Side Effects

23 March 2010 · 9 comments

It seems like every year, my allergies get worse. They come on in mid-March, knock me on my ass for about a month, and then leave during the middle of April. This year is no different — except they came on earlier and stronger than ever before.

I first noticed problems just before we left for Belize. Because of Oregon’s very mild winter, certain trees and flowers were beginning to blossom just after Valentine’s Day. I had some sneezing and sniffing, but then we left for a tropical climate and things were fine.

It was when we returned from our trip, however, that my troubles began. Almost immediately my eyes began to burn, my throat itched, my sinuses clogged, and I was floored by sneezing fits. The first week of March was awful.

During the second week of March, I had a bit of a respite. Whether from the Zyrtec or from the rain, my allergies took a rest. But the third week was worst of all. Last Tuesday, I was basically non-functional. I scratched out a quick post for Get Rich Slowly, but then I retreated into the bathtub for five or six hours, where I found some measure of relief.

My days were miserable, but my nights were worse. Because I couldn’t seem to find any medication that would alleviate my symptoms, sleeping became nearly impossible. On a normal night, my sleep chart looks like this:

Light grey indicates that I’m lying down. Dark grey indicates I’m asleep.

As you can see, I normally get into bed at about 10pm, fall asleep within half an hour, and sleep the whole night through. When Kris gets up at 5:30, I’m not really aware of it, but my sleep pattern is disrupted and I toss and turn until I finally wake up at around 6:30am.

That’s normal.

Here’s what my sleep has been like lately:

Light grey indicates that I’m lying down. Dark grey indicates I’m asleep.

This is a total mess. First of all, I’m napping during the day because I’m so tired from not getting sleep the night before. Then I’m trying to go to sleep early. In reality, I’m not able to doze off until about 11pm, but even then I’m unable to sleep for more than one cycle. (One of my sleep cycles is about 90 minutes, almost like clockwork.) And for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, I’m either tossing and turning so much that my body bug thinks I’m awake, or I actually get up and go downstairs to read and write — like I am right now. (It’s 2:15am.)

And through all of this, I’m miserable from congestion and sneezing and sore eyes and a scratchy throat.

What I really need to do is see an allergist, of course. I need to get tested, and then start receiving shots to cope with whatever it is that’s setting me off. But I’m a Roth, and we Roths don’t like doctors, so I haven’t taken that step. I think I soon will.

By the end of last week, I thought I had things under control. I was pumping myself full of Allegra or Claritin or Zyrtec, depending on which seemed to be effective at the time. I was rinsing my sinuses with my neti pot. And I was trying to stay indoors.

On Friday afternoon, I met Craig for dinner in downtown Portland. After dinner, we walked over to see the Trailblazers game. My allergies were bothering me, but not too much. I’d prepared in advance. As we strolled toward the Steel Bridge, we passed beneath a bunch of flowering ornamental cherry trees. Almost immediately, my eyes began to burn, my throat began to itch, I was sneezing, and my sinsuses clogged. Ugh. During the game, I was miserable. I had trouble sleeping that night and, especially, the next night. (Which is the evening the above “bad night” graph is from.)

Finally, I went to see a doctor on Sunday morning. I was at the “immediate care” clinic when it opened at nine.

The doctor listened to my symptoms sympathetically. “And what about a fever?” she asked as she examined me.

“I don’t have one,” I said.

“Actually, you do,” she said. “And it’s fairly high. This may have started as an allergy problem, but it’s grown worse. You have a sinus infection.” She prescribed an antibiotic and Claritin-D, which contains pseudo-ephedrine.

Now, when I was younger, I took pseudo-ephedrine all the time, primarily in the form of Sudafed. But this stuff is no longer available over the counter in Oregon. Because it’s the raw material for methamphetamine, it’s a controlled substance available by prescription only. I haven’t had pseudo-ephedrine in years. (Not in this house, anyway, which means nearly six years.)

The good news is: The stuff works. By Sunday afternoon, I could breathe again. My sinuses were clear. I felt almost human. Here’s what my sleep graph looked like last night:

Light grey indicates that I’m lying down. Dark grey indicates I’m asleep.

Note that from 9 to 10:30pm, I was laying down in bed watching The Amazing Race with Kris, so that doesn’t really count. And after about 7am, I was actually awake, but in bed reading. So, between 10:30 and 7, I got some sleep. It wasn’t perfect sleep, but it was much better than it has been. The main problem was I felt like my sleep was very very light. I didn’t feel well rested.

All day today, I felt great. My sinuses were mostly clear, I felt alert, and I worked hard. After a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, I worked for ten hours straight. It was only when Kris got home at around 6pm that I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. That’s pretty odd, since normally I’m hungry all the time. I forced myself to eat a modest dinner.

