We have lived in our home for nearly a decade and I love it. I truly love my yard, but the feeling is not mutual. My yard is trying to kill me. After a lifetime of thinking of myself as allergy free, I have been proven wrong. Oak trees, along with other things, cause me to have an extreme allergic reaction. Care to guess where I live? Yes, in the middle of a 150 acres of forest.
I had no idea that this could be a life-ending allergy for me. Huge portions of this country have primarily hickory and oak forests. I would need to drive at least a twelve hours to be somewhere that doesn’t have oak trees. If you or someone in your family struggles with seasonal allergies, please go to an allergist to find out what they are. In a truly catastrophic event, it is critical that you know the type of environment you can live in.
I have had chronic bronchitis and other coughing-related problems since Junior High. At one point, a doctor prescribed an inhaler, and another mentioned I might have asthma. When I lived on the West Coast, my coughing problems subsided and I thought I had outgrown my allergies.
After I moved back East, the coughing problems returned. After a few years, seasonal allergy flare ups became a problem, so I started taking over the counter antihistamines. Things got worse and I was now using a nasal spray and prescription medication. I remembered my inhaler and tried it. It helped, a lot.
When I developed an allergy to onions, I realized that I needed to see an allergist. When I told her I had used more than 3/4 of a rescue inhaler in three weeks time, she was shocked. Clearly, it was the wrong treatment and I should have been in sooner.
As per normal procedure, I had stop taking antihistamines for a week before the testing, to ensure they were all out of my system. Thankfully I could still use an inhaler. The allergist tested nearly 30 different things on me using prick and intra-dermal methods. I came back as allergic to all of them. I reacted as a 4++, with 4 being the highest, on oak trees. My body was also very reactive to many other common substances such as ragweed and dust mites.
I had no idea how severe my allergies were. There were times I had difficulty breathing and that should have caused me to seek immediate treatment. But it crept up so slowly over a long period of time, I did not think about it. So please get check out by a allergist if you have symptoms that you can’t control. It may be worse than you realize, even potentially life-threatening – like mine.
Medication and Other Steps
There are many steps to help reduce your allergies. If you know you have a pet allergy, accept it and do not get another pet that will trigger your allergies. When you see an allergy and asthma specialist, they will give you a specific plan with remediation steps to take.
One simple step is to use a face mask. I strongly prefer the machine washable, reusable “Breathe Healthy” face masks because I can wear them for hours without the discomfort that cheap disposable masks cause. There are a variety of fun patterns to choose from. Cleaning the inside of you home can stir up dust, pet dander, and other allergens. Cleaning outside can stir up pollen. Wearing a face mask and possibly even goggles reduces how much of the allergen enters your system.
Neti pots can also be a great help, but be careful with the water you use. Buying distilled water is a great choice, although boiling and then cooling water before using it is also popular.
With the severity of my allergies, I will be getting immunotherapy shots. Immunotherapy is a weekly commitment for about five years. It isn’t something that everyone can do, even if they are a candidate for it. I know that I cannot avoid oak trees and I am going to keep my pets. For me, the sacrifice and time of immunotherapy is worth it.
The week leading up to my allergy test, I was wearing a face mask any time I went outside and most of the time I was inside. There were moments when it was difficult for me to breathe, and it wasn’t even peak pollen season.
My doctor prescribed Singulair, antihistamines, a nasal spray, and an asthma inhaler for daily use. I also rely on a rescue inhaler in case of an allergy induced asthma attack. Many allergy medications are available over the counter. It is important to know what medicine is best for you and to keep a good supply on hand.
If a severe allergy sufferer is without their medications for more than a day or two, their condition could degenerate from healthy to life-threatening before help arrives. For example, antihistamines only stay in your system for 2-7 days. Consider keeping extra medication at work, in the car or other places where you might need it.
Local honey can help with allergies for weeds, grasses, and anything else bees pollinate. But bees aren’t big pollinators of trees, so it can’t be a solution for everyone. It didn’t even occur to me that the reason the honey was improving, but not eliminating, my allergy problems was that I had multiple allergies to some things that bees don’t pollinate.
Local honey operates on the same principal as allergy shots. When ingested, your body is exposed to small amounts of an allergen to help it develop a tolerance. Honey has the potential to reduce the user’s overall “allergen load.” An allergen load is the total amount of allergens your body is dealing with at any point in time.
Once you know what you are allergic to, it is important to take steps to reduce your allergen load. You may be able to reduce your total exposure below the allergic threshold, which is where symptoms start. Since it is the total exposure to all allergens that leads to being symptomatic, it makes sense to reduce anything possible.
If you have a cup, and you pour some milk in it, some soda, some coffee, and a little bit of tea, it will eventually overflow. It doesn’t matter that there are lots of different types of drinks in it. The cup will overflow the same if you held it under the sink and filled it with just water. The same is true of allergens. If sufferers can remove or reduce even one or two triggers, it can make a difference.
Certain foods, such as onions, garlic, corn, and wheat, are common and seemingly impossible to avoid entirely. Others, such as passion fruit and quinoa, are fairly simple to avoid. The same is true of non-food allergens. Mites are almost impossible to avoid entirely and oak trees are incredibly common wherever there are deciduous forests. While most of us won’t part with a family pet easily, horses and orchids are pretty simple for most of us to avoid.
Bugging In versus Bugging Out
As a prepper, keep at least one extra month or two supply of your allergy medications, including local honey if you use it. Asthma inhalers are prescription only, making it hard to have extras on hand. Keep a supply of over the counter medicine, including simple anti-histamines, even if they aren’t part of your daily regimen. Remember that having your gear and supplies to keep allergens off you is also a must. A scrub cap (they make scrub caps specifically for long hair), no rinse shampoo, and the “Breathe Healthy” face masks can help keep pollen away from your eyes and nose. Pollen is designed to stick to things, so it will be carried in on the surface of anything that goes outside. Being able to clean your clothes without electricity will let you have pollen-free clothing, when you or anyone in the family has to venture out into nature. Pollen will also attach to your pets (waterless pet shampoo is a good idea), so be prepared to clean a lot during pollen season and in an emergency.
I know my allergies has forced us to change some of our preparedness plans. I am a big proponent of bugging in versus bugging out. In the event of a disaster, my family will have only a month or two of bugging in at our home. We will need to move away from any oak trees before I run out of medications. I will also need to be careful around fires because the smoke triggers my asthma.
As difficult as it is to have allergies, knowing what they are, how to treat them and what to do in an emergency, has given me more control over my health and preparedness plans.