I had my appointment with an allergist today, which I honestly should have done a long time ago. Instead, I opted for a few years of attempted self-diagnosis and swapping body products and foods. I learned a lot on my own and I do think I took steps in the right direction, but it was a big relief to gain some definitive answers from a professional. Okay, so here’s what I’m allergic to:
This I would not have been able to pinpoint from self-diagnosis, but I think it makes sense. Mold is the biggest issue outside from July to October (though also from March to November). It grows best in humid, dark areas (think bathrooms and basements), which essentially describes my old apartment in San Francisco where it was so damp all the time, bath towels would never fully dry. It was as lovely as it sounds, and so expensive too. San Francisco is when I started having reactions.
Birch, oak, and maple, with birch being the biggest allergen. Tree pollen is highest from March to June, and most plants tend to release pollen in the early morning and around dusk. This allergy wasn’t a surprise to me, because I’ve been dealing with itchy, watery eyes and congestion in Spring since college. I know it’s tree pollen season when I start waking up with swollen eyelids.
I sort of expected this one because I get some itchiness when I let cats get too close to my face, and especially when I was volunteering as a “Cat Cuddler” at the MSPCA. My landlord is highly allergic though, so no cats for me. Otherwise, I would probably be a crazy cat lady.
Oats & Rye
This was only a slight reaction and probably no big deal. I may test these and see if I notice anything, but mostly I’m just relieved that food allergies don’t seem to be my issue (Edited to add: I have not been tested for delayed reactions, only immediate thus far). Unfortunately, I do have some symptoms of something called Oral Allergy Syndrome, which happens when people who are sensitive to a particular pollen (usually birch or ragweed) eat fruits and vegetables in the same family and get a cross-reaction because the body mistakes one protein for another. Common cross-reactions for birch pollen, for example, include peach, apple, plum, cherry, apricot, strawberry, pear, almond, hazelnut, potato, carrot and celery. The good news is that cooking them usually destroys the proteins that cause the reactions. I noticed an immediate reaction to raw peach, watermelon, and banana (the latter two are cross-reactions to ragweed) during my elimination diet, so I’ll need to keep an eye out for that.
Ready for my last allergen? This was my strongest, itchiest reaction:
No, not pumpkin. Dogs! hahaha That’s hilarious.
Aaron pointed out that I started having more symptoms when we moved to San Francisco (mold) and working from home (dogs). All this time I’ve been driving myself nuts with changing soaps and lotions and detergents and eliminating gluten and other random foods, and maybe it was the puggles? I do think the products I’m using now are an improvement if for no other reason than they have much cleaner ingredients, and cutting gluten has the benefit of eliminating a lot of processed crap from my diet, but maybe the dogs are why I can never completely stop the itchy feeling.
I don’t have an exact plan yet for how I’m going to manage my allergies (that may be a follow-up post), but it feels good to know that a) I have allergies and it’s not all in my head and b) they can be kept under control through environment and lifestyle changes, and maybe allergy shots if necessary.
I do know one thing though: dogs are worth the itchy feeling.
Are there any other mold/pollen/animal allergy sufferers reading? What works for you?