Monday, 2 May 2016

Hay fever mayhem, featuring histamine hysteria and my putative 'pollen mule' puss

You would think I would have built up a tolerance by now
Well, I fully intended to retest an interesting line of niche perfumes from a company in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, but the holiday has been unexpectedly kiboshed by sudden onset hay fever. Now I know that hay fever is a common ailment - there are something like 18 million sufferers in the UK - yet as I have managed to dodge this irritating and debilitating condition for all of my nearly 57 years, I had thought I had got away with it altogether...and then bam!

So while I have been grappling with my symptoms, googling remedies and going in search of them, I haven't particularly felt like wearing perfume - indeed in my darkest moments (and there have been a few!) I wondered if hay fever might even be exacerbated by perfume, though I am currently in complete denial about that.

And just as allergic rhinitis, as it is medically known, has nothing to do with rhinos, neither does it have all that much to do with hay, it seems. Or fever for that matter - so far at least, though it has only been three days. Allergic rhinitis is a collection of pollen allergies, basically, and I didn't see hay actually feature in this list of key suspects, unless it counts as 'grass that has been around the block a bit'. Speaking of which, who knew Timothy and Cocksfoot were grasses? Hmm, based on the precise timing of different pollen types, I should be allergic to oak or plane, though I don't think there are too many of either kind of tree in my neighbourhood.

Source: Zirtek

There again, given that Truffle is now roaming quite far on her own, she could conceivably be acting as a 'pollen mule'. And every time I bury my face in her fur (which is a lot!) I may be unwittingly inviting a myriad of miscellaneous plant allergens to mount a multilateral attack. As for the possibility that I might suddenly have become allergic to cats, it has also gone straight into my complete denial spam folder.

Does this kitten look sheepish - and a bit powdery - to you?

So having dosed myself up with Piriteze and Sudafed nasal spray (not to be used for more than three days!), popped a turmeric tablet or two, and commissioned my elderly friend (aka ex-Mrs Bonkers Senior) to custom buy some locally sourced honey for me from her beekeeping neighbour, I decided that I would distract myself this weekend by doing a spot of much overdue housework. It was the profusion of Miss Havisham-style cobwebs that finally shamed me into this most shunned of chores, though God knows the sticky patina on the top of the extractor fan and clumps of dust drifting like tumbleweed under beds and chests of drawers should have been reason enough really.

And it did also occur to me that the cumulative effect of all this domestic sluttery might have been to precipitate a dust allergy! But if I am going to try to steer a perilous path between the Scylla and Charydis of outdoor pollen and indoor dust - nay, the Scylla, Charybdis, and Truffladis - of a possible cat hair allergy, life really won't be worth living. Especially with the added tack factor of a bit of Vaseline smeared inside my nose.

Here is Truffle preparing to deploy my (somewhat Heath Robinson-esque) telescopic cobweb-busting duster contraption.

So anyway, I hope to have properly got to grips with this annoying condition shortly - not least because I have a rush work project on, so I could do with being on top form, and not finding that performing the simplest of tasks is like wrestling a wriggly octopus in treacle. Plus I am genuinely impressed by this trio of perfumes I sampled, though even if fragrance doesn't make the hay fever worse as such, the latter is certainly capable of zapping my interest in perfume at the moment.

Oh, and nobody mention tonka or coumarin while we are about it...! ;)

Are you a seasoned sufferer? If you have any tips for a newbie I'd be glad to hear them. Though preferably not involving stripping off all my clothes and taking a shower every time I come into the house. The resultant irritation from all that extra laundry would be every bit as bad as the pollen.


Unknown said...

Oh dear. I sincerely hope it's nothing to do with Truffle. All the usual drugstore stuff helps, but can make you feel a bit drowsy. Your spider web collection device is straight out of Wallace and Gromit. Love it.

lady jane grey said...

I thought too that one has to be borne with allergies, and if not than one is lucky for life. But then, recently, I found out that I developed a strong allergy against all crustaceans, mature cheese, red vine and all kinds of citrus fruits. I by purpose don't want to call it histamine intollerance, because I still hope that I'll be able to eat tomatoes and aubergine and chickpeas and the rest... And I still have to find out how it looks like with colognes in the future... BTW, I fully ignore the possibility of a cat allergy too !
I hope your hay fever will be over quicly !!!

