I know it’s commonplace for middle-aged men to complain that growing old isn’t for sissies, but I’m about to grouse about my health. Fair warning.

Now, nothing drastic is wrong with me at the moment. Thank goodness. But in recent years, I’ve experienced a variety of physical woes, large and small. I’ve had pneumonia, which I guess can hit anyone at any age. Because I was overweight for so long, my back experienced low level chronic pain. I struggle to get good sleep. I was flexible when I was young; that is no longer true. Last year, for no apparent reason, I tore a bicep tendon. That sucked in a big way.

But I think my biggest frustration stems from my allergies.

When I was a boy, my parents had me tested for food allergies. The testing revealed that I have problems with wheat and potatoes (but nothing else, fortunately). For a while — one year? two? three? — my mother drove me to get allergy shots every week. As far as I can tell, I no longer have issues with wheat or potatoes.

I do have problems with dairy products, but I’m not hear to day to complain about lactose intolerance. Most folks struggle with that to some degree, right?

No, I’m here to complain about trees.

About fifteen years ago, I began to notice I had severe allergy issues every spring. Right around spring break, I grew miserable. Sore throat. Itchy eyes. Sneezing. Stuffy nose. I was a mess. On sunny days, I was such a mess that I didn’t want to leave the house. I would literally retreat to the bathtub, place a wet washcloth over my face, then lay there for hours (I’m serious!) listening to audiobooks. It was the only way for me to get comfortable.

We Roths aren’t so good at solving problems sometimes. We’ll take care of the immediate issue (by hiding in the bathtub with a washcloth draped across our faces!), but we won’t address the core issue. I have this problem, but it’s not just me. It’s my family.

Well, eventually Kris (my wife at the time) managed to convince me to see an allergist. Just like when I was a kid, they gave me a battery of tests. Grass was fine. Dust was fine. Lots of things were fine. Trees were not fine.

In fact, when the doc came in to look at my scratch test, he was startled the welts on my arm. “Wow,” he said. “Trees are your enemy!” I laughed at the time, but that’s stuck with me all of these years. Trees are my enemy.

Alder, in particular, sets me off. The allergist told me that the long, long welt on my arm from the Alder test was one of the biggest responses he had ever seen.

Anyhow, this all comes up because we’re approaching allergy season, and I can sense it. I just spent ten minutes with a minor sneezing/nose-blowing fit. My allergies don’t usually set in until late February, but temps have been warm this year, and we already have some trees blooming here in the Portland area. Not many, but enough. My enemies have launched their first attack of 2021!

Over the years, I’ve developed a regimen to combat these vile plants.

Usually, I start taking a battery of drugs on or around Valentine’s Day. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what works. I take a 12-hour pseudoephedrine in the morning along with loratadine. At night before bed, I take diphenhydramine. (I take two if I’m especially miserable.)

These drugs don’t eliminate my symptoms, but they make them manageable.

It used to be that I only needed these crutches from March 1st to April 15th. I’ve learned though that if I start on February 14th, my body builds up defenses. If I wait until March 1st, there’s a transition week where things suck. I’m also learning that I oughtn’t stop on April 15th. If I do, then the last week of April also sucks. So, I’m currently on a ten-week schedule with these anti-tree meds: February 14th to April 30th.

But this year? This year, things may be starting even earlier. I’m going to message my doctor this morning to see if she can put in a prescription for Claritin-D. I’ll try to hold out until Valentine’s Day before I begin taking them, but at this point it looks like the trees have launched a sneak attack. It’s time for me to take up arms.

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