I don’t know when my allergies took a turn for the worst. I don’t remember having so many issues with them in the past. In March of 2010, I decided to see a Ear, Nose, & Throat specialist (ENT). It was getting to the point where I usually had a sinus infection once a year (thankfully no more than that – and I wanted to keep it that way), and I would have what I call “allergy attacks” often. This is when I would sneeze a lot over a short period of time (1-2 hours), and both nostrils would be so stopped up, I couldn’t breathe. It’s hard to describe this feeling. It wasn’t like a stuffy nose when you have a cold. There would typically be no congestion pressure in my nasal passage like there is when I have a sinus infection. And when this happened, it felt like no matter what I did, I couldn’t get a deep, refreshing breath of air, even if inhaling through my mouth. That is one of the worst feelings ever. I couldn’t go to sleep until the spell passed, and they typically happened at night (before I even went to bed).
I was prescribed with prescription medication, taking Singular and Xyzal daily. And let me tell you, if I missed taking Singular for 2-3 days, I was miserable, moreso than usual. So I know it helped me a lot. However, a year went by, and I was still having allergy attacks, so I tried samples of prescription nasal sprays, and that didn’t help. It was also suggested by my doctor to take an additional over-the-counter medicine (such as Benadryl) when I would have an allergy attack. Benadryl did nothing for me; it doesn’t even make me sleepy. My mom had suggested Walgreen’s Wal-Act, so I tried it. And it seems to do the trick for the most part. I still take one every night before bedtime.
As my yearly ENT appointment got closer in 2012, I was frustrated that I was taking 2 prescription medications, 1 over-the-counter medicine (regularly), and using nose spray – and I was still having issues and allergy attacks more than I thought I should with everything I was trying to do to prevent it. So I decided it was time to do an allergy test to find out exactly what I was allergic to. These allergies were year-round and not just during the months when things started blooming. I talked to Alex and told him I wanted the allergy test to be my birthday “present” last year (since we would have to pay for most of it out-of-pocket due to a high deductible). Thankfully, it only cost me $186 instead of the original $300-$400 quote from my ENT doctor.
I didn’t do the prick test like they used to do. They drew blood at the end of June 2012 and tested me against the most known allergens here in northern Alabama. I do wish I had gotten them to do the food allergy test now just out of curiosity. They submitted my blood work for 2 different panels: one for general allergens and one for molds. The nurse called me a couple weeks later with my test results. She said I was allergic to both dust mites and a little bit to cats and asked if I had a cat. HAHA! I told her I had 5, and she said, “Oh my…” Yeah. I’m more allergic to dust mites and mold though.
Here are the test results for the general allergen tests. The 3 molds they have listed here are confusing to me since it shows I am allergic to all 3 on the mold panel. This test and the mold test seem to have different rating systems though.
So, all this time I’ve been thinking I am allergic to pollen, I’m not. I mean, if I inhale enough during the spring when it seems to be raining pollen, my nose will itch, and I will sneeze some, but it’s not bad like some people’s pollen allergies.
Here are the mold test results.
