If you follow us on social media at all (check our links out in the sidebar) you’ll know that I ended up and in the hospital the other week and that my allergies are a little out of control right now. Allergies aren’t always about deathly reactions and epi-pens; millions of people suffer from mild to severe allergies and I’m hovering on the edge of middling to severe. Depending on what I’m allergic too – I’ve not quite figured that out yet.
I’ve had allergies all of my life, to various degrees but this is the first time I’ve landed in A and E.
My sister has been awkward from the start. I was born on a sunny afternoon in May. My sister was born on a rainy July day at three in the morning. I was a perfect baby too; quiet, well-behaved and independent. My sister…was not. Also, she was allergic to disposable nappies and had to have cloth ones, and while we were both allergic to our labrador Sam Sian was much more allergic to him than me. We had to give the dog up in the end – to a little old lady who needed a good dog like Sam – and I’m not entirely sure my dad really forgave my sister for that.
We both grew out of the dog allergy though. By time we moved to Wales at seven (my sister) and ten (me), my step-dad had five dogs (two Jack Russells and three whippets) and later we got another two terriers. Seven dogs and not even a sneeze. My sister still had eczema but the allergies had gone and we were okay.
Hayfever and Hives
So we were both fine for years; then when I was about fifteen we were on the beach and suddenly my legs broke out in hives and ended up being twice the size of normal. I remember taking a lot of baths in calomile lotion that summer as we tried to control the symptoms. My GP gave me a bunch of anti-histamines; which had the wrong instructions on them as I took the wrong ones in the morning and spent an entire month sleeping through my first few lessons of the morning. Not that I minded; I failed my a-levels anyway.
I was also referred to the dermatologist and two things happened. One, I passed out when they took my blood. I’d developed a fear of needles after a butcher took some blood when I was ten and I just fainted right out this time. My mum laughed. She was not the most sympathetic about my needle phobia. The other thing that happened was that my hives actually settled down thanks to the medication by time we got to see the consultant.
We never did find out what I was allergic too.
My hayfever really kicked in back then too. My mum sent me into the top field one weekend to pick the ragwort because it as poisonous to the horses. I got to up into the field, pick one plant and the allergies kick in. I started sneezing which was fine, I had a nasal spray but what I didn’t expect was my eyes swelling shut.
It had never happened before and it hasn’t happened since. I had to walk down to the house holding my eyes open so I could see where I was going and tell my mum I couldn’t see.
I’ve avoided ragwort ever since. I’m also allergic rapeseed in the same way it turns out. Even if I’m in a car going forty miles an hour…
Since then I’ve only suffered from hayfever. I say only but it’s can make me miserable; I can sneeze solidly for twenty minutes at a time when it’s really bad. This year actually was the first year that my hayfever wasn’t too bad. No sneezing fits at all.
I should’ve been more suspicious.
At first, the hives were small and random. I thought they were bites at first because there were only one or two. But I’ve never reacted to insect bites before and then two became four became ten became twenty and it was obvious they weren’t bites. They were itchy and would last a day and be gone again. And the chlorphenamine would work and I went to America armed with anti-histamines.
Then we did some laundry using tide and some bleach and I reacted badly to my jeans. My legs were really itchy and hives both grew in size and amount. But when we got back home and back to our usual detergent it didn’t get better. It got worse and the hives started to spread.
To my bum.
Okay, so they’ve spread everywhere and they are really itchy. On top of that when it gets really bad it makes me feel ill. I get a bit nauseous and generally feel sick. I can sleep from all the itching and I think that make sit worse. I’m willing to admit there is definitely a stress component in there somewhere.
Accident and Emergency
So I went to the doctor and he gave me some pom (prescription only) anti-histamines – fexofenadine – and some steroids to try and stop the reaction in its tracks. I took all five tablets as soon as I got them (it was around half nine) and carried on with my day. I felt a bit funny (dizzy) but carried on as best I could at work.
I went to bed itchy around the face but mostly okay.
I woke up with my face swollen and itchy. My lips and chin, in particular, were about three times the usual size. I felt like Jimmy Hill doing duckface. I got up and dressed for work anyway but when my wife and best friend who was visiting at the time saw me they told me to call NHS Direct. By then I was struggling to talk and starting to find it a little hard to swallow and the nurse suggested I go to A&E.
Thankfully, our friends hadn’t left for their trip to Cardiff yet so Al came over and drove us to the hospital. Who gave me s different steroid and more anti-histamine – intravenously! They put a cannula in me and pumped it straight in. Between the two drugs, I almost fell asleep in the hospital. It was midday before they let me go and I went home and pretty much slept until six. Even then my face didn’t go back to normal ’til the next day.
In the two weeks since then, my hives have been up and down and I don’t know why or what sets them off. More mornings I’ll wake up covered in hives and they won’t clear until well into midday. Some nights I can’t sleep for the itching and the hives can appear anywhere. There’s no pattern. Arms, legs, hands, face. My bum seems to be particularly susceptible to hives.
I’ve been back to the doctor, of course. More steroids and some omeprazole for my stomach because they make me feel sick. He suggested a different anti-histamine and I explained to him that if it’s available over the counter I’ve tried it. In various amounts and combinations. After reassuring him as to why I have so many anti-histamines (I have hayfever and work in .a pharmacy) he finally decided to refer me on to the dermatologist.
So that’s what I’m waiting for. In the meantime I am preparing; I’m making an allergy diary. Food I’ve eaten, reactions, wash days; anything that might give the doctors a clue as to what is causing this.
One thing I know is: If it’s solely stress-related I am screwed.