I've been fortunate that for most of my life I haven't had to deal with environmental allergies. Food allergies, yes, by the gross, but usually spring presented no difficulties for me, let alone horrors. Until this year.
When I look in the mirror I see red, weeping eyes, a red, peeling nose and the expression of someone reading the latest Stephen King horror novel.
But maybe that's not surprising, since Alaska has been struck by a freakish wave of pollen that is shattering world records. Fairbanks, alone, recorded pollen levels twenty times above what is considered high. (A count of 4,000 was recorded. Anything above a pollen count of 175 is considered high.)
The experts are telling us that it's going to get worse before it gets better, and they're warning that "people without allergies will suffer, too." We are told to expect a prolonged period of very high pollen readings.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't know this pollen wave would be statewide, rather than restricting itself to Up North as it usually does. Since I can't drink the water out of our faucet (it's rich in tannins and I'm tannin sensitive), I collect rainwater to drink.
It wasn't until after I turned into a faucet myself, particularly in the nose region, that I realized I'd imbibed a good amount of pollen with my water. The next day this was visibly obvious by the pollen scum that encircled the interior of the rainwater barrel. Now, although I live in one of the rainiest corners of the globe, I'm having gallon jugs of distilled water mailed out on a floatplane.
Allergy tips: My sister suffers from environmental allergies all the time, since she lives in Florida where something is always pollenating, and she's found that drinking coffee can help. This sometimes helps me (though it's a tannin, plus, if you have a sinus infection it will make the symptoms worse), and so does horseradish mustard.
I can remember only one other year when we had extreme pollen, back in my early twenties. The pollen coated the beaches and our dogs became very sick. One of our older dogs died from it, and remembering that has made me try to keep my cat, Katya, inside as much as possible. As it is, she's a mirror of my own misery, with streaming eyes and nose and constant kitty sneezes.
The thing I remember most about that year was when we were in my dad's thirty-two foot troller/workboat on a trip to Ketchikan to stock up on groceries. As we entered the final stretch of our journey, and were heading for one of the boat harbors to moor at, we saw the sky turn a strange, dirty yellow. To the north, behind us and heading our way, was a wall of this dirty yellow fog that obscured everything, like a desert sandstorm.
We barely made it into the harbor and tied up when the wall of pollen struck. We closed every door and porthole and waited it out, watching it move on down the Narrows. Neither my dad nor I was too badly affected, as I remember. Things have certainly changed.
The curious thing is, I don't remember this incident being announced as record breaking, so what we have now must be many times worse. And it's true, I've never seen so much pollen speckling our decks or floating in a swirling scum on the waters that our floathouses rest on.
The constant allergies and sinus issues have taken it out of all of us--two-legged and four-legged allergy sufferers alike--and we're hoping it's over with soon. All we can do is hunker down and wait it out.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)