So, in order from least to most severe, I am allergic to:
- acremonium kiliense (aka Cephalosporium acremonium): mold. Several articles say it can be found in a variety of locations: plant debris and soil, concrete and concrete dust (bottom of page 3), and other various locations such as building materials & food. Allergy Level for Me: 1
- epicoccum nigrum: mold; mainly found in decaying vegetation, dead plants, & soil Allergy Level for Me: 1
- cladosporium herbarum (mold); most common airborne mold; found outside on dead leaves of herbaceous and woody plants, indoors on many items (it’s referred to as Black Mold), and it increases atmospherically by 1,000 times before rain (bottom of page 3) Allergy Level for Me: 1
- fusarium moniliforme (mold); green plant parasite (bottom of page 3), causes ear and stalk rot in corn Allergy Level for Me: 2
- helminthosporium halodes (mold); found in cereal grains, plants & grasses (bottom of page 3) Allergy Level for Me: 2
- cat hair/dander: Yeah, I have 5 cats. I try to keep them out of my bedroom, but doesn’t always work. They don’t sleep with me though. Getting rid of them is not an option, so I try to vacuum as often as possible (all hardwood floors except 1 room), and I refrain from holding them (98% of the time). Allergy Level for Me: 2
- aspergillus fumigatus (mold); found in old damp musty houses, in onions as black mold, damp hay, leather goods, spoiled foods, and decaying vegetation (bottom of page 3) as well as bird droppings, tobacco, and stored sweet potatoes Allergy Level for Me: 3
- penicillium notatum chrysogenum (mold); can be found in leather & fabrics (bottom of page 3), common bread mold, found in certain cheeses, blue mold rot in some fruits; is used in production of green & blue mold cheeses. I am not allergic to the antibiotic, Penicillin. Allergy Level for Me: 3
- dust mites (American and European); Researching this one was disgusting. I think the dust mites might be causing most of my allergy attacks since symptoms can make you feel like you have an endless cold or even asthma. High levels of mites can be found in mattresses, pillows, bed linens, carpets, draperies, upholstered furniture, and stuffed toys. Both decomposing animal parts and the protein that surrounds mite fecal pellets causes mite allergies (page 2), (*gag*). This website (underneath the title “Where do they live?”) states that 10% of your pillow’s weight (at 2 years) is composed of dead mites and their fecal matter. This website says there can be up to 1,000 dust mights in a gram (1 tsp) of dust. There are 28 grams in an ounce and 16 ounces in a pound. So, for example, if your pillow weighed 3 lbs (48oz), then 4.8 oz of that pillow is dust mites and fecal matter. That means up to as many as 134,400 dust mites in a pillow that’s just TWO years old. That increases over time. I frequently throw my pillows into the dryer and run it for 20 minutes on hot heat to get rid of dead dust mite build up. I haven’t tried pillow casings that are dust-mite proof yet. As for the rest of the house, I try to follow as many suggestions as possible on this website, and I do my best to vacuum 2-3 times a week (95% hardwood floors). However, sadly, I’m not good at dusting, except my bedroom. Allergy Level for Me: 3
- candida albicans (mold/yeast); common in soil and organic debris and in humans as normal gut flora. I’ve read here (bottom of page 3) that it can be found in aged or smoked foods, bakery goods, pastries, breads, yeast products, alcoholic beverages, and vinegar. Most of these foods help feed the yeast, therefore increasing it’s numbers. I don’t understand if the allergy comes from the actual normal level of gut flora candida, or if the allergy comes from an overgrowth of the organism. This is the thing I’m most allergic to, and my doctor recommended a yeast-free diet. Um, no. I tried that last summer for a whole week and got super depressed after discovering how much I couldn’t eat. I thought it meant no yeast products (breads mainly), but I soon realized it was yeast-free, diary free, sugar free, fruit free, gluten free, and alcohol free, with no fermented products, no peanuts or peanut products, no mushrooms, and the list goes on and on). I am going to try my best to limit these foods and determine which ones cause a more severe reaction than others. I do take note of what I ate on nights that my nose is more stuffy and my breathing is more labored. However, I don’t know for sure if it’s Candida, dust mites, mold, or the cats (or a combination of those things) causing it. Trial and error… I won’t completely avoid a food unless it sends me into near antiphlactic shock. Allergy Level for Me: 4
I decided to do allergy drops rather than allergy shots because of the distance to my ENT doctor. So, I have to pick up a new prescription of allergy drops every 5 weeks, and it’s not cheap. Insurance does not cover allergy drops since they are not FDA approved, so for my 2 tiny bottles, it is $100 every 5 weeks. The remaining liquid in the picture is for 3 weeks. The one on the right is slightly darker in color, which I’m assuming is due to the coloration of the molds present. It’s disturbing to think I’m purposely ingesting molds, however small the amount is.
I can definitely tell they are helping though. I didn’t renew my mail order prescription in time for Singular a few months back, so there were several days I had to go without it – and I didn’t feel miserable like I normally would before when missing a few days! So, I see that as a sign of improvement. We are nearing the 1-year mark with the allergy drops, so I am anxious to talk to my ENT doctor at my next appointment.