Tag Archives: birch allergy

Keep your eye on it!

I haven’t felt very well the past few days.¬† Correction, I’ve felt crappier than usual the past few days ūüėČ .¬† The Birch pollen season¬†has begun, so I’ve been sneezing my head off and my eyes are dry and sore, although this year I know to keep all my windows shut, run the air purifier in my bedroom, always wear my glasses when outside and put some Hay Max organic balm around the inside of my nostrils before I venture outside¬†which seems to work quite well.

But I’ve also been really muzzy headed, have had a sore throat and just felt generally drained and¬†‘not right’.¬† My chest is also worryingly tight (although I¬†bought a peak flow metre and my readings are excellent at 550)¬†and I’m coughing my head off.¬† It could be related to the pollen, but at the same time I’ve had reflux pain so it could also¬†be a bad bout of¬†GERD.¬† I’m already on the maximum dose of Tagamet (H2 blocker), plus extra Gaviscon Advance especially before bed, but it’s obviously not keeping the acid at bay.¬† I tolerate the H2 so well that I’m extremely reluctant to try a PPI instead, although if it gets much worse I might have to.¬† So I’m wondering if the sore throat is from the reflux and coughing, or whether I do have some kind of mild throat infection particularly as I don’t feel ‘well’ (although my temperature is normal).¬† My step-brother gets bad hayfever though, and he doesn’t feel well at the moment either, so it could also be the pollen!

That’s the problem when you have M.E. – every day you feel like you have the Plague, so how¬†can you tell when you actually do have a virus?¬† Or whether your increased symptoms are down to something else entirely, like hayfever or an MCAD flare?¬† Or whether you’re just having a crap M.E. patch?¬† Answers on a postcard please.

I gave up going to see my GP about anything about 10 years ago.¬†¬†She would either hand me a prescription that I couldn’t take, or refer me for tests which always came back normal.¬† All the visits ever did was make me feel like a hypochondriac which wasn’t good for my psyche.¬† But there are some symptoms I really worry about, like my lower stomach/pelvic pain which has been particularly bad in recent months.¬† I am 110% convinced¬†the pain is down to¬†endometriosis, but what if¬†it’s something more sinister?¬† I have regular smear tests but that wouldn’t pick up ovarian cysts or internal tumours.¬† About 5 years ago I actually think I had a burst ovarian cyst (I’ve never had pain like that in my life) but I still didn’t call an ambulance – by¬†morning it had settled down a bit and I’m still here so whatever it was¬†it didn’t kill me!¬† There’s a saying in my family to “just keep your eye on it” – with everything that’s wrong with me it’s a wonder I can see straight ūüėČ .

The only time I’ve been to hospital was after I’d had a mast cell reaction to having chiropracty for my back.¬† Within 5 minutes of the treatment I knew I was going to be really ill.¬† And I was, including having¬†tachycardia for 3 entire weeks and horrendous vomiting/retching.¬† After 21 days of continuous symptoms (including losing 9lbs puking)¬†and absolutely zero sleep,¬†I had chest pain so bad it felt like I was being skewered by a bread knife.¬† So at 3am one night I called 111 (the non-emergency number) and was told I had to call an ambulance.¬† I said I didn’t want to, I’d be fine, but the Doctor on the other end disagreed and called one anyway!¬† I ended up being blue-lighted to hospital, only for my ECG to be considered ‘normal’ (I knew¬†I was having an allergic reaction and that there would be¬†nothing wrong with my heart)¬†and discharged 5 hours later in the snow,¬†in¬†my pyjamas and with no way of making the 30 mile journey home (a taxi would have cost me ¬£80!).¬† It’s not going to happen again in a hurry.

I might try some Claritin (H1 blocker) alongside my Tagamet to see if that will settle any hayfever symptoms down (although it gives me insomnia!) but other than that I’ll just put up with the tight chest.¬† It does get me down though, as breathing is¬†exhausting¬†when it feels like there’s an elephant sitting on¬†your breastbone!

I am, however, going to finish on a high note.¬† I’ve had the biopsy results for the lump on my little dog’s leg and it’s just a benign cyst and nothing at all to worry about, yayyy ūüôā .¬† And my Mum is definitely brighter now we’ve altered her medication – like her GP says, it’s a balance between quality of life and quantity of life.¬† If I had a choice, I’d rather be well and die at 60 than feel like this every day and live til I’m 100!


Light Bulb Moment

I was reading an article on HIT yesterday which was talking about the triggers which cause excess histamine, when I suddenly had a bit of a light-bulb moment.

