Someone please chop off my head

(I just sneezed 5 times in between writing that title and writing this sentence, no joke.)

Allergies. Allllllleeerrrrggiiiiis! ūüė¶ Quite frankly, I don’t even know why the scientists make them.

I really can’t tell if this is the worst allergy season ever, if my allergies are gradually getting worse, or if I just forget from year to year how bad allergies are. All I know is that, right now? I want to crawl in a hole and die. My head hurts. I can’t stop sneezing. I’ve gone through half a box of kleenexes. My eyes are red and raw. It is impossible to escape the very air you breathe.

And I’m on allergy meds!

During the day I’m experiencing these things on a low grade and thinking I feel miserable. Then I go outside. All of a sudden it hits me like a ton of bricks, and I experience true misery. Sometimes I have to drive without my glasses so the tears can stream freely down my face. Sometimes I have to pull over because my allergies are too much for me to handle while driving.¬†No joke, my allergies hit me so bad just from the parking lot into work, my coworkers actually asked me if it would be better for someone to drop me close to the door, to save me the few extra feet of walking outside.

I’m starting to develop a pavlovian fear response to sunlight, hearing birds chirping, or the smell of freshly cut grass. Instead of being good things, they make me think of pain and suffering.

The worst part is, when you have a terrible cold, you can at least go to bed and hope you will feel better in the morning. In this case, there is no hope. You can go to sleep, but you’re not going to feel better. For weeks.

This all makes me think of the worlds most famous allergy sufferer:

Think about it. Why do you think he has that air-filtration¬†apparatus¬†on his face 24/7? Why do you think he’s ready to choke a dude at a moment’s notice? Alderaan looked pretty green, no wonder he wanted to blow it up.¬†I’m really starting to be on Mr. Vader’s side in all of this; allergies make me want to turn to the dark side too. And when did he really turn to the dark side in the first place? Apparently in the middle of a hellacious allergy attack, because this is exactly how my eyes look right now:

The Neti Pot

I have very small sinuses. Because of this, any cold or illness always, always, always ends up being a sinus issue. Combined with my terrible allergies, I probably spend 25% of my life with some combination of a sinus headache, a stuffed nose, and irritated, watery eyes.

“You should get a neti pot!”, said everybody everywhere all the time. “It’s great! When your sinuses feel bad, you just shoot boiling hot salt water directly into your brain cavity, and then you’ll feel better, because when you’re done you’ll be thinking ‘I might have a sinus headache, but at least I don’t have boiling hot salt water in my brain cavity anymore!'”

Everybody swears by these things, and they sound like a classic case of the cure is worse than the disease to me. Sara has been trying to get me to do this since forever, in fact, just this weekend I had multiple people urging me to try it out next time my allergies were acting up. Just the thought of warm water wooshing around my sinuses makes me want to kill myself. “I would rather die then try a neti pot,” I swore.

The next day I bought a neti pot.

It was only about $12, so Sara talked me into it. IF I was ever going to try one of these torture devices (and that’s a big IF), it would only happen if I happened to have one on hand at the exact minute that I needed it. Otherwise, my sinus-induced moment of weakness would pass, and there’d be no second chance. It turns out, that sinus-induced moment of weakness came sooner than I expected.

The VERY NEXT DAY I came down with some sort of sinus-superflu¬†that got worse and worse throughout the day until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was actually looking forward to using the neti pot when I got home. (that’s how bad it was!)

In short, in the span of two days I went from, “I’d rather die than use a neti pot!” to “lets put a picture of me using the neti pot on the Internet!”

Me: “I can’t believe I’m putting this picture on the Internet.”
Sara: “I know, look at how little hair you have.”

Okay, so the neti pot wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. It certainly cleaned out a ton of gunk from up there (something you really should be prepared for, like with a kleenex or something, the way I wasn’t). However, it was very salty, went in my mouth and down my shirt, and only lasted for about 5 minutes before my sinuses filled back up again. Was it worth it? I really don’t know. I guess some days I go the entire day without my sinuses clearing a single time, so I guess having them clear for 5 minutes would be a plus. On the other hand, it seemed like a lot of effort and general unpleasantness for only 5 minutes in the clear.

So it might be worth it, however, I’m not sure it would be worth it just to clear out the allergens if my sinuses weren’t completely blocked. I guess it was okay enough that I’ll give it another shot if the situation called for it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my sinuses are about to explode.

Wanted: One Parasite

My allergies are already starting up for the season, but it turns out there is an easy solution. All I need is a parasite. How hard can it be to find a parasite?

Jasper Lawrence so desperately wanted to be infected with a hookworm that he traveled to Africa and walked barefoot alongside open latrines in Cameroon to get one.

