As Claudette S says, “I’m not the typical allergy patient.” Claudette, a speech therapist, doesn’t have asthma, and until about a year ago her respiratory health seemed just fine. Then in early spring 2011, she came down with bronchitis. By Mother’s Day, her illness had developed into pneumonia.
Both her primary-care provider and her husband – who also happens to be a primary-care provider – were stumped about why Claudette’s breathing problems persisted. She didn’t have the sinusitis or runny nose that many doctors usually associate with an allergy flare-up. Her main symptoms were frequent migraines, eyes so irritated that she had to stop wearing contact lenses, and an occasional fever that appeared when she became sick.
Luckily for Claudette, a friend suggested seeing an allergist. “My girlfriend said that maybe my immune system was suppressed because I’d been chronically sick and on so many medications,” Claudette says. “So I went and had allergy testing – and it turns out that I’m allergic to just about every kind of pollen there is. And here in Baton Rouge, we’d been having a really bad pollen season. I’m also allergic to dust mites.”
The discovery shocked Claudette’s primary-care doctor and her husband, but it made sense looking back. “Now I understood why my eyes felt so itchy and irritated that I couldn’t wear contacts,” she says.
Claudette’s allergist prescribed immunotherapy (allergy shots), and Claudette took steps to make her home more breathable, too. “My allergist recommended a good brand of mattress and pillow encasings for my bed, and we’ve got air filters in the attic where it’s dusty and downstairs,” she says. “I hadn’t noticed that I’d had breathing problems around dust, but I’m taking precautions just to make sure.”
Her advice to people with mysterious chronic health issues that share even a couple of symptoms with those of allergies or asthma: Consider seeing an allergist. “I’m normally very healthy, and I lead a very healthy lifestyle,” she says. “You know your own body, and you know when something’s wrong. I’m glad I made an appointment to try and figure it out.”