Sunday, October 13, 2013

I love breathing, not mucus.

Allergies are quite despicable.  I don't want them.  I have them.  Now, since I have to have them--no way around it--I would love to have the kind that just make you sneeze.  Sneezing is kind-of funny.  I was even informed by my college roommate--after I told her, and a group of my friends who were passing a bowl in our apartment living room, that they were making themselves stupider--sneezing actually kills more brain cells than smoking the ganja.  Now, I'm not quite sure how that qualifies as a check in the old "sneezing kind of allergies are better" box, but I thought it was a ridiculous thing for her to say, and I responded to her informed fact with the statement, "Wow... See? It's already too late for you..."  Sneezing is funny, and does not make you stupid.  Don't smoke marijuana.
That grey fluffy stuff is air, not pot smoke in the diagram...


I don't sneeze a whole lot unless I encounter a dog.  Instead, I experience severe swelling of all the nasal and sinus passages, and excessive mucus secretion that drains down the back of my throat.  I mean, think about having this huge, gooey mucus mass just settling into your nasal tube thingys that connect to the old throat... It feels just like that.

On top of that fun sensation, my face feels compelled to make this horrifically obnoxious and unladylike snorting sound constantly, which neither helps move the mucus mass, nor aides my breathing in any way.  It's just an involuntary nasal snort.  It's a snort that also involves a vibrating sound in the back of my throat.  It is not funny.  It is not even kind-of funny.

Snort, Snort.

I have always had seasonal allergies and pet allergies, but taking Claritin D, beginning when I was in middle school, kept any symptoms at bay.  I could live a normal, snort-free life with just one prescribed medication per day.  I even lived with at least two cats in my house my my entire childhood and teen years.


However, after  the allergy fiasco at the high school,  where I was teaching up until this school year, (which could have been caused by mold; or another host of things in the air that I was constantly exposed to, and just did a number on my respiratory system), I have not been the same.  Typical allergy tests actually show I have no allergies what-so-ever, which would totally rock my world if those tests were accurate.   I had endoscopic sinus surgery in April. I am on allergy medication, a steroid nasal spray, Albuterol sulfate through an inhaler, a daily nasal wash, and oral steroids any time things get really bad, and I still am snorting like a pig.  I still have a mucus-sludge slide running down my pharynx.  Gross?  I could just use the common medical term and say. I have "postnasal drip." Yet drip is an inadequate descriptor for the mucus party happening all up in my face.  Even "postnasal" doesn't sound so bad...  That might make you think, "Oh, haha, the drip comes out of the nose!  Just carry a tissue, for Pete's Sake."  If I could hear your thoughts while you were thinking that, I would think in a really mean thinking process, "Nothing will even come out of my nose, dingbat!  I can blow my nose until the cows come home, and nothing comes out.  It's in my gosh darn throat.  It is sliding down my gosh darn, son-of-a-bitch, throat."  Good thing we can't read each others' minds.


And so, a lovely parting gift, among the many I have received from that old school of mine, is Chronic Allergic Rhinitis, Chronic Sinusitis, and Asthma.  And guess what: Those are all classified as diseases. 

Surgery could only help lessen the chances of sinus infections due to the inflammation caused by the...  You get the picture.

Here's a tip for you:  If you feel constantly congested, or experience wheezing on a regular basis in any environment, go to a doctor immediately and take it seriously like s/he will ask you to.  I wanted to teach.  I love teaching.  I took medicine and kept teaching.  Now I have three diseases.  Don't take my word for it?  I'll offer you a bit of scientific information at the bottom here:

This diagram is quite self-explanatory, but for those of you who don't understand it, the description below covers it. 

