Friday, September 30, 2005

Allergies and Santa Ana Season

My boy, you are allergic! Honest John to Pinocchio

Even if I didn’t have CF, I’m pretty sure I’d have seasonal allergies since my mom does. I hate allergies. Mine seem to flare up most noticeably when the weather changes. Fortunately I live near the coast, so the weather is generally mild year-round. Santa Ana season is particularly rough. I shudder to think how I would be affected if I lived in a state that had actual weather.

I’m convinced that my face is simply a biological barometer. Even before the wind starts blowing, the sinus pressure I experience is a dead giveaway of things to come. The other night I called my mom to ask if it was windy in her neck of the woods. I may live about 100 miles away, but I still can sense a Santa Ana wind, isn’t that odd?

As far as allergy medications go, I’m familiar with most of them. For years I alternated between Claritin and Zyrtek. Claritin-D (the big round one) was pretty good at relieving the sinus pressure. Zyrtek gave me really awful dry mouth. A little more than a year ago I tried Alavert. I wasn’t impressed. I liked that it was over the counter and that there were usually some coupons for it in the Sunday paper, but frankly, it just didn’t do the trick.

Last November my doc started me on Singulair (not to be confused with Cingular wireless). Finally! Something worked! I take it in the evenings and it keeps me under control throughout the next day. I’ve noticed a huge decrease in the number of times I need to use my “puffer” (ventolin inhaler) for quick relief.

Something my doc told me that I had been unaware of was that for people with CF, it is important to be careful about taking over-the-counter (OTC) meds like Sudafed or benadryl. His explanation was that the drug in them can dry things out too much. They reduce the ability to cough productively to clear the airways. This explained why, although I got wonderful sleep when I took benadryl at night, I would often have a lot of trouble the following morning.

For sinus headaches or headaches in general, I stick with ibuprofen. I found an article recently that talked about the benefits of anti-inflammatory meds like ibuprofen for individuals with CF. The article mentioned that in children, a regimen of ibuprofen can help slow down the decrease in lung function. The New England Journal of Medicine, however, concluded a study that shows that high doses of ibuprofen have nephrotoxic (kidney harming) effects. Then again, it seems like just about every medication used to treat CF has some undesirable side effects. Personally, I make my choices from a quality of life perspective and weigh the options.

So, here I sit with my nice tall glass of lightly salted water, doing my best to keep the allergens at bay. So far the headache isn’t unmanageable, but I’m glad I don’t have any huge plans for the weekend.

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