There is enough pollen in my head right now to impregnate the Amazon Rainforest, the Boreal Forest, and still have enough left over for tall the bees in New Zealand to have their fix. “Oh, the cold winter will kill a lot of the pollen!” I heard this said many times during the Siberian Experience we had for a winter this year, and if that’s true I cannot imagine what we would be doing right now. Pollen men, like those made of snow but yellow green and yucky?
Usually March is the worst month for pollen but this year March wasn’t bad at all and I believed all the rumors about being a light pollen season. But April has bombarded us with a light rain of the stuff and now that the temperatures are heading up to the 90’s, the misery index is maxing out as if the Apocalypse was going to be tree sex rather than fire.
Back when I was a kid it was much, much, worse than it is now. My father was one of those parents who believed the more someone suffered the better person they would become later in life. The over the counter product for severe allergy related symptoms were somewhere between totally ineffectual and complexly useless. Worse yet, the walk to school insured by the time I got to class there would be a torrent of snot running down my nose. My father was totally convinced the immersion method of treatment would cure me. If he could only put me outside long enough then I would get used to the pollen, and stop all my whining. I remember mowing the lawn with our ancient yellow push mower with my eyes swollen shut and my nose running like the Mississippi. There was no hope at all of having air conditioning because that would be admitting defeat. For three months out of each year I slept little, sneezed a lot, and my father made sure I stayed out in the stuff as much as possible, so I would “get used to it”.
The house we moved into in 1972 was surrounded by Pecan Trees, and that seemed to be the worst pollen to breathe. There was one right outside my bedroom window and there were times it felt like there was a pump directly connected to my nose from the tree. I would hack and sneeze for hours on end, and because my father was a light sleeper he would get up and yell at me to go back to bed. I was the Pollen Zombie. Between the meds that didn’t work but did make me sleepy, I was in a constant daze. Because I couldn’t really sleep, I was always on the verge of dozing off anyway. But my father was certain if enough pollen passed through me there would be some sort of immunity built up, and even decades later when he would call during pollen season he would always say, “I thought you outgrew that.”
The irony is not lost on me that my father called last night and it seems the pollen is so bad it knock him off his feet for a couple of days. I didn’t say anything about him outgrowing it but I certainly felt the tug of temptation.
When I was in the Army they very nearly kicked me out for being too sensitive to pollen. Despite what you might hear from a recruiter, the medical attention your average solider gets is somewhere between going to see a witchdoctor and a defrocked veterinarian. Being out in the woods and living in a tent for a few days may sound like a lot of fun, and to a degree it is, but when you are sneezing as if your brains are trying to break out and escape, it gets old, quick. They loaded me up with over the counter stuff because the Army has this thing about not handing out prescription meds to soldiers. Yes, I am quite certain there is a hot black market for drugs that dry up your nose while inducing a coma. Other than the fact these drugs worked as well as firing a marshmallow at a freight train, I’m sure someone out there is trying to fake allergy symptoms to get these drugs. Yet there were some very bad days. On the upside, the Army did have air conditioned barracks so I was able to sleep at night. Believe it or not, the Army had this weird rule about over the counter drugs. You had to keep them in the container they came in. I took my meds and put them in small plastic bottle to keep them dry and got busted for having allergy meds out of the original container. There was a drug test, an investigation, and in the meanwhile, I was restricted to barracks for a week. I lay on my bunk reading in the nice air conditioned room while everyone else had to work. The Army knows how to run an investigation!
For the most part I can survive the pollen and stay active outdoors at the same time. The meds these days are much better with fewer side effects. I’ve learned there things I can do to help my body fight off the pollen naturally, and as adult, I get to chose when I go outside and play, or not. For the most part, I’ve discovered garlic, honey, and nasal rinse does as well as meds. But this has been a brutal season and everything I’ve tried so far this weekend has failed and failed miserably. The time I spent outside yesterday stuck with me all day long, and I woke up at four this morning with a cough. There is another two months of pollen season and the only upside to any of this is it makes fairly decent writing material.
You may thank me now for not including photos, or any other personal visual aids.