When I lived in Cleveland and in New Hampshire, I was the plaything of various seasonal allergies. There was the sneezing (and the bloody noses), the itching eyes, and borderline asthma. Now with the Winterspring Complex we are now experiencing, it’s back again. Not only do my eyes itch, but the discharge is sticky, such that I have to open my eyes with my fingers in the morning. And I am going through handkerchiefs like they’re going out of style. (I don’t use Kleenex because I feel bad about destroying trees just so I can blow my nose in them.)
As my friend Bill Korn says, these winds are usually accompanied by winter rainstorms, but we have had precious few of those. The current rainy season, which will end soon, is another bad one—just a few inches of mostly occasional showers and only one thorough wetting.
California is well on its way to becoming the next Atacama Desert, which is the world’s driest desert, clocking in at less than 3 mm of precipitation a year. That’s not even as big as one of my sneezes.
The Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru
When the weather starts getting hot, my allergies will gradually disappear. But then I’ll start complaining about the heat.
What It Looks Like When You Don’t Cover Up a Sneeze
When I was a child, I was an allergic mess. I would both look forward to and dread visits to my uncle and aunt, because they not only had a dog, but cats as well. My eyes would start to itch and swell up, I would sneeze, and I would constantly blow my nose into one of the two handkerchiefs I always had on my person. I even saw an allergist named Myron Weitz once a week for the better part of a year. He performed numerous scratch tests on me, indicating that I was allergic to tomatoes, oatmeal, tobacco, and a few other things. Then I would get a shot each week which was supposed to make me immune to allergens. It never did.
In the end, I think I was allergic to Cleveland. Once I moved to Southern California after graduating from college, my allergies lessened—especially after I learned to stay far away from cats. There was a time in the 1970s when I developed asthma and had to take a horrible medication called Tedral which kept me awake all hours.
Now I come down with allergic reactions for only a few days each year. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. Something is in bloom that disagrees with me. My nose is stuffed up, I’m sneezing, and my eyes feel as if I had sandpapered them. It could be that the winds are blowing something in from the desert. I just don’t know.
I checked the pollen reports, and supposedly there currently is no major threat. Yeah, but tell my nose and eyes that!
I like to think of the month of December as The Passing Parade. Now you have the Santa Ana Winds blowing from East to West, sending the humidity down to near zero and fomenting the horrible brush fires we have seen around Malibu and Paradise. Also I have a wicket hangnail on my right forefinger. Then you have the winds suddenly reversing direction and bringing rainstorms from the Northwest, making the humidity rise precipitately. Not to mention the massive floods and mudslides.
Imagine what all that does to the human body. Yesterday my blepharitis flared up again; my left eye dissolved in a flood of tears unrelated to emotions; and upper left eyelid look swollen and angry. As an accompaniment, I burst out in truly frightening sneezing fits that were so loud that I received long-distance calls from St. Louis, Missouri saying “Gesundheit! And please keep it down!” Sometimes these allergic bodily responses are so intense that they segue into a miserable cold. So far that has not happened to me yet this month.
As I am leaving for Guatemala next month, I’m hoping that when I board the plane, I will be well. Unfortunately, I have no control over the crazy weather systems that swing back and forth across the state during this wild month.
I was first made conscious of it in high school. I sneezed a lot, and my scalp was full of flakes. My doctor concluded that I had allergies. Consequently, I was sent to an allergist around Cleveland’s University Circle. He produced a rectangular network of scratches on my arm, each one representing a known allergen. The upshot: I was allergic to cats (that one I already knew), tomatoes, and oats. I did not believe in those last two.
Nevertheless, I was in the doctor’s office every Saturday morning for the next year or so getting a shot to fight my allergies. The results were imperceptible: Every time we visited my uncle’s house, my eyes watered, I sneezed, and my face was essentially an ugly red splotch. My parents rightly decided that this therapy was taking me nowhere.
Then, when I came to Los Angeles, I discovered I had asthma. I suspect that was the result of sleeping on the floor with all the dust mites and other nasty biota. I had a bed, but I liked the idea of sleeping on a firm surface. I still do, but I sleep in bed on an extra-firm mattress instead.
This spring has been a bad time for my allergies. It started with two months of blepharitis, an annoying allergy to the dandruff in my eyelashes?! Then there was the inevitable nose-blowing and lava-flows of thin mucus. My super-power in this time of year? I become Mucus Man. I slime all evil-doers.
To top it all off, I occasionally get a light spell of asthmatic wheezing. Yuck!
No sooner did Martine return to Los Angeles than I broke out into an array of allergic responses. On one hand, I started going into sneezing fits and blowing my nose. More serious was a siege of blepharitis, a condition in which the eyelids feel like inflamed constantly itching parchment. The only thing that works against it is an expensive drug called Avenova, which, for some obscure reason, is not on Blue Cross’s approved drug formulary. I was able to pick up some today, so I am sure that the current infestation will not continue much longer.
Allergies have been one of the banes of my existence. In high school, I had a seborrheic dermatitis that made my scalp look full of snowflakes. Then there were the usual spring and fall respiratory allergies, which I still have to some degree. I am not able to eat shrimp or lobster unless it is caught in near-Arctic waters without getting a reaction that feels like a severe strep throat which lasts for two or three hours.
The worry and stress about Martine has certainly contributed to the intensity of my allergic responses. In time, it will gradually subside. I hope.