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Allergies, Singulair and Me

March 27, 2008

I have bad allergies–REALLY BAD allergies. I’ll let you in on some of my symptoms when I have flare ups so you can get an idea what I mean. My year-round allergies cause me severe sinus problems. I have chronic sinus infections, debilitating sinus headaches that can roll into migraines and often include Neanderthal-like swellings on my forehead. Those headaches are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, low-grade fever, and extreme exhaustion. My sinuses swell so much that they cause tooth pain and sometimes they affect my inner ear and cause problems with my balance. My eyes can water uncontrollably for hours and we’re talking buckets of tears, not just a little weepy eye. The tears can be so prolific that I can’t see. I’ve had this hit me while driving before and I had to pull over until it subsided enough that I could see to drive again. And a change in atmospheric pressure can absolutely trigger these symptoms–like today.

I woke with all of these symptoms today except the tooth pain and it took four different allergy/sinus medications, two different OTC painkillers, a change in atmospheric pressure, and seven hours to get myself feeling passably functional again. And since I’m slammed at work right now, I was in a darkened office with my sunglasses and an ice pack on my head cranking out my work so I wouldn’t miss my deadlines. My boss, knowing about my horrible allergies, has taken to affectionately calling me the office rock star because of the sunglasses. I have never missed a day of work for being fat, but I certainly have over my allergies–just not today.

I currently take two daily prescription medications for my allergies. Most of the time they help, but then there are days like today when not much seems to help at all. When Singulair was first approved for use with allergies, my then prescription-happy doctor prescribed it for me. I didn’t even last a month on it. I took it for a few days and developed difficulty breathing (I do not have asthma), which turned into full-blown bronchitis. I stopped taking the Singulair because it wasn’t going to help with the bronchitis or the usual sinus infection that I always get with any cold. I recovered from the bronchitis (I’m convinced the sinus infection never really goes away), and when I was back to my normal routine, I started the Singulair again for my allergies. Within a few days I had full-blown bronchitis again. That was when I stopped the Singulair for good. With the help of my body I had put the pieces together…Singular (for me) = Bronchitis. That second bout of bronchitis took me a month to get over. I’ve never had bronchitis back-to-back like that before.

I couldn’t wait to get rid of those pills. I ended up giving them to a coworker who was asthmatic and successfully took the exact same dose for his asthma. (I hate to see things like that wasted.)

This experience prompted me, when prescribed a new medication, to ask how long it has been on the market. If that answer is less than seven years, then I ask if there is any other medication that will do the same thing that has been on the market longer than seven years and if so, I request that medication instead. If there is no other medication that does the same thing and has been on the market for seven years or more then I will still consider taking the new medication, but I am much more cautious and aware of how my body responds…and I practically memorize the side-effects info sheet until I know how I react.

Today’s news about Singulair, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. prompted me to write about my own personal experience with the drug because it was not at all favorable and it didn’t really help my allergies at all.

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