Tara said...

I keep hearing about people developing hay fever later on life so that's definitely it, V. Don't even think about a cat allergy. The drugs will kick it and sort you out, I'm sure. My commiserations till then.

I have heard of women becoming allergic to their husbands. Who knows what they do!

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

I have felt a bit drowsy this weekend, it's true, though how much of that is down to the medication or the general feeling of being knocked about by the hay fever, I have no way of telling.

Glad you like my telescopic duster. ;) The top section was quite wayward to be fair and wobbled about a lot. You just had to hope it would catch the cobweb in one of its unpredictable swipes!

Vanessa said...


I thought one was born with allergies too, so it has come as a massive shock to know you can just kind of wander into them at my age. Sorry to hear of all the lovely foods and drink that are on your new 'banned' list. I hope nothing more joins them, especially perfume.

And we are united in our denial of cats being the culprits!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Thanks for all your tips and advice, also via Facebook. I guess it might just take a while to find the optimum combo of remedies. I do at least have the locally sourced honey now, having been to visit my elderly friend. ;)

LOL at the women developing an allergy to their husbands. That's a useful line to tuck away for future use - though obviously not by me. hehe.

Anonymous said...

It's certainly possible that Truffle could be a pollen vector, but I don't live with an animal, and find that just a breezy day with air coming through an open window is enough to cause sniffles and irritated eyes.
An over-the-counter medication that is not limited to three days would be a choice of "24 hr non-drowsy" kind such Claritin, Reactine, or Zyrtec. I know for sure that the first 2 have a generic version. If the first one you try doesn't help, try one of the others as different people get relief with different ones.
Two other things which can help are saline nasal sprays as they help to wash nasal passages clean and washing your eyelids with baby shampoo when you come in for the day, as pollen collects on the eyelids and irritates. This latter recommendation came from my sister's dermatologist.
I too would like to believe that Truffle is not the problem. It's not cat hair that causes the problem , but the saliva on their hair. It can often be helped by hand/face washing after petting/snuggling.
I it is Truffle then allergy shots would be my preference over adopting out.
I am allergic to cats, but manage my cat-sitting with generic Claritin.

The honey sounds like a good idea: treatment by gentle exposure to what your allergies may hate, but that the bees love. Of course, honey is always a good idea. :-)

-- Lindaloo

Anonymous said...

Dearest V. I hope by now you have at least Googled post-menopausal onset of allergies. Bussis.

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

I did, and I thought:'B****r'! I have also been giving my immune system a bit of a runaround lately, which may also have been a factor.

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Thanks for your detailed and considered advice. I am on a pill like Zyrtec at the moment and will look for non-drowsy own label versions in future to keep costs down.

The thought of a nasal spray alarms me rather, but if the problem persists I may need to get stuck in and try it. I am certainly up for washing my eyelids as often as needed.

I will also up the hand washing, especially after Truffle contact. She is out gathering pollen as I type.;) I wouldn't consider losing her even if she is the culprit. And it is all quite odd, given that I have never had any such allergies all my life. But as Val points out, the menopause can throw all the cards in the air with startling consequences!

Am going to try the honey on toast later...

Poodle said...

Dog and cat fur will definitely bring the pollen in. Try wiping her off with a damp cloth when she comes in to remove at least a little of the pollen. I I started taking stinging nettle extract capsules years ago and since then I can count how many days I've actually had to take Zyrtec. I give it to hubby too only he gets the liquid drops that I mix into grape juice because I'm afraid the capsules would upset his tummy. He's sensitive. Anyway, his allergies haven't been bad either. I used to live on nasal spray and Zyrtec too. I have a lot of honey too because I drink a lot of tea. Maybe that helps I don't really know. Look into stinging nettle though. It's worked for us. Allergies are awful.

Thinkingmagpie said...

Ah, allergy, sorry to hear that you finally got it too. I'm allergic to the cedar pollen and living in Japan was a hell. I suffered for about 4 months every spring. I was introduced to the natural supplement Pycnogenol and it helped me a lot. I guess when your immune system gets stronger, the symptoms become lighter. Good luck. ;)

odiferess said...

It's not one of those colds that take weeks to 'come out' is it? I do hope so.
I must admit I'm a bit itchy rash festooned now and again in these feline days but it's mostly when J has attacked me during a vigorously scratchy, bitey overexcited bed lined change. Nutter.

