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Sneeze if you please during allergy season

I’ve now officially been miserable for 24 days.

Not every minute of every one of those days, but enough that the bad minutes often overshadow the good ones.

I thought maybe I was going to get lucky this year: I bought a bag of mini doughnuts on Thursday and enjoyed every bite, and walked out of Crane Pavilion on Friday with three pencils, two Tootsie Rolls, two balloons, a bookmark, a brochure about seamless gutters and no sneezing.

It all ended on Saturday, 9:17 Saturday morning, to be exact.

But I knew it was coming, because it’s happened the same way for 20 years; my hay fever always starts the week of the Mower County Fair.

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Miserable for 24 days and counting.

Spot them a mile away

You can tell hay fever sufferers when you see us because we don’t hide our symptoms well.

I must have been doing a lot of sniffling and eye-rubbing, because a nice lady at the Hallmark shop put her hand gently on my arm and said "Don’t they just touch your heart, dear?"

I agreed that they do, wiping my eyes and sniffing impolitely.

I discreetly hid the card I was holding; the picture of the toothless old geezer would help my friend celebrate his 40th birthday.

But I could understand the nice lady’s misunderstanding.

The second time it happened, it seemed a little more out-of-place; I rarely get emotional when I drop off my recycling.

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The third time, the guy at the pump across from mine just assumed I was upset about gas prices.

Not every day is a bad one; there are some days that, for some unexplainable reason, the allergies stay away.

There are other days when I know from the moment I wake up that I’m not going to be a joy to be around.

It was one of those "bad start" days when I decided to count sneezes, just to prove to the doubters that there actually are days when I sneeze 200 times.

Sneeze relief

For the record, a good sneeze is one of the body’s best feelings, along with a good yawn and a really good stretch. But 200 of them is overkill.

I had to abandon the count at Sneeze No. 114, because it was time for breakfast.

On the positive side, I can usually claim "allergies" as my excuse for staying inside to watch the ballgame on Saturday afternoon, instead of going out to mow the lawn.

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I have found some pills that will help me through the worst days. As a hay fever novice 20 years ago, I grabbed something randomly off the shelf once I suspected I suffered from allergies.

The pills stopped the sneezing and sniffling but nearly put me to sleep, and even though I rarely operate heavy machinery, I at least want to have that option if the mood struck me.

A doctor later prescribed a potent medication that stops the symptoms without making me drowsy.

It’s not cheap, but even a frugal person like myself understands the concept of "money well spent."

I also pay more attention to allergy counts for things like ragweed, nettle and chenopods (which, I have since learned, are certain plants that release a common allergen, and not fossilized squids).

I’ve considered the idea of forming a hay fever club; it might be helpful to get together with other sufferers to share ideas on ways to cope with our condition.

I even wrote a theme song that could be sung to the tune of "Oh, Canada."

The club wouldn’t have a secret handshake for obvious reasons.

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The good news is that the sneezing and sniffling will stop eventually.

The bad news is that it takes the first hard frost to make them go away – the frost that kills the tomato plants and leaves a block of ice in the bird bath.

Is it worth such an abrupt end to summer, just to stop a little sneezing?

Some days, "yes." But mostly, "no."

Summer will be over soon enough.

Pass the Kleenex. 

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