The speaker for the September 2013 Better Breathers luncheon was Dr. Luis Destarac–a new doctor at Pulmonary Associates of Tyler, and his topic was Allergies. Dr. Destarac opened on an amusing note–describing fall as a time for football, getting ready for Christmas songs, and a busy time for an allergy doctor. Fall is the 2nd peak allergy season because of hay fever.
Those with allergies have an overactive immune system as shown by nasal congestion and maybe itchy eyes. The immune system fights invading bacteria and viruses. Allergy patients need nasal spray and maybe an antibiotic. Inflammation of the nose and lungs is another possibility with allergies. Asthma is shortage of breathing. Some can have food allergies:peanuts and shellfish can be fatal.
The fall allergy season is slowly increasing–another effect of global warming, according to Dr. Destarac. Ragweed is already common by September. Wind-born pollen can come from far away,even if there is no grass or trees in you yard. Cooler weather eventually stops fall allergy season. The first allergy season is at the beginning of the year: winter to spring. Indoors can be the location for year-round allergies: cockroaches, dust mites (two of mine), dust, mold, cats, and dogs. One patient of Dr. Destarac’s did well until he got a girlfriend with a cat. The patient improved after the girlfriend dumped him–allergy wise, that is. One could get a food-related allergic reaction through cross-contamination if particularly sensitive. Medication isn’t the only allergy remedy; it can be costly and the costs are uncertain.
One solution is to wash your nose with saline solution twice per day. Dr. Destarac described the nose as “like a filter of your body.” Pollen, dust, or dander gets trapped in your nose. Over-the-counter antihistamines are another remedy. Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtek are a few. Singulair, another O-T-C medicine, acts differently. A basal constrictor is a decongestant that shrinks swollen blood vessels in the nose and everywhere else. Some experience raised blood pressure. Antihistamines may not work forever, and the patient will have to switch medicines. Furthermore, allergies can change over time. Sinus infections are another possibility, and they can become chronic. If allergies really bother you, then get an allergy test from someone like Dr. Destarac as I did the month after this presentation.
Our luncheon was brought by the nearby Taylor Home Health Supply from On The Border. We had beef and chicken fajitas, cooked with red and green bell peppers and onions. The side dishes were guacamole, Spanish rice with yellow corn, picante-and-chips, two shredded cheeses, and refried beans topped with melted cheese.
SEQUEL: MY STORY
In October 2013, I got an allergy test from Dr. Destarac, as I was already a patient of Pulmonary Associates for my COPD and asthma. Thanks to Medicare A,B, and D plus Medicaid, I can afford them. For the first few months, I got allergy shots twice per week; now I’m on a once per week schedule. If my Forced Exhale Volume (FEV) is too low, I can’t get a shot, and probably shouldn’t walk to the clinic anyway! .
Way back in the late 80’s, I received allergy shots–mainly for allergies toward Bermuda and Johnson Grass. That hasn’t changed. Now I have allergies to cockroaches and dust mites. Actually, I’m more likely to see the darling nurses–Esmeralda and Emily–than Dr. Destarac. They’re the ones who check my FEV with a fancy peak flow meter that has a disposable sanitary cover. Esmeralda may be the only other person I’ve met in Tyler who also likes Tejano music! Last week, Emily noted when my rescue inhaler dose was substandard. I even like the waiting rooms because they play Accent Health by CNN, often with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.Curiously, I don’t have allergies to cats or dogs, despite bronchitis during my last cat hording phase from 2007-2010. I found out the hard way that not being allergic to cat dander doesn’t mean that too much fur in the bedroom is like living under a cottonwood tree–something I discussed with the April 2014 Better Breathers speaker, weatherman Scott Fossey.
I have been sleeping with oxygen tubes in my nose since Fall 2012 , thanks to an overnight oxygen sensor. After another overnight oxygen reading in Fall 2013, Dr. Destarac ordered a sleep study. It turned out that I have severe sleep apnea; my breathing stopped during my sleep repeatedly. I bet sleep apnea is an under-diagnosed illness. Now I have a C-PAP machine that was acquired for me by my good friend, Forrest Garner, Durable Medical Equipment tech for Med Shop of Longview. I made compliance for Medicaid by wearing the contraption enough hours per day. Ironically, my COPD is only mild to moderate, despite my severe Forced Exhale Volume (FEV) and the fact that it was the reason for my disability. In other words, my quick exhale is like a very short old woman.
The more access to health care that one can receive, the more knowledge of one’s conditions becomes possible. I haven’t been this healthy since I had a teaching job with health insurance–not possible for substitute teachers or adjunct instructors at a community college. Thanks to Medicaid, I’m no longer a regular at the ER and a burden on the government. Office hours are M-TH 7:30-5 and Friday 7:30-12. Allergy clinic hours are Monday 9-4:30, T-Th 8:30-4:30, and Friday 8:30-11:30.