Back in May, I woke up one morning with hives (see my blog post here).¬† I had no idea what had set them off and was highly frustrated that, despite my low histamine diet, something was obviously causing my mast cells to degranulate.¬† They lasted about 3 weeks then slowly disappeared.¬† I’ve had similar episodes before, often in spring and autumn, which I’ve previously put down to changes in the weather and, whilst¬†I’m sure this¬†doesn’t help the situation, I’m now not convinced it’s¬†the main¬†culprit.

I had an Immunology appointment in June which showed a previously unknown allergy to Birch Pollen, and it came to me suddenly yesterday that April-May is the Birch pollen season here in the UK.¬† My reaction to the pollen was, I’m fairly sure, the trigger which caused my histamine bucket to overflow and my hives to appear, plus¬†it also explains a period of extremely dry, sore and gritty eyes which, at the time, I was clueless about.

Knowledge is power.¬† Next year I’ll be keeping my bedroom window closed during¬†Spring¬†and turning on my air purifier in the house.¬† I’ll also make sure I¬†wear some wrap around glasses when I’m walking my dog in the woods.¬†¬†Now and again¬†a tiny part of the puzzle slots into place and, just for a short time, it’s nice to feel like I’m in charge of my body and not the other way round.¬†¬†Don’t worry, it doesn’t last long ūüėČ .

Birch Pollen Allergy

My newly discovered and very strong allergy to birch pollen has thrown up some interesting facts.  Birch pollen allergy is the second most common allergy in the UK and increases the risk of reacting to certain fruits and vegetables by 70% (called pollen-related oral allergy syndrome).  A recent study found the following cross food reactions in people with a confirmed Birch pollen allergy:

      • Apple (80% of people with birch allergy will also react orally to apples)
      • Hazelnut (59%)
      • Nectarine/peach (51%)
      • Kiwi (48%)
      • Walnut (41%)
      • Carrot (35%)
      • Apricot (33%)
      • Cherry (32%)
      • Pear (32%)
      • Almond (32%)
      • Peanut (24%)
      • Plum (24%)
      • Tomato (21%)
      • Potato (19%)
      • Celery (16%)
      • Soybean (14%)

A more definitive list of oral cross reactions can be found here.  This states that a person with a Birch pollen allergy has a strong chance of reacting to the following:

    • beech pollen
    • oak pollen
    • alder pollen
    • hazel pollen
    • chestnut pollen
    • pome¬†fruits (eg apple, pear)
    • kiwi
    • raw carrot
    • celery and celery salt
    • raw tomato
    • curry

And in addition may possibly react to:

  • olive tree pollen
  • poplar tree pollen
  • grass pollen (which I’ve tested negative for)
  • mugwort weed (which I’ve tested negative for)
  • camomile
  • stone fruits (eg plum, peach)
  • banana
  • lychee
  • mango
  • orange
  • raw potato
  • soy
  • aniseed
  • red pepper
  • pepper
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • all varities of nuts
  • latex

I did wonder why the Immunologist¬†asked me if I’d ever had lip swelling after eating apples and this explains it.¬† The good news is that cooking fruits and veg destroys the protein that causes the allergy, so cooked potato and carrot are fine but I should probably avoid eating them raw.¬† Most of the other things on the list I’ve been avoiding anyway as they are excluded on a low histamine diet, or are things I’ve never liked (such as celery and cherries).¬† If I knew yesterday what I know now I’d’ve asked for all sorts of things to be tested for when having my skin prick test :-/ .

I had hoped to try re-introducing peanuts and almonds to my diet in the future, and will do this regardless and see how it goes – not everyone will react to all the foods listed.¬† I will definitely re-think raw apple though if 80% of people with a birch allergy react to it – it’s considered very low histamine so I’ve been eating my fair share recently.

The birch pollen season in the UK is approximately the 2nd week in March up until the 1st week in June.¬† Come to think of it I had a massive increase in my dry eye problem at that time this year, but as dry eyes aren’t a common hay fever sign I had no idea what had brought it on.¬† At least now I can be more aware, although I live surrounded on all sides by woodland in the Lake District¬†so avoidance isn’t going to be particularly easy!

On the subject of my recent, fairly disastrous, mast cell appointment I’ve now been given the name of an MCAD¬†specialist in Manchester to see,¬†so today I’m asking my GP for a referral and a second opinion.¬† Gawd knows how long that’s going to take, and if the Consultant in question was also a¬†BUPA¬†member I’d just pay my money and see him privately next week, but he only takes NHS patients so I could be in for another long wait :-/¬† I won’t give up though and will get to the bottom of my drug reactions if it kills me (which, at times, it’s felt like it’s going to!).