Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pollen Fever

Us and the Buttercup
It's been a lovely spring. Well, it's actually still winter, but it feels like spring. 50-degree days, green bursting forth in the fields, even buttercups, yarrow and wild carrot blooming.

And apparently something else that my body can't handle.

For most of my life, I've been told I get hayfever. Until my family moved to farm country when I was a teenager, this didn't make any sense. If I'm not around hay and I don't have a fever, what is this nasty head cold all about? Once we were in farm country, I just assumed it was from being around hay.

Several years ago, I learned that I wasn't necessarily experiencing hayfever; instead I was getting major sinus infections a couple times a year. So I developed a routine that resolved my miserableness: Zicam nasal spray, Airborne, a neti pot and good sea salt, and lots and lots of kleenex. Worked every time.

Until this time.

white yarrow
I haven't been sick in nearly a year. Munchkin has. Even Dude has. Somehow I've missed it, much to everyone's surprise. I get everything, compromised immune system that I have. In fact, Munchkin and I were just having a conversation about this the day we found the buttercups, and the day I started with the sore throat. "Mom, what causes hayfever?" she asked. We were walking down the north road, Dude riding ahead on the 4-wheeler because it couldn't handle all three of us over the heavily-rutted and barely manageable road. "Usually some form of pollen -- grass, trees, flowers, whatever is blooming at the time," I answered. I had learned all this from plenty of online reading, since my doctors had never explained it to me. "Some of us with health problems seems to get it more than others. The trick is figuring out what you're reacting to."
pink yarrow

I had skipped out on Bible Study that day, and I'm the teacher, so that's saying something. My sore throat and runny nose just didn't seem to be the Message I was wanting to share with my girlfriends. Thinking fresh air would be good for me -- as well as the lovely blue sky and joy of first flowers -- we headed to the general location of where Dude and SwampMan had found the first buttercup of the season. Oh, the joy! There's a competition in our town to be the first to find one, and we've won now for three years in a row. We discovered a creek on our land that we didn't even know existed. We witnessed and photographed water levels unseen before by us. It was all so exciting!
wild carrot

An hour after walking back into the house, I felt as though someone had poured concrete into my sinus cavities. So fresh air isn't good for me?! I began to admit I may have a sinus infection, and started on my usual routine.

But it didn't work. Three days later, I was still sleeping (or trying to) sitting up in the
a very full Big Spring
living room, still ignoring a pounding head just to try to make air flow through my nostrils, still sopping up the runniest nose I think I've ever experienced, and still not speaking in a womanly range. What was the deal?

Someone mentioned that the elms and something else were blooming, and it began to make sense. The nasal spray wasn't drying out my sinuses because it wasn't an infection -- it was swelling from histamines. Outdoor air was bad for me because it was filled with nasty pollen. And I couldn't really get away from it because there are two elms right outside my front door, with only single-pane ancient windows to block me from their onslaught -- ineffectively.
One of the old homesteads

So I switched to Benadryl. Now, we keep plenty on hand for those occasional mishaps and all the allergy-laden people we know, being so far from any reasonable medical facility. It's saved us twice so far -- once when I was bit by a black widow on my neck, and once when Munchkin ate what she thought was catnip. Because of these situations, we've also learned that liquid versions work faster than the pill form. Thus it's all bubble-gum flavor. Nasty stuff.

We have a creek?
But effective. It let me get a few hours' sleep at a time, rather than none. It let me go to church and to a concert. It let me participate in the work party yesterday without feeling like I was infecting everyone. But it also helped me distinguish between the years of sinus infections and this instance of hayfever without the infection.

Maybe all this fresh air is actually doing me some great good, bolstering my immune system. Maybe this ranch full of too much to do is actually keeping me outside enough to make my body stronger in the long run. Maybe farm life really is healthy.

I'll take it. And I'll tear out the elms.