As a success-minded person, you need to understand that health is your first wealth. Aside from serious illness, one of the significant productivity killers is hay fever. If you experience allergies, you know how bad the whole experience sucks. In the following article, I will share my story on how I battled hay fever and other allergies after sinus surgery.
Before we get into hay fever specific tactics, here are a few quick disclaimers:
What you’re about to read is NOT medical advice.
I am NOT a doctor. I am NOT a health professional. And I am NOT qualified to offer medical advice. Simply speaking, like you, I suffer from sinus issues and hay fever. I have suffered my whole life, and I am sharing my story because I know it’s like to feel like crap and live life with a stuffy head.
My goal is to provide you with hope and feel-good emotional support, especially on those days when you feel like your head is a balloon about to burst. So do me a favor. If you’re going to read my story about allergies and hay fever, please talk with a qualified physician before you get any ideas on how to treat your issues.
While you’re at it, I’m about to mention that many resources are affiliate products in full disclosure. That means I get paid to promote. So you should conduct your due diligence before you make any purchase. And if you don’t feel like reading the entire article, here are the primary tools I use to treat my sinuses:
- The Grossan Hydro Pulse Nasal and Sinus Irrigation System.
- And this hot pepper nasal spray called Sinus Plumber.
Remember, I am not a doctor or medical professional. I’m just a sinus sufferer. Since everybody is different, what may work for me, may not work for you.
How I Battled Hay Fever And Won
If you suffer from mild hay fever, you will relate to my story. But if you are like me and you suffer – I mean, really, really suffer from the congested-head-always-blowing-your-nose sinus issues that make you miss work and HATE your existence, then you’re in for a real treat!
(I know. Hate is a strong word. But I use it here to emphasize how much I hate hay fever, allergy attacks, and sinus issues. UGH!)
Over the past 20 years, I’ve played around with just about every hay fever remedy under the sun.
The remedies included decongestants, allergy shots, antihistamines, over-the-counter nasal spray, steroids (the anti-inflammatory kind, not the muscle building kind), and steroid nasal spray. I also tried acupuncture, acupressure, hot pepper nasal spray (which I still use weekly), as well as a whole host of weird herbs that I couldn’t always pronounce.
I’ve even suffered through 4 sinus surgeries!
I did all of this to rid myself of that horrible feeling – you know, the one.
Do you ever feel like your head is going to explode?
Do you ever feel angry and irritable?
Do your friends ever make fun of you for breathing from your mouth?
If so, you are not alone. I have been there. And if I could talk to myself a decade ago, I would never believe I would one day be able to write these words with an un-stuffy head.
A few years ago, I found some simple methods that have allowed me to increase the enjoyment of my life tremendously. I regained my sense of smell. My head feels clear. I no longer need (as much) hay fever medication.
My point in sharing my story is to show you you’re not alone. At the same time, I hope my testimony will help you better understand how to talk with your doctors and perhaps get to the bottom of your issues.
Part 1: Mouth Breathing Sucks (Your Life.)
“Do you have a tissue?”
For over 20 years, I suffered from horrible allergy symptoms. For as long as I remember, I had a stuffy nose and a runny nose, and a postnasal drip. I felt congested all the time. I was so stuffed up that sometimes I would try to blow my nose, but I could not.
Sometimes my ears would clog up. Sometimes I would miss work because my allergy symptoms were so bad. I hated my existence and my stuffy head. I felt horrible. Since I couldn’t breathe from my nose, I spent most of my youth gasping for air through my mouth. And because my nose was always so clogged up from allergies, I would end up with a secondary sinus infection any time I caught a cold.
When I was in the eighth grade, I met with my family doctor, and he sent me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist, or ENT. The ENT looked in my nose and said I had a deviated septum. As a result, he suggested steroid nasal spray for the inflammation and pills for the allergies.
My ENT also suggested I get sinus surgery right away to correct my nasal passages.
If I had it to do over, I would have sought out a second opinion. (More on this later.) Suffice it to say, I agreed to let the ENT straighten out my nose. I had my first operation. Waking up in the recovery room, I remember the procedure as being super painful. My nose was stuffed full of gauze packing. It sucked.
In the days that followed, I met with my ENT. He removed the gauze, and I distinctly remember feeling disappointed. My sinuses were more stuffy than before. And on top of my allergies, this time around, I had difficulty with my ability to smell. So I went back to my doctor. He said I was congested because I still had terrible allergies after sinus surgery. And because my sinuses were now clear of my deviated septum, I am now getting more allergens in my nose.
He suggested I take an allergy test. The conversation went something like this:
What’s an allergy test?
Do you know why you get allergy symptoms?
Because I’m allergic.
An allergy is actually your body’s defense going haywire and working overtime to eliminate a threat. When you suffer an allergy attack, it’s your body working to defend itself against allergens.
So, what’s this allergy test?
It’s a test that helps us determine the kinds of stuff you’re allergic to.
Once we know what you’re allergic to, we create a medication made up of the stuff you’re allergic to and then gave it to you through a shot.
Why would you want to do that?
Theoretically, if you are exposed to the stuff you’re allergic to in high doses, over and over, your immune system might learn to focus on threats other than tree pollen and pet dander.
