We have lived in our home for more than a decade and I love it. I truly love my yard, but the feeling is not mutual. My yard is trying to kill me. After a lifetime of thinking of myself as allergy free, I’ve been proven wrong. As it turns out, oak trees, along with other things, cause me to have an extreme allergic reaction. Care to guess where I live? Yes, in the middle of 150 acres of forest.
I had no idea that this could be a life-ending allergy for me. Huge portions of this country have primarily hickory and oak forests. I would need to drive at least twelve hours to be somewhere that doesn’t have oak trees. If you or someone in your family struggles with seasonal allergies, first, go to an allergist to find out what they are. In a truly catastrophic event, it is critical that you know the type of environment you can live in.
But here’s the million-dollar question: In a SHTF scenario, with medical care limited or non-existent, can allergies kill you or someone you care about? They could, so you need to know not only what you and your loved ones are allergic to but also know how to treat them.
Table of contents
How I Discovered My Allergies Can Kill Me
I’ve had chronic bronchitis and other coughing-related problems since Junior High. At one point, a doctor prescribed an inhaler, and another doctor mentioned I might have asthma. When I lived on the West Coast, my coughing problems subsided and I thought I had outgrown my allergies.
After I moved back east, the coughing problems returned. After a few years, seasonal allergy flare-ups became a problem, so I started taking over-the-counter antihistamines. Things got worse and I was now using a nasal spray and prescription medication. I remembered my inhaler and tried it. It helped, a lot.
It was when I developed an allergy to onions that I realized that I needed to see an allergist. I recognized my allergy issues went beyond just occasional seasonal misery. When I told her I had used more than 3/4 of a rescue inhaler in three weeks’ time, she was shocked. Clearly, it was the wrong treatment and I should have been in to see her sooner.
Testing For My Allergies
As per normal procedure, I had to stop taking antihistamines for a week before the testing, to ensure they were all out of my system. Thankfully I could still use an inhaler.
The allergist tested nearly 30 different things on me using prick and intra-dermal methods. I came back as allergic to all of them. I reacted as a 4++, with 4 being the highest, on oak trees. My body was also very reactive to many other common substances, such as ragweed and dust mites.
I had no idea how severe my allergies were. There were times I had difficulty breathing and that should have caused me to seek immediate treatment. But it crept up so slowly over a long period of time, I didn’t think about it.
Does this sound familiar to you, too?
Whether you have the allergy symptoms or someone in your family does, please get checked out by an allergist. Some allergies are very difficult to get under control. It may be worse than you realize, even potentially life-threatening – like mine.
Options for Managing Life threatening Allergies
There are many ways to help reduce your allergies. Often a layered approach to preventative measures is more effective. Here are some things you can do:
Allergy Immunotherapy is a preventative treatment. It gives a person gradually increasing doses of allergens to build the immune system’s tolerance to the substance. With the severity of my own allergies, I will be getting immunotherapy shots.
Immunotherapy is a weekly commitment for about five years. It isn’t something that everyone can do, even if they are a candidate for it. I know that I cannot avoid oak trees and I am going to keep my pets. For me, the sacrifice and time of immunotherapy are worth it in order to live a life free of miserable allergy symptoms.
Obviously, the option isn’t for post-SHTF, but it is a step that might lower your risk in that worst-case scenario.
The week leading up to my allergy test, I was wearing a face mask any time I went outside and most of the time I was inside. There were moments when it was difficult for me to breathe, and it wasn’t even peak pollen season.
My doctor prescribed Singulair, antihistamines, a nasal spray, and an asthma inhaler for daily use. I also rely on a rescue inhaler in case of an allergy-induced asthma attack. Many allergy medications are available over the counter. It is important to know what medicine is best for you and to keep a good supply on hand. Over-the-counter meds are readily available, have fairly long shelf lives, and often, you can find coupons that provide discounts.
If a severe allergy sufferer is without their medications for more than a day or two, their condition could degenerate from healthy to life-threatening before help arrives. For example, antihistamines only stay in your system for 2-7 days. Consider keeping extra medication at work, in the car, in emergency kits, or in other places where you might need it. Even a dose or two encased in a vacuum-packed bag can be kept in a wallet or money pouch.
This is another option requiring intact supply chains, along with a host of other stars being aligned. Stocking what makes sense and maintaining that supply means that if SHTF, at least you’re not in immediate danger.
If you know you have a pet allergy, accept it, and do not get another pet that will trigger your allergies. You may even consider rehoming the pets you have for quality-of-life reasons. When you see an allergy and asthma specialist, they’ll give you a specific plan with remediation steps to take.