So you might think to yourself, how in the world could having a parasite help me with my allergies? There’s actual science:

…humans historically developed an immune designed to account for parasites in the body.

But in the last 150 years, the industrialized world’s clean food supply and plumbing suddenly removed parasites from people’s bodies. In response, researchers now widely think that people’s immune systems stopped developing properly.

…As a result some people’s immune systems go off kilter and misfire against their own bodies creating autoimmune disorders such as allergies, asthma, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Well, thanks but no thanks. Parasites are about the most disgusting, scariest thing I can think of. Waaay worse than allergies (at least my level of allergies).

Link via Sara

It just got personal

Sara overheard an¬†immunologist¬†at work talking about the link between pollution (specifically diesel particulate emissions) and allergies. This would partially explain why allergies are on the rise in the developed world, and specifically in cities and along highways. After a little research of my own, it seems that these types of pollutants stimulate our Immunoglobulin E (IgE) production, which in turn causes us to have a quicker biological response to allergens (an allergen “memory”). You can read more here.

So between this and the increase of allergies due to global warming, I am positively doomed.

I have to say, this makes me feel better about my work. Reducing dependence on foreign oil is a worthy crusade to begin with, but it’s sort of esoteric for me personally. Until now! Now it suddenly has a direct impact on my life.

In fact, I didn’t have allergies at all until I went to college. Since then, my allergies have been worse every year. And now, dealing with the kids’¬†eczema, which is essentially a hyper-sensitivity to allergens, I have to wonder if this has all somehow been caused by our polluting lifestyle. I always assumed it was just sort of destined, genetic-wise, but maybe that’s not true.

In any event, how about you get your pollution out of my nose?

Bleaching the Baby

I mentioned that Oliver has developed a really bad rash all over his body. Despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t beat the thing, it was a monster rash. Finally we did some Internet searching, and eventually our doctor confirmed that he had a textbook case of¬†eczema.

I always thought that eczema was just like really bad dry skin. It certainly looks like it, and it’s certainly itchy like dry skin is. However, since I have been learning about eczema, it actually has nothing to do with that. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing to do with it, since dry skin can bring on a bout of eczema. But really, eczema is about allergies.

Regular allergies are when your body overreacts to something. Eczema is no different. However, not everybody who has eczema is necessarily¬†allergic to the same thing. So eczema is something of a mystery, since there’s no root cause and everybody’s body is a little bit different.

We were already doing some things, like slathering on the¬†Vaseline¬†every night and using some hydrocortisone¬†cream on the bad patches now and again, but that didn’t seem to be enough. So Sara hit the books, looking for anything that could help. Many people recommend eliminating dairy, but there doesn’t seem to be much scientific evidence supporting that theory. However, one study stood out: bleach baths.

It turns out that bathing twice a week in a bathtub of water and diluted bleach significantly helps reduce eczema. It sounds pretty crazy, especially since bleach is so caustic, but the study was pretty clear: it works. The doctor gave us the go ahead, and we gave it a try.

The results weren’t as dramatic as we were hoping (or as the results of the study implied). The eczema certainly wasn’t worse, and it may have been a bit better. But certainly there was no miraculous recovery. We’ve only been doing it for a week and a half or so, so we’ll continue for a while and see what happens. However, our hopes for a quick cure have been dashed.

Lately our efforts have been focused on detergent. It has been theorized that a lot more kids are allergic to detergent than is generally thought, and that is to blame for more than just eczema. However, the research does seem to show that detergent allergies absolutely can cause eczema. So we are currently trying to keep anything that has been washed with detergent from touching Oliver’s skin. This is more difficult than it sounds, or at least it is at first, until we manage to get everything re-washed with different soap that does not have detergent.

This has only been going on for a few days, so it is too soon to tell, but it seems like it is having a positive effect so far. However, we need to wait and see. At this point there is a lot of, “But it looks better on his chest, right?” or “Don’t you think his neck looks better tonight?” So we don’t want to declare victory before victory is to be had.

As long as I am doing an Ollie Update, I might as well throw in a few other things:

  1. He is rolling all over the place like a maniac. He hasn’t really been crawling yet, but he looks like he’s ready to at any moment. However, he doesn’t really need to crawl, because he can get where ever he needs to by rolling, pivoting, and rolling some more.
  2. He likes to “talk” which mostly includes “Da da da da!”s. He just looks so serious when he’s saying it, and he proclaims it so loudly, it really seems like he’s trying to say something.
  3. He really likes the idea of eating solids, but he gets tired of actually doing it pretty quick. He will still try to grab anything in sight, and he may even try to eat food out of your mouth.