So I had been slightly over-impressed with myself for making it through this March without any major pulmonary incident. The Ides of March slipped past with no hemoptysis, and I seemed to be well on my way into the summer of “the worst allergy season ever” without many of the symptoms I keep reading about on Facebook. I saw my pulmonologist at the beginning of May and things seemed ok. My lung function was slightly down from last time, but I seemed to be holding my own…and then it started. The flare up that that required me to inhale 61 nebulizer treatments last month, and take two unsuccessful rounds of prednisone.
I think Rick James says it best – Prednisone is a hell of a drug.
My first course of steroids was five days at 50mg. That kind of quick punch can usually get me back on track if I’m not too bad. I started feeling better, but went downhill immediately after. Round two started as a 15 day taper which got me feeling better on day two only to start getting worse on day three. Day four ended with a coughing fit on the floor after unsuccessfully attempting to get up off the couch and walk 20 feet after Game of Thrones.
My ever-awesome wife got me over to the preferred hospital in town post haste. They saw me coming and greeted me with a wheelchair at the check-in counter to immediately get an IV started for salumedrol. I have to laugh sometimes when I hear people complaining about emergency room visits and waiting hours for treatment. Whenever I show up, I get the platinum club treatment. Liz says they had people hovering over me like the time I had pneumonia, the big difference being my oxygen saturation stabilized without too much effort. I was able to leave after not too many hours, avoided a hospital stay and celebrated with Taco Bell. My prednisone taper was replaced with a much stronger dose and started some anti-biotics.
Yesterday I started feeling much worse again after all those IV steroids wore off, but was able to keep things under control with the nebulizer. This morning I followed up with my PCP and the nurse told me I look like shit. That was followed with, “will you slide your shorts down please,” and a shot of Kenalog into my posterior. That empowered me to get a lot of work done at home today, but I’m sure I still come off as a crazy person who hasn’t slept for days.
My pulmonologist is out of town, but I have an appointment with his NP later this week. A buddy of mine asked if I’ve ever thought about getting totally checked out at one of the big pulmonology centers in the country and that’s actually not a bad idea. Fortunately I really like my lung doc here, he was totally in my corner before we moved and still is now that we’ve moved back. It often seems like there’s still something not yet diagnosed with all the problems I have. It’s been a couple years since I really pushed for some answers, I think there are still more out there.
I was co-teaching a seminar the other day in a disgustingly dirty room. It’s supposed to be the crown jewel of the business college, but I was almost afraid to touch anything. The allergies and asthma almost immediately revved up and I knew the day might be a long one. Later in the morning I took a puff off an inhaler from the back of the room and heard one of the attendees say, “…you have asthma?” “Oh great,” I thought and braced myself for some friendly advice.
Lady: Do you have it bad?
Me: Somewhat bad
Lady: I have some breathing problems. I technically don’t have asthma, but my allergies are bad enough it’s as if I do. Do you have allergies as well?
Me: Yeah, pollen’s already getting bad this year.
Lady: So do you take medicine regularly?
Me: Yeah, I’m on 13 medications (waiting for that advice on how to be instantly healed)
Lady: I’m on a bunch of stuff too. I had to have most of a lung removed…
Me: Oh wow! (my eyes probably got big here)
Lady:..there was a tumor and stuff. Anyway, I feel fine most of the time but my kids always let me know when I’m working too hard.
Me: I know exactly what you mean.
Well that conversation went in an entirely different direction than I thought it would. Sometimes my thinking is a bit too uptight when it comes to chats about my health. I felt as though I met a kindred spirit that day. Someone else with a bad lung who sits in the back row during presentations.
If you have allergies, you’re most likely aware it’s started in force. Trees have been blooming like it’s no tomorrow and experts are saying this could be THE WORST ALLERGY SEASON EVER. If you didn’t guess already, these kinds of statements remind me of…
The Sandlot (1993)
Exaggerated statements like this are what created the terms Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon. They rarely turn out to be as bad as predicted, except for hurricanes and tornadoes, and grocery stores make out like bandits when folks rush to buy all the milk and bread in a 20 mile radius. Wait a minute, I was talking about allergies.
So last year, 2012, was an awful year for allergies. I happen to be allergic to molds, grass, ragweed, and trees, as well as dust and dust mites. There is no off-season for me and mold came around twice. If you suffer from allergies like me, or are lucky enough to suffer from only one, I want to share a few tips with you.
