Early suffering from Pollen Allergy, That’s What It Is
You can’t help but notice that this year’s spring came strangely early; or some may argue we simply had a winter that wasn’t. It was before mid-March when the temperature had already snuck into the seventies here in the northeast. Well, the brilliant performance of the weather this early part of 2012 sure would make Al Gore proud.
Mother Nature never bothers with the calendar. As soon as there is a hint of warming up, everything gets rolling. The earthworms tunnel their way out from underneath the never-frozen ground, attracting some hungry robins that are planning where to build their new nest, at the same time trying to fight off those ever aggressive blue jays, all the while being watched indifferently in the pine trees by the majestic cardinals. Those Knock-out Roses and Japanese Willows that my wife and I put in last May shoot out overnight and are growing like a teen-aged boy’s hair. Before April comes calling, I’ve already built a new shed by the fence.
It is green all around; and so many flowers are already in full bloom without the benefit of the customary April showers. The outdoors turn so beautiful, you can smell life in the air.
“Bob, the Walker”, as affectionately called by my kids because this retiree walks all over the neighborhood year round for exercise, comes along and chats it up with his thick southern accent: “What a beautiful day!”
“Yeah! Got to enjoy it!” I nodded whole-heartedly agreeing.
Ah, an early spring, what’s not to like? Until my eyes start itching. Then the reality hits me: You’re going to suffer from your annual pollen allergy much earlier this year, and most likely for longer.
Pollen allergy is no laughing matter. More than forty percent of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. For some, it is just nuisance that causes little more than runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes. For others, however, it can prove life-threatening.
When my family moved to New Jersey some twenty years ago, we had a weekend barbecue in the backyard and enjoyed a great spring day that you couldn’t have in the city. Our oldest son, Bryant, who then was just about two years old, was so happy and could not stop running around the blooming flowers and thriving trees for hours. But by the time we retired into the house later in the evening, he had started coughing and running a fever. Being young and inexperienced first-time parents, we mistook this as “perhaps just a cold” and did not think much of it until the next day when the doctors’ office opened.
Bryant had asthma. That was the news delivered by his pediatrician. He gave us a good lecture for not bringing him in right away and, after a brief nebulizer treatment, sent us straight to the hospital. We were stopped by the police en route for obviously speeding. But I did not need to try hard to make my case, and the stone-faced trooper took a look at the wheezing toddler and his teary-eyed mother in the back seat, simply ordered “drive safely” and sent us back on our way.
The hospital staff got Bryant stabilized, but not before subjecting his tiny body to countless needles. Every relative who came to visit was heart-broken when they saw this poor little guy, who a day earlier was still a ball of energy, had to be confined to his small oxygen tent.
Bryant had since recovered and even out-grown asthma. He was actually able to earn his Master of Science degree while double majoring within three years at a school of his choice and secure a great job that he desired at a major financial service firm at the bottom of the latest brutal financial crisis. But my wife and I still like to tease him from time to time: Had he not had that episode of asthma attack, he could have been one of those Princeton hot-shots. Who knows?
Timing is everything in dealing with allergy, as I learned from the pediatrician of my younger son, Dusty, who every spring without fail would catch almost everything pollen allergy can possibly throw at you. The doctor told us during a visit that you would have to get medicated to close the door before the pollen comes knocking, or it will become the most annoying guest that is very difficult to get rid of. So for years, the entire allergic population of the family would start taking one of those one-a-day pills on the first day of April in anticipation of the peak of the blooming season that would come on cue in a couple of weeks. This pretreatment, plus shutting all the doors and window and sacrificing the great pleasure of the spring outdoors, has been working as prescribed.
Until this year. Who would have thought spring would show up a whole month early? This unusually early warmth weather, combined with the severe lack of April showers, caught millions of allergy sufferers by surprise and sent them scrambling for prescriptions. However, it is too late for them: Many allergists report that their patients’ symptoms are more severe than the past, likely because they did not have time to pretreat themselves. There is not much they can do about it now except swallowing whatever pills that they think fit, such as Zyrtec or Allegra, and maybe spray their nostrils with some steroid, like Flonase or Nasonex. Or they can pray for rain every day and an early arrival of the next season.
Right now, listening to the sound of Dusty blowing his nose into tissues at night, I can tell you, there is indeed something not to like about an early spring, after all.