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I decided to get more aggressive in addressing my allergies in the hope that getting them under control would improve my low-level but annoying chronic cough. The plan was to hit the allergies first, then go after gastric reflux if that didn't work, assuming that I even have gastric reflux. Both post-nasal drip and reflux, which can be symptom-free, are common irritants of the breathing apparatus.

So Monday I went to an allergist recommended by my new primary doc. He's the one whose wife, the dermatologist across the hall from him, doesn't accept Medicare. I got the scratch tests for the most common PNW allergens and the other usual suspects -- dog, cat, dust, mold, etc. And some foods. Only two items reacted to those tests -- two grasses -- so they did the next level of tests, injections under the skin for all the stuff that didn't react to the scratch tests. Except the foods -- those weren't tested again. The under-the-skin injections showed up two more allergies, both grasses. None of the testing was uncomfortable, BTW -- the occasional minor sting, nothing to write home about.

So I turned out to be allergic only to four grasses, all of which show up in the spring and last a couple of months. What explains my year-round dripping, snuffling and post-nasal drip? It's called vasomotor rhinitis, which means "drippy nose for reasons we can't really explain." Oh, they understand the mechanisms of it -- the doc gave me sophisticated explanations for everything -- but not why it happens to some people and not to others. Basically, 1/3 of people with allergic nasal symptoms have allergies. And 1/3 don't have allergies but have vasomotor rhinitis. And the other 1/3 have both. I got both but only get hit with the double whammy for a small part of the year.

The treatment for VR is Flonase or something along those lines. Since it isn't allergic, antihistamines don't work. That explains my lack of response to antihistamines most of the year. So I've started the Flonase. Since it makes me sleepy, I'm taking it at bedtime instead of the morning. The idea is to take it for a while, maybe a few weeks, maybe longer, until it reduces the symptoms, then stop. Then start again when symptoms return. When spring rolls around, I should be taking Allegra along with the Flonase. We'll see.

They also did a couple of lung tests and I showed no evidence of airway inflammation and had normal respiratory function. So it's likely the cough is due to something outside the lungs, like rhinitis or reflux.

I went to an allergist almost four years ago and she was useless. She did the RAST tests for allergens, which are blood tests as opposed to skin tests, and which showed nothing. Blood tests for allergies are more likely to give you false positives and negatives, while you stick an allergen in your skin and there isn't much doubt about the results. And that was all I got from her. No discussion of VR, nothing. Blood test negative, go home.

The testing station was next to big windows that looked out into a courtyard, so I could observe the torrential rain that came down that day. I knew DW had gone over to the glass studio to pick up the works she had spent the previous three days making in a class and hoped that she wasn't caught up in it. She was. It was the kind of rain through which you could see nothing even with the wipers on high speed, and the freeway slowed to 30mph. But she made it home with three beautiful glass plates. One of them would not look out of place at a downtown store that sells such items, on the $150 shelf. When I get a chance to take photos, I'll put them online. She shows promise, more promise than with guitar.

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