Hi everyone, my name is Samuel, and I’m an allergy sufferer. I’ve never really wanted to admit it because I’ve always associated allergies with geek speak and fashion faux pas, but it’s time to come clean with myself. I just had to cancel a special dinner with four of my closest friends because of allergies. It was planned for tonight, and now I can’t go because I’ve been rendered useless by a nasty little critter known as the common house dust mite. The dinner was planned for the finest Japanese restaurant in the city, and I was very much looking forward to catching up with friends. So I’m really disappointed and am taking solace in writing this post.
House Dust Mite
If it wasn’t for the severity of my symptoms then I would be feeling somewhat pathetic. I mean how can an otherwise healthy man be struck down by a sniffly nose? But the fact is that I’m not talking about a few sneezes here and there. I’m talking about a full-blown hardcore reaction that can best be described as an extreme pseudo-cold, where my eyes and nose are running incessantly and my whole face feels itchy and sensitive to light. I’m even wearing sunglasses as I stare at this computer screen and type out these words. I’m not joking. I feel like I should be taking refuge under a waterfall in a cool damp cave somewhere.
The household dust mite is now officially my enemy. How do I know that this parasite is responsible for my miserable state? Well I’ve got proof, and here’s how. About a week ago I decided I’d had enough of my general allergic tendencies and dragged myself off to the GP to seek some advice. You see I’m now 30 years of age, and I’ve been dealing with allergies ever since I was born. I can remember developing cold-like symptoms every time my Dad cut the lawn, I’ve always had a problem with cats, and I hate being in dusty places. The GP referred me to an immunologist. He started by interviewing me about my allergic conditions. Then he tested me for allergies by depositing a grid like pattern of allergen-containing liquid drops on my forearm, and gently pin pricking each one. Fifteen minutes later and about half of the pin pricks had swollen up into various sizes of mosquito bite like lumps. Here’s my diagnosis – extremely highly allergic to dust mites, highly allergic to various types of grass, some allergy to cats, and mild allergies to mould and cockroaches. Who’d have thought that cockroaches would be common allergic reaction inducing pests? In the discussion with the immunologist that followed, I was presented with three main types of treatment for my problem: using medications, desensitisation, and avoidance.
In terms of medications, I’ve been using various treatment methods for a long time now; I’m no stranger to nasal spray and I take antihistamines regularly, so I’ve got this base pretty much covered. I find that antihistamines containing Cetrizine tend to work relatively well for me, and the medical research shows that I’m not alone in this experience. However, as evidenced by my allergic reaction this morning, it’s by no means a perfect cure.
I’m hoping that this will be the big winner for me. The desensitisation will involve receiving a series of injections which will be administered to gradually increase my tolerance to specific allergens; in this case a mixture of dust mite, grass, and cat. I’ve been presented with a prescription for allergen vaccine from the French pharmaceutical company Stallergenes, which will be administered once a week for 12 weeks, then after 2 weeks, then 3 weeks, then once every 4 weeks for at least a year. It’s going to be quite an arduous process I’m sure, but if it works, then it will most definitely be worth it. The big catch is the time frame required to see my results – it could take up to 4 years to have an effect, and for some patients it doesn’t work at all. So it’s still important for me to tackle this in other ways too.
This is where the battle starts. I need to keep my house as dust-free as possible. Unfortunately, to manage my allergies effectively through this process seems like it will be very time-consuming. As the Asthma Foundation of WA states, in terms of cleaning I need to vacuum carpets twice a week, hot wash my bed quilt once every two weeks, vacuum my mattress and furniture weekly, and damp dust weekly, amongst other things. Nevertheless, after the way in which I developed symptoms this morning I’m confident this will make a difference – I woke up at about 6:30am this morning feeling nice and clear in my sinuses. At the same time, my girlfriend went and turned on the air conditioner to cool down the room. One hour later I woke up again, this time completely stuffed up and sneezing regularly. I was quite shocked at the change in my condition and went to investigate the air conditioner, because this was the only thing I could think of as being a possible culprit. And there we had it – the air conditioner is one of those old box air conditioner units, and all around the intake vents I could see an extreme build up of dust that had accumulated since the end of last summer (and to be honest probably earlier). Furthermore, inspection of the air filter, which I didn’t know existed, revealed a deposit of dust that could rival the interior of an Egyptian tomb. If the air conditioner vents and filter had been clean prior to operation, then I’m confident that I wouldn’t resemble a swine flu sufferer right now, and that I would instead be partaking in Japanese culinary delights with my friends tonight. As such, I’ve now decided that my house needs to be as dust free as humanly possible. However, I’m a really busy guy, and in reality I know that I won’t be able to keep my house as clean and dust-free as the doctor recommended. So I’ve decided that it’s time to seek professional help, and engage the services of a professional domestic cleaning company to aid in my fight.
There are also some other things I need to look into to help reduce my exposure to dust mites, such as removing the carpets from my bedroom, buying a new more effective vacuum cleaner, and buying dust mite protective covers for my pillows and bed mattress. However I feel confident that I’m on the right path and that hopefully next time I won’t be knocked out of action by a microscopic insect.