Seasonal Allergies? Consider Yourself Lucky!
Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash
Most of us have suffered from allergy symptoms at some time in our lives. For most people, this means a stuffy nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. But for others, it means hospital visits, EpiPens, and an ongoing mystery that doesn’t seem to have an answer.
Severe Allergy Symptoms
These more serious allergies surface without a known trigger, and they’re usually characterized by more severe symptoms like hives, trouble breathing, swelling throughout the body (edema), and anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Chronic allergies that seem to be triggered by everything (or nothing!) are quite a serious issue for some people. Personally, I happen to be one of them. I’ve suffered from chronic hives with no identified trigger for about seven years now. It’s a problem that interferes with everything from my sleep habits (Benadryl means bedtime is at 7) to my clothing options (nothing too tight, no high boots, no jeans), and almost every other aspect of my life.
We blogged about this awhile back – click here to check out my story!
Fortunately, I’m able to keep my hives under control with the right combination of medications, and they’re better controlled when I stick to proper nutrition and get enough sleep. But for 21-year-old Brynn Duncan, chronic allergies are literally a threat to her life on a daily basis.
Brynn suffers from constant, life-threatening anaphylactic reactions– anaphylactic shock refers to an allergy so severe that it prevents proper breathing, and this type of reaction can cause death. She has been hospitalized dozens of times because of her allergies, which have affected her since age 16. Doctors have offered Brynn diagnoses across the board, from gastroparesis (partial paralysis of the stomach muscles) to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a connective tissue disorder that causes fragile skin and overly flexible joints), but none turned out to be the real cause of her allergies.
Strangely enough, Brynn and her parents discovered the root of the problem through their own research – Mast Cell disease. If you know the science behind allergies, this makes perfect sense. Mast cells are the cells in your body that release histamine, the chemical that causes allergic reactions (that’s why medications like Benadryl are called anti-histamines). Mast cells regulate the immune system and alert the body when something is wrong, producing allergy symptoms.
Mast Cell Disease
Mast cell conditions work in mysterious ways – some people have too many mast cells, while others, like Brynn, have mast cells that don’t grow in number, but are simply unpredictable. “It’s like I’m living in a 24/7 allergic reaction,” Brynn explained simply.
Knowing the cause of her allergies offered peace of mind, but it didn’t make dealing with it any easier. In 2012, Brynn was admitted to the hospital 30 times. She started having seizures and painful, violent muscle contractions that are perplexing to even the best doctors. Every time she went to the ER, Brynn was given a large dose of steroids to calm the reaction. She’s now steroid dependent and likely will be for life, which is just one of the long-term issues her allergies cause.
Over the last two years, Brynn and her family have finally made progress in managing her disease. She was one of the first patients in the US to be prescribed a nonstop antihistamine IV, which uses a healthy donor’s plasma to boost immunity in severely allergic patients. This treatment cut Brynn’s daily protocol of medications in half.
Brynn says dealing with her condition can be frustrating. She hears comments like “You don’t look sick” or “At least it’s not cancer”.
“This illness can be just as devastating,” Brynn told CNN. “The difference is that it’s not understood. And the only way to change that is to somehow bring awareness to it.” So if you suffer from sinus pain, sneezing and watery eyes in the spring, consider yourself lucky! Chronic allergies can be at the least, debilitating, and at worst, fatal. If you notice allergy symptoms like hives, swelling, and trouble breathing, get to a hospital right away – it could save your life.
Source: CNN Health