Face Masks and Neti Pots
Use a face mask. I strongly prefer the machine washable, reusable “Breathe Healthy” face masks because I can wear them for hours without the discomfort that cheap disposable masks cause. There are a variety of fun patterns to choose from. It takes a while to get used to the sensation of breathing through a face mask. Cleaning the inside of your home can stir up dust, pet dander, and other allergens. Cleaning outside can stir up pollen. Wearing a face mask and possibly even goggles reduces how much of the allergen enters your system.
Neti pots can also be a great help, but be careful with the water you use. Buying distilled water is a great choice, although boiling and then cooling water before using it is also popular. Many people swear by Neti pots and the relief they bring. If you aren’t familiar with them, here is an example.
Both the Neti pot and a good face mask are options for dealing with allergies in a post-SHTF scenario. Without the ability to get allergy medications, shots, or hospital care in the case of an extreme reaction, these two stop-gap measures are both inexpensive and fairly effective.
Local honey can help with allergies for weeds, grasses, and anything else bees pollinate, but bees aren’t big pollinators of trees, so it can’t be a solution for everyone. It didn’t even occur to me that the reason the honey was improving, but not eliminating, my allergy problems was that I had multiple allergies to some things that bees don’t pollinate.
Local honey operates on the same principle as allergy shots. When ingested, your body is exposed to small amounts of an allergen to help it develop a tolerance. Honey has the potential to reduce the user’s overall “allergen load.” An allergen load is the total amount of allergens your body is dealing with at any point in time.
One way to keep honey handy is to pour it into half-sections of drinking straws and seal the ends with a hot iron. There are individual honey packets you can purchase, but I’m not convinced the honey is pure honey (often it’s combined with high fructose corn syrup or some other ingredient). Take a look at these fire straw instructions and then use the same concept with honey.
Read about herbal remedies for seasonal allergies here.
Once you know what you are allergic to, it is important to take steps to reduce your allergen load. You may be able to reduce your total exposure below the allergic threshold, which is where symptoms start. Since it is the total exposure to all allergens that leads to being symptomatic, it makes sense to reduce anything possible.
Think of it this way, if you have a cup, and you pour some milk in it, some soda, some coffee, and a little bit of tea, it will eventually overflow. It doesn’t matter that there are lots of different types of drinks in it. The cup will overflow the same if you held it under the sink and filled it with just water. The same is true of allergens. If sufferers can remove or reduce even one or two triggers, it can make a difference.
Certain foods, such as onions, garlic, corn, and wheat, are common and seemingly impossible to avoid entirely. Others, such as passion fruit and quinoa, are fairly simple to avoid. The same is true of non-food allergens. Mites are almost impossible to avoid entirely and oak trees are incredibly common wherever there are deciduous forests. While most of us won’t part with a family pet easily, horses and orchids are pretty simple for most of us to avoid.
Bugging In vs Bugging Out
As a prepper, keep at least one extra month or two supply of your allergy medications, including local honey if you use it. Asthma inhalers are prescription only, making it hard to have extras on hand. Keep a supply of over-the-counter medicine, including simple anti-histamines, even if they aren’t part of your daily regimen.
Remember that having your gear and supplies to keep allergens off you is also a must. A scrub cap (they make scrub caps specifically for long hair), no-rinse shampoo, and the “Breathe Healthy” face masks can help keep pollen away from your eyes and nose.
Pollen is designed to stick to things, so it will be carried in on the surface of anything that goes outside. Being able to clean your clothes without electricity will let you have pollen-free clothing when you or anyone in the family has to venture out into nature. Pollen will also attach to your pets (waterless pet shampoo is a good idea), so be prepared to clean a lot during pollen season and in an emergency.
I know my allergies have forced us to change some of our preparedness plans. I am a big proponent of bugging in versus bugging out. In the event of a disaster, my family will have only a month or two of bugging in at our home. We will need to move away from any oak trees before I run out of medications. I will also need to be careful around fires because the smoke triggers my asthma.
Allergies Can Kill, But…
Yes, allergies can kill, and coping with life-threatening allergies in a post-SHTF world can be a daunting task. With the right preparation and planning, it is possible to manage these conditions and reduce the risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction. It is crucial to have an understanding of your specific allergies and to have a plan in place for emergencies.
Remember, preparation is key, and it is never too early to start planning for the unexpected. As difficult as it is to have allergies, knowing what they are, how to treat them, and what to do in an emergency, has given me more control over my health and preparedness plans.
This is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any disease. Consult your personal medical professional.
Originally published April 20, 2017; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.