allergies kicking my butt

Hello all,

I am a 61 year old retiree.   I spend 7 months in Florida, and 5 months in Rhode Island.

I grew up with allergies… my family all seemed to have stuffy noses, especially at night, and form many years I used Sudafed for this (I lived in New Hampshire then as an adult).  Then, I was able to stop this, and although still sometimes stuffy, I used a saline spray and that seemed to help.

Now, I am getting hammered and I don't know why.   I am 100% sure that I have a reaction to dairy foods, and have just started trying to go dairy-free.  This helps tremendously, but it is not the only thing.  I suspect that somehow I am now reacting strongly to pollen, but my real question is about food.

Even when I eat a meal with no dairy (e.g., just now for breakfast), it seems like my system reacts with a runny nose immediately.   It seems stupid to think about being "allergic to food", but my reactions are pretty amazing.

I know that the next question is still going to be, "well, what did you eat", i.e., there must be something else.   But since my previous reaction to dairy had been so pronounced, I am obviously hoping that that would be the only culprit.

I would appreciate any thoughts, or anecdotes, if anyone recognizes this scenario, and what they recommend.

I admit I am reluctant to go back to an allergy doctor, as I saw a lot of scamming in that when I *did* go to them long ago.






Comments 14

  • K8sMom2002

    Mitch, welcome ! Sounds like you've had quite a struggle trying to figure things out and get some symptom relief!

    But you're definitely on the right track. The first thing I would have suggested you've already started doing: keeping a symptom diary.  (it's a link on AAFA's food allergy division, Kids With Food Allergies) can help you figure out patterns. 

    One other thing: you mention taking Sudafed, which is a really great decongestant, but it is not an anti-histamine. An antihistamine (think medicines like Benadryl, Zyrtec, Allegra, Xyzal, or Claritin) responds to histamine, which is one of the things that causes allergy symptoms.

    Also, there's a theory that lots of allergists have called the "bucket theory." My own allergist has talked about that. Basically, you start each day with a bucket at a particular level of allergens, and some days it gets fuller than others. It may even overflow, which is when people can see their worst reactions.

    So for instance: my daughter is allergic to birch pollen AND raw and lightly cooked apple (it's a weird one, so it's kind of rare.) She usually can tolerate baked apple (any apple recipe cooked for at least 30 minutes at 350 degrees.)

    But our allergist has warned us that during the times of year that birch pollen is high, we may see reactions to even baked apple. And that's because her allergy bucket is already pretty full, and it wouldn't take much to make it overflow.

    I'm glad to say that if you haven't seen an allergist in several years, things have changed a BUNCH. For one thing, the use of wide-screening panels to diagnose food allergies is pretty much a thing of the past with board-certified allergists. 

    So, yes, I would suggest finding a good board-certified allergist. 

    To find a board-certified allergist near you, you can use the following two links:

      Could you reach out to your insurance company and asking for suggestions?

      We're glad you're here, and we can certainly help you brainstorm and figure things out!

    • LiveFreeOrDie

      Cynthia, thank you for taking the time to reply!   I plan to (at the least) continue to see what foods could be overflowing my "bucket".   I will speak with my regular GP as well, to see what he says, and if he can recommend a good allergist.   I know that when I can see the yellow pollen on my outdoor furniture, there is a good chance that (now) I am going to have more issues.

    • K8sMom2002

      What a great idea to start with your GP! He knows your overall health picture and can certainly refer you to an allergist he knows and works well with. 

      And sounds like you have your first entry into your symptom diary: yellow pollen time = more symptoms! 

      Let me know what your GP has to say … I'm hoping for a good plan forward for you and some symptom relief!

    • Kat88

      Hi Mitch, a fellow Rhode Islander here! Just a thought but there is a lot of hidden dairy in many foods. Cereal, breads and granola bars too. I follow a plant based diet and have to read so many labels to avoid it. I too have noticed feeling better without dairy. I hope you find answers soon.

    • Kathy P

      Welcome Kat88! Milk definitely can hide in a lot of foods you would not suspect. 

    • LiveFreeOrDie

      @Kat88  I am well aware of this, although I probably miss some.   I have come to realize that eating right really does mean, at the very least, as few processed foods as possible.  While I have not committed to going full paleo, I am starting to eat more that way as well.

    • Shea

      Mystery allergies are no fun!

      It took me a while to figure out my allergies to food and environmentals–my food allergies started at age 13. I have lived in Florida since I was 8. I am severely allergic to nuts (bad anaphlaxis), and also allergic to apples, grapes, peaches, pears, plums (cooked or raw no matter, I vomit and get hives and difficulty breathing). I also cannot eat foods high in sulfites like dried fruits and shrimp, and have reactions to some fish (seems like the high merciry-types). I have severe cat and dog dander allergies, and am also triggered by molds and some pollens. 

      I do OK with milk in smaller amounts, organic (I swear my body digests organic so much better). I am not allergic to milk, I just have a sensitive digestive tract.

      I do use rice milk or hemp milk for my cereal as a substutute, just in case you're looking for substitues. 

      It took me a while to figure out my allergies. Eating simple foods so you can isolate the reaction is a good start: like, OK I ate this fruit and nothing else and this happened. Watch your beverages as well (I used to drink apple juice a lot and I was always getting sick and finally after eating only an apple and gettingvsick it allll made sense).

      Be aware of oral allergy syndrome (my son is allergic to ragweed and during ragweed season, cucumbers make him itchy in his mouth and skin–turns out cucumber cross-reacts with ragweed, so when ragweed is high he avoids cucumbers, and when its not high, he eats them and is completely fine). You can google cross-reactors for environmental allergies (they are not "true" food allergies per se but they can still cause issues).

      My son is allergic to nuts, soy, and legumes (like peas, beans)… So I have to look out for oils and flours too– so as your journalling, keep oils and flours in mind. 

      Allergy skin prick tests have helped us in figuring out our allergies, so it may be worth a look into them, and sometimes the doctors can provide insight… But a lot of my allergies I figured out on my own.



    • LiveFreeOrDie

      Thanks, Shea, for your experiences.   I am pretty sure I do not have anything as broad as what you have.   At this point, I am pretty happy knowing that I have identified the most egregious offender,which is dairy.   I also now believe I have simply gone from my previous "just stuffy" allergies (probably pollen) to a more severe "nose is running and coughing" type.   I am inclined by nature to try the simplest solution(s) that do not involve anything more than awareness and possibly OTC medicines.

    • Shea

      That sounds like a good plan. (I like sticking to nature too, and bring in tune with one's own body, as much as possible!) 

    • Melissa G

      @LiveFreeOrDie how are you doing? Any more changes that you have made that have helped?

    • Melissa G

      The "pollen explosion" has definitely happened here. We were supposed to get rain all weekend but it didn't come yesterday and today it has been a light drizzle, nothing to knock down the pollen. Our cars are covered, everything is covered it pollen. At church this morning, so many were sneezing and coughing. 

      Anyone else having a hard time with allergies right now?

    • Marie E Natzke

      Livefreeordie hope you've gotten some help from your GP. I've noticed for myself I can't tolerate 1or 2 % or skim milk but I do better with whole milk it's not processed as much. But if you are having nasal reactions then it's best to stay completely away from it. Watch your butter intake as well. 


    • Brenda Silvia-Torma

      @LiveFreeOrDie, How was your summer? Are you getting any relief from your allergies now that the spring is over? Were you able to get a referral to an allergist from your GP?