Crossing my fingers for your troubled nose.

Vanessa said...

Hi odiferess,

I did wonder about that, and it was my first theory - I guess time will tell though this feels subtly different. Never having had hay fever, I can only infer that that is what it is.

Sorry about your itchy rash! Those bedlinen changes are always but always accompanied by bouts of rough and tumble. And I think I might have a lasting scar from Truffle's pole dancing up my leg a while back...;( x

Vanessa said...

Hi Magpie,

Oh gosh, your time in Japan sounds hard going. How were you sure it was the cedar, specifically? Were they the only trees around or did your symptoms exactly coincide with their flowering? I would love to know which kind of pollen is at work here.

Will look up that Pycnogenol, it's a new one on me - thanks!

Vanessa said...

Hi Poodle,

Thanks for chiming in with your advice. I am not sure Truffle would be too keen on a damp wipe, though I totally see why that would be helpful.

Given that it is our version of Zyrtec that I am on, I am now very interested in the nettle extract capsules you mentioned and will check out our local health food shop at my earliest opportunity - they sound like the business! I have given up the nasal sprays today and managed without them. It says on the label that you can use them for up to 7 days in a row, so I guess I could have another squirt before the week's out if I needed to.

Asali said...

I have allergies and try minimising damage by taking Telfast 150mg dosis when it's very bad. Nasal showers before bed are great actually and whenever I dust or hover I wear a mask.
Of course you're not allergic to cats, bah humbug!

Blacknall Allen said...

Oh the allergies, it seems they're very common now.

You have certainly gotten a lot of excellent advice but mine is that floor washing makes a huge difference. My Hub has pollen irritation every Spring AND dust, so I swab the floors once a week. It's amazing how much that cuts down on his sneezing and eye irritation. Good luck with this.

Oh and on another topic altogether, I just discovered the best skin lotion from California, truly excellent stuff and UNscented!!

Ingeborg said...

Oh, bad luck! I have had hay fever (timothy and other grasses) since pre-school. Tree pollen has come later. Medication of the modern kind does help and is not always causing drowsiness, but have other sideeffects. Wearing glasses when outside may help somewhat.

Also, look into cross-allergies. Some people have reactions to certain foodstuffs in the middle of the pollen season and not always all year.

Here it is the season for birch trees round about now, and I am slightly allegic, but in the city it is not too bad.

Ingeborg said...

That was supposed to be: look into crossover reactions. All of this is not in my standard vocabulary.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

Telfast is a new one on me - must look that up. You are serious to wear a mask when dusting or hoovering though it makes perfect sense. I have just been out in peak pollen time and am a lot worse tonight after three days indoors - maybe more in fact. I do need to get a bit smarter as I feel as full of the symptoms now as I did at the start last weekend. Boo!

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

I must say I am surprised at how many people are battling different forms of allergy - I am in good company at least!

I think the floor washing is a great idea and I fully intended to do so at the weekend during my big burst of housework but I just ran out of steam.

Ooh, that lotion sounds great - name?

Vanessa said...

Hi Ingeborg,

Your vocabulary is excellent, both the standard and the non-standard kind. Sorry to hear you have had hay fever all those years, and that it has been like a rolling stone, gathering grasses and pollen.

I do wear glasses all the time so am hoping that might insulate me a little bit from the onslaught of the pollen.

I will look out for any odd reactions to food. Lady Jane Grey has recently developed some, I see.

Blacknall Allen said...

Griffin Remedy. The website is and my lotion is skin food with omega-3 UN-scented :-)

Thinkingmagpie said...

Nightmare days... In Japan, there are 2 kinds of cedars and one type starts around February and the other starts around end of March. I was tested positive for both... Seriously, that was hellish. In Spain, I'm slightly allergic to pine pollen but I can live with a few sneezes a day for 2 weeks. ;)

Anonymous said...

By the way, I forgot to tell you that using Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) will keep you from competing in the Olympics. ;-)

-- Lindaloo

Undina said...

Unfortunately when it comes to allergies you "build up" not the tolerance but the opposite: with time allergies, especially if you do not treat/suppress them, get worse.

