Claudette S. says, “I’m not the typical allergy patient.” Claudette, a speech therapist, doesn’t have asthma, and until a few years ago her respiratory health seemed just fine. In early spring she came down with bronchitis, and 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 she thought 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 I 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.”