Allergies nothing to sneeze at – book me a flight to Chile |

Allergies nothing to sneeze at – book me a flight to Chile

Mike Drummond, Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The Healthy Hiking Club here at Clear Creek Ranch is stepping out again after a winter hiatus. We decided long ago that soggy winter weather quickly turns hiking trails into hiking trials. A simple three-mile walk to the mailbox can be excruciating enough without turning it into a life-or-death endurance test, especially when there aren’t any TV cameras or million-dollar prizes involved. So our hiking boots only see daylight during Daylight Saving Time.

On our first few outings each spring, my immune system gets the biggest workout. Warm weather causes the sap to rise in the trees. Airborne pollens and molds cause the phlegm to rise in me and gush forth copiously.

Allergic rhinitis is the technical term, better known as hay fever. Or perhaps oak fever, in my case. That seems to be the main source of the pollen I’m inhaling between gasps for oxygen.

There are lots of “cures” out there. Pharmaceutical companies patent lots of pills and shots to mask the symptoms. Why do the product names sound like Arab terrorist groups? For example: Xolair, aka Omalizumab, is one of the new allergy medications. When it is time to name a new drug, I suspect the pharmacist coaxes his cat to walk across the keyboard a few times for inspiration.

The alternative-medicine people insist that some pharmaceutical company steroid cures are more toxic than heroin. What they don’t tell you is echinacea, the herbal cure known even to folks who can’t name any herb except Alpert, is closely related to ragweed, and ragweed is the perennial bad boy of the pollen crowd. The pharmaceutical folks like to mention there can be unidentified mold spores in many dried herbs, too.

As for me, all this squabbling would be nettlesome if it weren’t for nettles. Not the stuff you wish you’d never touched out there in the woods, the little green capsules that always bring me, and anyone within sneezing distance of me, relief within minutes.

I am already on record as saying that I do NOT believe in homeopathy, herbal therapy, flower essences, chiropractors and Santa Claus. All I know is they always work for me as long as I don’t count on them working. The exception is Santa Claus, who seems to have misplaced my change-of-address form several decades ago.

This alternative stuff is magic. Maybe not as magical as Zeigfried & Roy’s disappearing tigers, but does the whole tiger disappear? I’m betting those guys’ house is a regular “Sneezer’s Palace,” what with tons of tiger dander in the carpet.

Other popular hay fever allergy cures: Luggage (the expensive hypo-allergenic type). Take a vacation to the Southern Hemisphere, where it isn’t springtime, it is autumn. Unfortunately, raking and burning leaves in the Andes brings on a whole other set of symptoms in me.

Breast-feeding is said to inhibit the development of allergies. Although if I were still breast-feeding at my age, I think my development would be sufficiently inhibited. Besides, I am trying to cut down on the dairy products.

So for now I’ll stick with the magic potions. I cracked open my old steamer trunk full of 1970s memorabilia and fished out my peaked wizard’s cap, complete with silver stars and a crescent moon – a source of ancient mold spores, no doubt. I like grungy old hats, and it is hard to break old hobbits. I’ll be wearing it next time I lace up my new hiking boots.

Unless I can convince my wife that what I’m really allergic to is exercise. I’ll need a real magic wand for that to work.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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