California is a very allergenic state: something's blooming all year round, so a lot of people here have one allergy or the other. As you know, I've recently developed a new allergy that manifests in cough. I don't know what causes it. The medicine that my doctor has prescribed helps while I'm taking it. I'm trying to take some breaks in using it to see for how long I can do without it, but it doesn't look promising: usually my cough comes back withing a week, if not sooner. Once I'm done with the next refill, I'll have to discuss with my doctor if it's going to be my daily regime from now on or if I need to keep doing these on/off games.

Your cat is so young that you still can train her to allow you to wipe her with a wet paper towel or moisten wipes (unscented!). I used to buy those special cat wipes (since Rusty refuses to clean himself from time to time after some "bathroom incidents" - his fur is too long) but then I switched to those for babies: while they are approximately four times cheaper, they do the job just fine.

I hope with all the advises given by other readers you'll figure out how to control your allergies.

On not-allergy-related matter, I have to ask: those alliterations in the text of the article (I'm not talking about the title) - do they just occur naturally or were you aware of them while writing? (I enjoy those a lot but was curious as to how they came to be :) )

Vanessa said...

Oh wow, I'd love to get tested to find out the particular allergy I have - or allergies plural, maybe? Glad the pine pollen is less bothersome. Another good reason to move to Spain!

Vanessa said...

I read that as UN-scented as in the United Nations and thought that might be an intriguing fragrance. Bit of a melting pot, certainly.

Will check it out, sounds very nourishing!

Vanessa said...


Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Sorry to hear that allergies build up over time, but I can well believe it. I guess I have been moving gradually to this point...

California is a state in bloom all right - I remember doing a project in the Central Valley with farmers (one of the best gigs ever!) and there were blossoming trees of one kind and another left and right.

I do remember your cough and how annoying that must be? If only you could identify the allergen as I guess being able to mitigate exposure in the first place would be ideal. Seems like you are going to have to rely on the meds meanwhile.

I didn't know there were such things as special cat wipes - you are a mine of information - but baby wipes sound a more cost-effective option for sure. Might try wet paper towel first in case the wipes are sticky. I laughed at the mention of Rusty's 'bathroom incidents' - that is one of the reasons why I decided against a long haired cat, would you believe? That and the need for regular grooming.

Re the alliterations, they do indeed just pop into my head, usually before I have even thought what I am going to put in the post ie when it is at the general idea stage. But when they do occur to me I am certainly aware of them in the sense that I know I have come up with an alliterative - or assonantal! - title.

Megan In Sainte Maxime said...

Vanessa I sympathise with the hay fever issues. I suffer from it but try not to talk about it too much with my family as I sound like a broken record. I've tried many things and nothing works 100%. The drugs do alleviate it somewhat but I still get headaches and a puffy face and itchy eyes. Ahhhhh. Have you had one of the allergy tests? I had various substances put on my skin and found out that I was allergic to a few things such as birch and animal dander. A friend recently recommended cayenne pepper in hot drinks as a remedy so I will be trying that one out this week. I'll let you know how it goes if it's successful! It seems like it's very common from reading this thread.

Vanessa said...

Hi Megan,

I am sorry - yet comforted - to meet a fellow sufferer, and it sounds as though you have battled on for a long time trying various things.

I would be curious to have an allergy test, but have yet to find a reputable place to have that done, also assuming it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Part of me doesn't want to know in case the test also came up with fluff off Truffle!

Good luck with the cayenne pepper - sounds hardcore! I am sure I read somewhere that cider vinegar is good in hot drinks too.

I have been much better this week actually - the weird flu-like episode is past and the normal meds seem to be working. I have puffy red eyes, but that could be the contact dermatitis I have had for a while, though it presents as a hay fever symptom. ;)

It is definitely common though, and more and more people seem to be getting hay fever late in life like me.

Pats said...

Hi Val - sorry to hear you are suffering with allergies. Your local doctor should be able to offer specific and general allergic testing so that you can find out exactly what the issue is - it is more than possible that it is hayfever as the season is upon us and the good weather and winds spread the pollen. Not sure if a link will work but i shall try anyhow... - it gives some info but i would stop by your local doctor first and get tested. good luck - Pats x

Pats said...

Doh! - of course i meant 'Vanessa' and not Val - lol

Vanessa said...

Hi Pats,

Thanks for this link and no worries about the name - why, I routinely get called Veronica, and am a good pal of the actual Val. ;)