- Wear big sunglasses – they not only keep the sun out of your eyes, they can also block pollen and dust.
- Take a shower before bed – this not only leaves you refreshed, you’ll also wash any pollen off your face and out of your hair. There’s nothing worse than transferring pollen from your hair to your pillow and waking up with swollen eyes.
- Be active early or late – if you’re wanting to work outside or exercise, try to do it early in the morning or late at night. Pollen levels tend to peak during the middle of the day, which is also the hottest. If you do have to be outside try to take some precautions.
- Take your medicine – do I really have to say this?
- Keep the inside of your home and car clean – if you’re going to be stuck inside, it might as well be a safe zone. If dusting isn’t a great option for you, try finding someone else to do it for you. I pay someone to mow my lawn and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
- Get a HEPA air purifier for your home or office – I’ve been running a Honeywell 50250 at home since 2006 and it’s really saved my bacon.
- Encase your pillows and mattress – this can really help with dust and dust mites, as well as pollen.
- Drink lots of water – staying hydrated will help keep the mucous flowing which sounds gross, but keeps all the tiny attackers at bay.
- Swap your contacts out for your glasses – if my eyes are bothering me, one of the easiest things to do is take my contacts out.
- Know your limits – I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve found myself in a bad place and just tried to act like I was fine. While every boy from the 80s wants to be Rambo, Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris – none of them really are. McGruff taught us to just say no, so do it.
These are just a few tips, but hopefully they’re enough to get you started. Hang in there and hopefully 2013 doesn’t turn out to be allergy hell.
Spring is finally here, kind of, and so the trees are gracing us with their pollen. For me this can mean horrendous sinus congestion, swollen eyes and a scratchy throat. Rinsing out my sinuses does wonders for all of these symptoms and I prefer to use the NeilMed sinus rinse bottles. Friends of mine have used the neti pots which look like miniature tea pots and basically do the same thing. I like the ability to control the water pressure with the bottle.
For several years now I’ve always purchased my supplies at various pharmacies and drug stores. I used to be able to buy either one squeeze bottle with 50 pre-mixed saline packets or purchase a box of 100 pre-mixed packets. Lately all I seem able to find are boxes with one bottle full of saline with a few mixed packets included. This would be great if I were on a business trip or vacation, but it’s not what I want to buy when at home and the added cost seems ridiculous. I try to support local business as much as possible, but I finally turned to Amazon. I recently discovered I could get two bottles and 250 pre-mixed packets for the low price of $24.
To purchase the bottles and pre-mixed packets separately I’d probably end up spending around $40. I’m always up for finding a deal and saving money when it comes to medicine and medical supplies. One other problem I’ve always had is finding a good place to clean and store the bottles in between use. I noticed the Neilmed Nasadock Plus Stand for about $6 and added that to my order.
This provides a great solution to the problem of cleaning and storing the bottle. In the past I’ve left it next to the bathroom or kitchen sink on a towel or paper towel. The bottle has never dried well lying on its side or right side up. I’m often a fan of buying online because I tend to think of things I need when stores aren’t open. I’m quite pleased with my purchases and will most likely try Amazon first next time I need more supplies.
When I was in high school there was an English teacher who was really into Julius Ceasar by Shakespeare. She did this whole “beware the ides of March” thing trying to prank other teachers. I think it was my senior year that a biology teacher left a dissection tray with eyeballs on it and a note saying, “BEWARE THE EYES OF MARCH.”
I kind of forgot about the whole mid-March thing until a few years ago when I started getting sick every March. This is the also the time of year allergy seasons start because winter is usually slipping away and trees are starting to pollinate. The first time I wasn’t feeling so great and coughing a fair amount. Out of no where I coughed up some blood. My wife has this rule that if I cough up blood I HAVE to go to the hospital. I ended up missing a work trip and staying home a few days recovering.
Last year I came home early from a workout at the gym because I was having some weird chest pains when exerting myself. Not too long after I started coughing profusely and was coughing up mouthfuls of blood for the next 30 minutes or so. Another trip to the hospital and another few days spend at home trying to recover.
This year I “almost” came down with bronchitis. I spent the better part of a week hanging out at home watching my oxygen saturation levels dip below 90% and trying to decide how I’d get to the hospital if I needed to. Maybe there is something to this whole Ides of March thing because this always happens to me between the 14th and 16th of March. That old soothsayer wasn’t so crazy after all and if nothing else, I can say I have something in common with Doc Holiday.