Can I just say something? Hay fever is a complete jerk. 

And now I owe people an apology. A lot of people. 

I avoided seasonal allergies during my youth and most of my young adult life. Living in Alaska helped — stuff was frozen much of the year and the robust rains of summer kept the Anchorage air washed clean.

When I returned to Home Place a quarter of a century ago, an occasional pollen-filled spring would cause me a few sneezes, watery eyes for a few hours, a polite cough.

I had no patience with folks who bemoaned the days of hay fever.

“Just take your meds,” I would tell one of my twins who showed up at breakfast in red-rimmed eyes April through August.

Never mind that her allergies had long outgrown over-the-counter pills. Never mind that I watched her prescription like a hawk to make sure supply would meet demand and counseled her to swallow the medicine at the same time every day.

I still didn’t really get it; that was just momming.

I was more impatient with the adults who honked loudly into tissues and blinked their eyes to clear the tears. I rolled my own eyes at colleagues who claimed they couldn’t sleep for all the nasal drainage. Talk of sinus rinses made me silently gag.

Me, I just took a generic “non-drowsy” tiny tablet every once in a great while, not wholly disliking how it made the tip of my nose numb. A bottle lasted a decade.


I knew beforehand this spring might be a challenge, all that rain helping everything grow. I began carrying the tiny allergy tablets in my purse. Hay fever arrived, wiped its feet and strolled in. I reminded it of the house rules and went about my business.

The first inkling things had changed came in May as I headed to a Saturday interview. I realized on my way to College Place from Home Place that my lungs no longer had much relationship with oxygen. My head was barely on my neck and I was attempting to cough it off.

I stopped at BoxMart, making a beeline for its long pharmacy line. When my turn came, I turned my charm on high. I’d remembered it was now harder to get “the good stuff,” and that it required some finesse.

I gave the pharmacist my best “I am not a meth cooker” smile and directed my gaze to the shelves behind her.

“Um, yes, hello. I need Claritin and I don’t remember how to buy it.”

I restrained myself from a cheer when the box was finally in my hand. I popped one blister bubble before leaving the store.

Everything’s worse since then. As I drive to work, I can pinpoint the exact spot where my body’s histamines flood the front line. I don’t know what is growing there but I’d like it to stop, please.

The tears come just in time to bathe my burning eyes, yet I still attempt to claw them out of my head. While driving.

Once at work I cough, sneeze, cough again and utter profanities. As the fluff of cottonwood trees was swirling through the atmosphere, I watched it go by with despair and shook my fist. I drive home with no fan or AC running in a fruitless attempt to not inhale allergens.

At home we ran out of Kleenix for the first time in my shopping career. The day’s trickle of postnasal toxin becomes a river of sludge as soon as my head hits the pillow. I clear fiery boulders from my throat until I pass out.

The Claritin is going to run out and if I get more, I’ll look addicted. But the few times I’ve forgotten it make me think maybe I already am. There’s something about drawing breath that encourages repetition.

I could expound on my misery all day, but I have to nap now. 

If I need to say “sorry” for an eyeroll or 20, please join the line at the end. Bring your allergy meds.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.

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