What are my allergies? I was scared to find out

About 10 days ago I went for allergy testing. I’ve always had allergy symptoms and have resisted testing because I was afraid to find out just what I’m allergic to.

Well, it turns out that fear was justified.

What prompted me was when I figured out that I was reacting to something in my house. I’ve always had seasonal allergies and have taken over-the-counter allergy meds since my 20s.

Because this problem within my house wasn’t bad when I was sleeping and got worse when I got up and left the bedroom, I had a good idea what one allergen might be.

It’s not a new allergen. I think I gradually developed this particular allergy in the past year or so.

My fear was that this somewhat new allergen is caused by my furry housemates, two cats who live inside with me. I don’t let them sleep with me and pretty much have kept them out of my bedroom. That’s what made me think I’d developed an allergy to them and explains why I do fine at night when I’m in my bedroom with the door closed but then have a runny nose when I feed the cats first thing in the morning.

Of course I did online searches to find out what to do if you have cat allergies. I already had two air purifiers running 24/7, so I added a liquid you put on the cats to mitigate the dander (which is the allergen). They are NOT fans of the application, but it does seem to help. I also ordered hypoallergenic cat litter and now close off that room as much as I can. And I wear a mask when I clean the litter boxes.

The research says that male cats put out more dander. Guess which of my cats loves to be in my lap? The boy, of course. In fact right now he’s on the arm of my chair. The girl seldom comes to my lap and usually just to say hello, not to hang out.

I wanted to be sure about this allergy and the other ones, though, so I scheduled allergy testing.

I didn’t do any reading about the test because I did’t want to make myself worry. I knew from friends’ experiences that it involves scratching the skin with allergens and watching for reactions. I wasn’t sure how painful it would be.

After answering a lot of questions about when and what I experience with allergy symptoms, I had to lie on my stomach while the nurse scratched a bunch of places in a grid on my back (left photo). The shoulder area wasn’t very painful but the lower back was much more sensitive. Then the nurse tested the 17 ones I didn’t react to with little injections on my arm (right photo) to find out for sure if I’m allergic to these 17 allergens or not. Those hurt! They felt like sweat bee stings. A bunch of them!

As you can see, I had several reactions. The bottom right red spot on my back was to check to be sure I reacted to histamines, which you can see I did.

Turns out I’m allergic to basically everything.

The testing result had six categories, and I reacted to three or more allergens in five of them. Luckily, I don’t have any food allergies (though I’m sure I have some food sensitivities).

These are my main allergens:

  • Grasses
  • Weeds (especially ragweed which got a 4++. Must be the really red one in the top left part of my back).
  • Trees (especially hickory, pecan, & walnut which got 4+. I have a big hickory on the western side of my house)
  • Molds (four different types)
  • Cockroaches and two types of dust mites.
  • And finally (my fear) . . . cats and dogs.


I’m not getting rid of my cats. I knew there were allergy shots that could be a factor. But the course is brutal. Two shots, one in each arm, weekly for two years! And then monthly shots for another three years.

I have a complication with that alternative because my heart doesn’t pump as well as the average heart does. Or at least it didn’t last spring. I have an echocardiogram tomorrow and will find out if my EF (ejection fraction) is back in the normal range after a year of being on blood pressure meds. If I get the okay from my cardiologist, I could have the allergy shots. The concern is that if I were to have an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen in the shot, the adrenaline shot to offset that might be too much for my heart.

I was first thinking I would try the shots if my cardiologist says okay, but now I’m wondering about that. I know folks who say they couldn’t tell that the shots helped. But others say they helped a lot.

First I’m going to try things like vacuuming more (though fatigue keeps me from doing as much as I’d like at a time), getting rid of some of my clutter so I can dust more easily, applying the cat dander reducer, maybe trying the mattress cover. I’m definitely trying pillow covers. I figure my face (and thus nose) is right on top of my pillow, so that would be where the dust mites would have the most impact. And I’m washing my sheets and blankets and bedspreads weekly in hot water.

There’s no way completely to avoid my allergens. I already have dehumidifiers running—one big one in the basement and two smaller ones in my bedroom and bathroom. Those help keep mold at bay, and the air purifiers help with the dust and dander and pollen.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk since getting the verification that I am indeed allergic to almost everything.

But the steroid and the antihistamine nasal sprays are helping. And the doc recommended I switch to Xyzal, which is more effective for most people than the older OTC antihistamines. I’ve been taking that for 10 days now.

All of those combined have helped.

So I’m right now leaning against having the regimen of shots. I’ll use my allergen-mitigation strategies and nasal sprays and Xyzal and judge by that.

I know some of y’all have the same problem, so if you’d share what has worked best for you, I’m all ears.

I try to frame this as just another challenge in my life. I choose to see challenges as opportunities (most days), so I’m sure I’ll get something positive from this challenge (one positive is that it’s a motivator to get rid of a lot of my stuff, which I’m very aware that I cannot take with me when I die).

Since I’ve been dealing with allergies most of my life, I already have some strategies in place.

I’ll add the new ones to my life’s path—enjoying many of the plants from afar now that I know I’m allergic to them!

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