning. It’s only been a few days and I haven’t noticed much of a difference in how I feel – there’s a dull ache in my head and my nose is still runny. Hopefully soon I find a bit of relief, but ultimately the injections are going to the best treatment.
Caitlin Houston is a Connecticut based life and style blogger.