To Do by 30: Your Allergy Doctor, Your New Best Friend

2014 is it for me. My countdown to turning 30 can no longer be avoided, so instead I’m choosing to embrace the next four months and 9 days (but who’s counting?) by finally ending the procrastination of my 20’s and getting isht done. Welcome to the new blog series “To Do by 30“. First on my to-do list: allergy testing.

Pretty hurts. (If there’s cat hair involved)

If you’ve experienced constant sinus issues, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, or any of the other host of glamorous symptoms faced by those with allergies, you’ve probably thought about getting allergy tested at some point. My allergy issues started when I moved from the West Coast, where it is not uncommon to grow your own oranges or avocados while palm trees and Eucalyptus leaves sway in the breeze to … New Hampshire. To put it into perspective, I almost vomited one summer because I was nauseous at the sight of green foliage everywhere. And clearly angry at the world, as I recall internally screaming “So much green what is wrong with this place?!” Very different environments cued on decades of congestion, itchy eyes, and sudden pet allergies.

Sure there are over the counter allergy medications I’ve dabbled with over the years, but I’ve always planned on going to see a specialist and figuring out something that actually deals with your allergies instead of just putting you to sleep. I needed more than just a Benadryl-induced coma to help me forget about my nose feeling like it is being tickled with millions of miniscule feathers and my throat being scraped with a fine toothed comb made up of needles. But like many other things you will soon read about on here, it’s just something I never got around to. One particular sinus infection brought me in to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist who then gave me that final push needed to get to an allergist. 

There are Four Important Things I learned from going to see an allergy specialist.

1. Trust them when they say it won’t hurt. As a serial doctor procrastinator/avoider, one of the things that has kept me away from medical facilities is their proclivity for poking me with sharp things. To test you for allergies, you will be poked with a range of sharp things but it really will not hurt. The skin tests are simply tiny pricks and do not draw any blood. Much worse however is the itchiness, swelling, and red splotches that occur when you have a reaction to certain allergens. If you see this as a challenge to your self-control and good practice for using the power of mind over matter rather than torture, you’ll make it out alive.

2. It’s a good place to meet new friends. After your arms have been pricked with over 30 plus tiny needles to see which environmental allergens you’ll react to, you have to sit for about ten minutes so that your body has time to react. While you’re sitting, there may be someone next to you, awkwardly holding their arms out like you’re both carrying an imaginary box. It’s a fun game to see which allergies you have in common with this new friend, and to read through the allergy pamphlet with helpful suggestions like “avoid musty hotel rooms”. That’s just good advice for life really.

3. You probably already know what you’re allergic to. Really, it isn’t rocket science — if your eyes itch around your friend’s kitten, you’re likely allergic to cats. But the point for me of going to see an allergist was to learn more about how allergies work and tips on managing my environment when an allergen is present. My biggest takeaway was that allergies are your body over-responding to things that an average immune system can handle. Learning this made me feel a little bit of pride to be allergic to so many things, knowing my body really, really cares, even if it is fighting off things unnecessarily. I’m really giving 110%; that’s what I like to see.

4. And of course, the beauty benefits. Chronic allergies or sinus issues can create puffiness and even dark circles under the eyes, not to mention dry and red skin around the nose. Maybe now that I’ve been tested and am starting on an allergy medicine, I’ll be able to stop using concealer. Yeah, probably not but it will be interesting to watch what physical changes occur now that I’m treating my allergies.

On a perfect note to wrap up my first To Do by 30 post , after finding out that I was 29, my doctor looked at me dead in the eyes and said “Oh that’s why you’re having these problems. You’re getting a lot older.” Then she laughed and said no I’m joking, its probably just dust mites.

Image: My cat-niece Juliette, who I cannot pet but loves me from afar

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