A needle in a hayfever stack (Day 83)…


Ironically, despite my newfound love for green, I also happen to be allergic to most of it: slightly to grass, pollen and a few trees, but especially to the plant seen above, the one with the ugliest name, ragweed.

Those who have allergies will be familiar with that pin prick test doctors do on your arm to determine sensitivities to everything from foods like soy and eggs to environmental things like mould and dust, and even animals like cats and dogs (they’ve somehow bottled cat and dog in liquid form and use an eyedropper to dispense them, which never ceases to creep me out).

The idea is that if more than a few millimetres of redness appears around where they prick your skin, you’re allergic to that substance.

Well, when they tested me for ragweed, my entire arm turned into one big, swollen rash. This means, not surprisingly, that come mid-August I either need to take five over-the-counter anti-histamines, like Reactine or Claritin, each day; or two to three prescription-strength pills; or … drumroll, please … Pollinex shots.

I think the most environmentally friendly option is the latter, as it creates the least amount of packaging and waste. It also is said to be the most effective, which means I shouldn’t need to buy any extra Visine or nasal sprays, and it leaves me all the more time to romp around the great outdoors and hug trees.

19 Responses to A needle in a hayfever stack (Day 83)…

  1. Alina says:

    Bottled cat and dog? Lol, like in ‘The Perfume”? :p

  2. captainb says:

    New gadgets and fashion are emerging every day, leading us to buy without rationally thinking trough if we really need that product or not. Thoughtless buying leads to the ingestion of all the natural resources and to the endless growth of garbage piles, thous killing our planet.
    If you think too, that this is a problem let’s do something about it. Let’s keep just one week, for starters, when we would think about if we really need the product we are about to buy, and if we don’t need it let’s put it back on the shelf. June 1-7. Spread the word.


    Unplugged team

  3. julee says:

    As someone who had allergy shots for 6 years, I would argue that the shots cause more waste in the 4 doses Pollinex requires. For each shot, the nurse opens up a plastic, hermetically sealed hypodermic syringe, and they throw it and the bulky packaging away immediately afterwards. The needle then must be specially disposed as a biohazard. No only is the waste a concern, but the vial of Pollinex must be kept refrigerated.

    My suggestion to you is to go for 2 months prescription pills and visine (nothing works better for my ear/nose/throat/eyes), but supplement with drinking more water, take your quick showers before bed when ragweed is blooming (so the pollen in your hair doesn’t get all over your pillow then transfer to your eyes), and nasal douching with a saline solution to clean out the irritants (google this technique). You may also want to play with your diet. I noticed that when I cut corn and gluten, I suffered less from allergies. Find out what works for you. Some people cut protein, and it works for them.

    Finally, the worst part about allergies means you can’t have your windows open for cooling during ragweed season. Good luck dealing with this with your AC off. I know I couldn’t do it.

    BTW…those allergy shots claim to “immunize” you from allergies, but you have to take them every year for them to work.

  4. julee says:

    Two other thoughts on this. If you’re friends with your pharmacist, maybe you can talk them into re-using a pill bottle you already have. I know of no national (us or canada) pill bottle reuse programs at chains, but it could be a fun thing to call Walgreens or CVS corporate HQ and ask about it. Everyone is looking to get green, or at least advertise that fact.

    …but I think most prescription bottles are #2 recycling plastic if it came to that.

    Another idea is acupuncture. Many people have suggested this to me, but I don’t have a practitioner anywhere near where I live.

  5. besweet says:

    I so feel you on this. I haven’t gone to shots yet, but I do use Flonase like it’s going out of style. Some of the packaging is recyclable, at least — the box it comes in and the plastic lid and spray dispenser.

    I believe julee is referring to using a Neti Pot (http://www.healingdaily.com/exercise/neti-pot.htm). I have one and I have found it helps, clearing out the crap in my nose. I’m a fan of Western medicine, but this thing does make me feel better. You should be able to find one at your local hippie store. It does take some practice to avoid ending up with that feeling you get when you get swimming pool water up your nose, though.