During the first exposure to allergen, contact is made with B cells that differentiate and produce IgEantibody. The IgE against the allergen is released into the bloodstream and eventually binds to Fc receptors on mast cells and basophils. The mast cells are now sensitized, laying in wait for the second exposure. Upon contact with allergen a second time, it now attaches to IgE present on mast cells causing degranulation. On the cellular level, the granules present in the cytoplasm migrate to the cellular membrane and spill out their contents into the surrounding area. This results in the release of histamine, slow reacting substance of anaphylaxis (SRS-A), heparin, prostaglandins, platelet-activation factor (PAF), eosinophil chemotactic factor of anaphylaxis and proteolyticenzymes. This cocktail of proteins are the mediators of inflammation and they trigger a number of physiological responses including smooth muscle contraction, an increase in vascular permeability and mucous secretion.
In its most severe form, systemic anaphylaxis, there is a generalized response. Exposure to allergen causes an immediate, large amount of mast cell response over a short period of time. This results in large concentrations of the mediators of inflammation being released all at once. Individuals experiencing systemic anaphylaxis have trouble breathing due to smooth muscle contraction causing the closing of the bronchioles in the lungs. Arterioles also dilate, resulting in a drop in blood pressure and capillary permeability that causes a loss of fluid into tissues. Victims of this response can die within minutes from reduced blood return through the veins, asphyxiation, low blood pressure and circulatory collapse leading to shock. Quick treatment with epinephrine (increases blood flow and inactivates mast cells) and antihistamines (combat histamines) is essential to prevent death. Common allergens in this type of reaction are penicillin, passively administered antisera and insect venom from bees or wasps.
Localized anaphylaxis (atopic allergy) is a less severe form of anaphylaxis, whose symptoms depend primarily upon how the allergen enters the body. In hay fever (allergic rhinitis) the allergen enters the upper respiratory tract. Common allergens in hay fever include pet dander, pollen, fungal spores and household dust mites. Exposure to these particles causes the typical symptoms of hay fever, i.e., runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing, most of which are indicative of the action of mast cells. Treatment typically involves the use of antihistamines to block the action of histamine released by mast cells.
Bronchial asthma results when the site of immunological response is the lower respiratory tract. The same allergens that irritate the upper respiratory tract in this case cause the symptoms of asthma. Mucus accumulates in the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs and smooth muscle contraction of the bronchi narrows the airways and causes the characteristic wheezing of asthma. Bronchodilators that relax the bronchial muscles and expectorants that clear mucous plugs in the lungs can relieve most of the symptoms of asthma, but it is still a serious illness that can be fatal if treatment is delayed for too long.

Sinus Infection

Airborne allergens such as ragweed pollen, mold spores, cat dander and dust mites affect the respiratory system, producing classic hay fever-type symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and congestion. Patients with untreated allergies or controlled long-term allergies can experience sinusitis or otitis media side effects, if exposure continues. According to the, bacterial or fungal sinus and ear infections can pop up again and again in people with immune systems weakened by frequent allergic reactions.

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Lung Infection

Prolonged mold exposure triggers long-term allergies and raises the risk of lung infection, or aspergillosis. When sensitive individuals inhale mold spores, these minute particles can lodge in the lungs and begin to grow. Patients with asthma or cystic fibrosis may have an immediate allergic reaction upon inhalation, the reports. Others may not know that fungal spores have invaded the lungs until a ball of mold growth damages lung tissue. Coughing up blood, trouble breathing, chills and fever may all occur. Medication or surgery may be needed to control and remove infectious mold growths.

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Anonymous said...

It's a myth:

JC said...

Thank you for this information... Very interesting... I must say that the people I have known throughout my life who were perpetual/chronic pot smokers did seem to become more and more stupid as years passed... (Not my roommate, or friends, who were not regular smokers)... Maybe the people I am thinking of were already a bit slow on the uptake.

For the record, smoking anything is bad for your lungs, and Asthma and COPD also suck, so there's that...

JC said...

Oh, but I can say that I now understand that Marijuana plays a critical role in the treatment and recovery of many people suffering, various illnesses. I went to UVM, so my earlier views might have been a bit skewed and I was just tired of the pot smoking ... ;) I'm not a fan of lung damage or excessive use. I think chronic users do, in fact, have problems...