But the real trouble began at bedtime. We watched an episode of The Amazing Race and then turned out the lights to go sleep. “That’s strange,” I said. “I’m not tired.” Still, I did my best to doze off. I slept fitfully for about three hours (or two full sleep cycles). Then, at about 1:30, I woke up, ready to go to work. I was startled to see that it was the middle of the night.

And so here I am, sitting at the kitchen table with two cats at my side. (The cats love it when I can’t sleep; they think it’s a game.) A quick check online shows that I’m suffering from typical side effects of pseudo-ephedrine: I’m not tired, I’m not hungry, but I’m not really altogether here, either. Sounds like a perfect state of mind for “busy work”, of which I have much to do. But I know I’m going to be in bad shape in the morning.

I guess I’d better make an appointment with the allergist. I don’t want to go through this again next year.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tyler Tervooren 23 March 2010 at 09:07

I’m tellin ya, check out acupuncture! I’ve had several friends swear by it. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s an inexpensive, natural treatment and if it does work for you, the benefits last 3-4 years.

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2 bethh 24 March 2010 at 11:04

I was going to post what Tyler said. I have a former roommate who’s an acupuncturist in Portland (E Burnside and approximately 8th – handily near the best Greek Deli on the planet!), and she also does Chinese medicine. She’s super easy going and not threatening or weird at all. (well, there’s that one time… nah) I’m sure you can get my email from this post if you want her contact information.

Also, eating 1 Tbsp local honey per day can be a good way to help your body adjust to the pollens in the air, but I am sure it’s too late once you’re half-dead as you are.

Come on J.D., get off your duff and help yourself :)

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3 Chingtai 25 March 2010 at 22:11

I used to be suffering form Hay Fever as you do. And I need to take allergy pills to relieve all those dreadful symptoms. However, since I practice yoga weekly (in particularly focusing on the Yoga breathing). After about 1.5 year, I have completely cured from Hay Fever. No more pills. Perhaps, you can give that a try.

I was lucky to find a good yoga instructor, as not all yoga instructor are equal. ;-)

Good luck.

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4 Janice Cartier 29 March 2010 at 08:42

Activated Quercetin. Found naturally in grapefruit, pineapple and apples it is a natural non side effect bioflavonoid that works as an antihistamine with allergies. I eat a pink grapefruit every day right now but you can buy Quercetin at Whole Foods or a grocer like that. ( Be sure it is activated kind that contains bromelain. I like Source Natural when I buy it in that form.) Also use local honey, everyday right now. Also NeilMed , a saline nasal rinse that will make your sinuses thank you every time you use the little prepackaged rinses….seriously.
( Found you via Chris Guillebeau this am BTW :) )
Good luck.

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5 Joel 1 April 2010 at 10:14

You’re growing closer to the Maturin ideal in your age:

Stephen Maturin writing to Diana: “But the great wealth of every day is of course botanical, and that reminds me of the cuca or coca leaves that a Peruvian traveller gave me; when they are chewed with a little lime they sharpen the mind to a wonderful degree, they induce a sense of well-being and they abolish both hunger and fatigue. I have laid in a considerable stock….”
-The Far Side of the World

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6 Nicole 4 April 2010 at 19:42

We got this when the webcomic guy Howard Taylor recommended it:
http://www.schlockmercenary.com/blog/index.php/2007/02/07/a-breath-of-fresh-air/

It won’t help with a sinus infection but it is AMAZING for sleep during allergy season (or really doing anything inside during allergy season). It is a life-changing air filter. We’d had air filters before (multiple ones in the same room even) but this one is amazing. Worth every penny and then some.

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7 James 15 April 2010 at 13:46

Maybe I’ve missed this in earlier posts. Where are you getting the sleep chart from. Is this a heart monitor and computer application? I’d like to do a little analysis of my own.

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8 SeekingLemonade 15 April 2010 at 21:20

I too suffered endlessly from seasonal allergies. Since everyone is different, I cannot tell you if my story would help you at all.
But what I learned:
- moved from a place with dirty air to a cleaner place (NY to California).
- drastically reduce my intake of oil and oily foods.
- drastically reduce my intake of dairy.
- drastically reduce my intake of junk food, cookies, candy, etc.
- eliminate my intake of alcohol.
- drastically reduce my intake of bread and pastries.
- do yoga and meditation.
- (hate to say this but its true:) travel by car; not take public transportation

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9 jdroth 16 April 2010 at 13:30

@James (#7)
The sleep chart comes from my GoWearFit, which is a “body bug”-type armband that tracks my calories and exercise. It also has an algorithm to determine when it thinks you’re sleeping (though if you’re lying in bed watching The Amazing Race, it counts that, too).

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