  6. christal says:

    I have to agree here– I do not see in any way how a shot would be the greenest choice. see an herbalist, an accupuncturist, a nutritionist, anyone- but don’t cave to the big pharma companies and succumb to the prick (of the needle, that is!)
    what julee offers you is completely true- our diets and habits play a large role in our allergens.
    my allergies were far worse as a child with a suburban diet of canned, frozen junk. as I have moved into more local, organic, vegetarian options- and the avoidance of chemicals in general, I am pretty much allergy free. talk to alternative healers before you go this route. please.

  7. christal says:

    oh, one final thought-
    aren’t you contributing to products in the water supply that cannot be completely filtered out? your waste is then altered, and during water testing- most pharmaceuticals do not get filtered out effectively, thereby contaminating other living creatures who would then develop allergies that they may not have had before. consider the larger scope. it does sound a little far fetched, but it is based in fact.

  8. Susan says:

    I’ve been “lurking” on your blog for a few weeks now, and I love the simple ideas you give for changes in your everyday life.

    Thank you for bringing up this important aspect of conservation. It’s amazing the amount of packaging that goes into pharmaceutical products. I’ve been considering switching from birth control pills to an IUD simply because of the enormouse amount of waste generated by the pill (plastic case, plastic compact, blister pack, and paper insert with info on the pill – EVERY month!).

  9. gettinggreen says:

    Eew… nasal douching! I’m hoping that the shots will be a strong enough dose that I won’t need any Flonase (which sometimes gives me a five-second headache) or Visine or even this Neti Pot (although I will look into that).

    Plus, while I’m all for alternative medicine if it works, my ragweed symptoms are severe to the point where if I’m not taking fistfulls of antihistamines every night in August I’m practically in pain with the itching, burning eyes/nose and can’t sleep or concentrate on anything else, and I can’t risk dealing with an ineffective treatment.

    I know Big Pharma has its problems, too, but the reality is that my drug plan covers Pollinex, whereas if I did acupuncture or herbal remedies, I’d be even more broke.

  10. Lori V. says:

    Well, Vanessa, I have to agree about the greenness of this one… I think it falls under the category of “tradeoffs.” You know the ones I’m always talking about. The ones where we sacrifice some amount of greenness to make our lives easier… after all, our lives shouldn’t always have to suffer just to become greener, right?

  11. I recommend freeze-dried extracts of stinging nettles. It’s a great herb that is nearly as effective as Claritin.

  12. besweet says:

    Does your insurance cover naturopathy? I was surprised to find that mine does. I’m using it to get nutritional counselling, because it doesn’t cover visiting a dietitian. I’m just putting that out there, in case it interests you.

    And I agree — sometimes it’s a tradeoff, where you make the best possible choice. I don’t sleep well from June (May, this year) to October. I’ve made changes where I can, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m allergic to ragweed and pollen (and cats, sadly). I will use whatever works; I’m willing to eliminate options that don’t work that well, in the name of conservation, but I have to be functional just the same.

    I work in health reporting; I see lots of stories about clinical testing that hasn’t worked out, and there’s no way to fully replicate the real world in a lab, but science does a lot of good too. I think that dismissing Western medicine wholesale is a mistake, just as dismissing alternative medicine wholesale is. I would love to see natural/alternative/etc. remedies undergo testing so that people can be informed about which of those options work as well, because I’m sure that some of them work for some people.

  13. Chile says:

    I’ve had some success with a locally-made homeopathic tincture of the worst allergens in the area. The catch is that I have to start using it right at the beginning of allergy season and keep it up faithfully. Just using it occasionally when the allergies are really bad doesn’t seem to do the trick. The neti pot doesn’t seem to help with allergies but it’s great for sinus infections.

  14. Einat says:

    On the Neti-Pot, Oprah has featured it on two different shows in the last month — and its users, who were skeptical chronic allergy suffers, said it changed their lives. Apparently these are flying off the shelves. Best of luck!

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  16. Hedy Scarboro says:

    For the most part, antihistamines are safe. Having said that, antihistamines can have side effects which, if the antihistamine is not properly administered, can be serious. The truth is, all medications have side effects. Some are mild, as in the case of an aspirin, unless you have stomach ulcers or aspirin sensitivity and others are more serious such as the side effects from chemotherapy, but for the most part, antihistamine side effects are fairly mild. The newest antihistamines are probably about the safest medications that there are. But there are differences between the various antihistamines and their side effects.*

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