So if you give me a high concentration of everything I’m allergic to once a week, then my immune system might focus on other stuff, like viruses and bacteria, instead of my pet dog?
So how long will it take?
That depends on the person. For some, the time is short. For others, it could take years.
Then the doctor explained there were different ways to test for allergies. He said a blood test would be simple. So the doctor put me in a room, shoved a needle in my arm, and filled a test tube. Then he sent my blood to a lab. A few weeks later, I was presented with a long list of everything I was allergic to. And the list did include just about everything.
So on that day, I received my first allergy shot. And a week later, my second. Then a week later…
This went on for months and months, and months.
But despite these shots, my symptoms were not improving.
I expressed this to my doctor, and his response was to increase my sinus steroid nasal spray and take more allergy pills. I thought there must be a better solution. So I set out to find another doctor who might offer different advice. Unfortunately, this was an effort in futility. At the time, most doctors followed protocol and prescribed decongestants or antihistamines, or a combination of both. Sometimes the medication offered relief. Sometimes it didn’t.
Then, to make matters worse, at age 15, I lost my sense of smell.
I’m not kidding. I remember the day. I was with my girlfriend, and I was suddenly unable to smell her. This was scary and depressing. Imagine being a teenager and not smell your date’s perfume or the food you eat or anything. I went back to the doctor, and he told me to continue with the allergy shots. He said once I got my allergies under control, then I would regain my sense of smell.
Months went by with no relief. I felt hopeless. That hopelessness stayed with me until I entered college.
Hay Fever Hacks: Lessons I Learned:
- I would have become well versed in ENT protocol. Not all doctors do the same stuff.
- When I lost my sense of smell, I should have asked a doctor to check for nasal polyps.
- I would have gotten a second opinion from another doctor before my first surgery.
- I would have done a better job avoiding allergens.
- Maybe I would have taken less allergy medication.
Part 2: Surgery To Get Rid Of Allergies?
“You need to learn how to use your nose!”
By the time I entered college, my nose was worthless. Against my doctor’s wishes, I had quit my allergy shots. I had also developed such resistance to allergy medication that using it had little effect. As a result, I mainly was breathing through my mouth.
When I spoke, I sounded stuffy. To make matters worse, I was now living in a college dorm with a new roommate. Having a random roommate is challenging enough. But if you suffer from allergies and chronic sinusitis, it’s embarrassing.
With a stuffy nose, I was snoring like crazy. As a result, my roommate spent most nights somewhere else, far away from my nocturnal noises. Every day, I awoke groggily, and my head felt like an overstuffed piñata, ready to burst from the pressure. On top of this, I had to maintain passing grades.
A nurse at my college recommended yet another ENT specialist. So I made an appointment and met with the new doctor. I told her about all the crazy sinus trouble I’ve lived with. How much I hated life. In retrospect, I probably treated our first visit more as a mental therapy session than a sinus evaluation. People who don’t have chronic sinusitis have no idea how bad it feels and how much life revolves around finding comfort in the craziness.
Finding a new doctor always offers hope.
This ENT took a CT scan of my sinuses, and after some study, she said most of my problems could be attributed to nasal polyps. She explained that nasal polyps are growths that some chronic sinus suffers get. If you do a web search, you will find those nasal polyps resemble grapes. (Gross, right?)
My doctor told me there are many theories as to why people get nasal polyps. Some doctors say polyps are due to allergies. Other doctors say polyps are due to repeat sinus infections. But regardless of where nasal polyps come from, the reality was, I had them. And those little shits were creating more and more problems for me. My doctor thought they were responsible for my loss of smell. And I wanted to smell again!
So on a morning shortly after my 21st birthday, I experienced my second sinus surgery.
I remember coming out of surgery. I was pretty darn groggy… But after the anesthesia wore off, the recovery room nurse offered me a turkey sandwich. I am not sure why the nurse gave me a sandwich, but it tasted delicious. Most people know that one’s ability to taste food has more to do with smell than tastebuds, and the first bite proved it. For the first time in years and years, I was able to taste the food!
Although I didn’t care for turkey, I remember that sandwich was one of the best tasting experiences I had in years. When talking, I no longer sounded stuffy. When I called friends to let them know the surgery went well, they told me I sounded like a completely different person. It was a fantastic transformation.
I was finally living without constant sinus pressure or stuffiness in my head. But my doctor was quick to explain that the problem with nasal polyps is once you have them, there is a good chance those suckers will come back. To arm me against this, my doctor prescribed prednisone, a steroid pill that helps your body shrink polyps.
After surgery, my doctor kept me on prednisone for about a week. Then she put me back on nasal steroid spray. This doctor explained things in a little more detail for me. She said taking prednisone pills impacts other parts of my body and can have a whole bunch of crappy side effects. And unlike a tablet, the steroid spray is meant to work directly on nasal membranes and help prevent further polyps.
So under my doctor’s guidance, I was finally able to smell the world around me for the next couple of months.
My most memorable smells from that time involved caramel-covered popcorn, the Atlantic Ocean, and Mexican food. But it didn’t take long until those smells started to fade…
At the first sign of trouble, I met with my doctor and explained my diminishing sense of smell. She said it was probably just my underlying allergies and that I should keep in mind that surgery is not a fix for allergies. It’s just a remedy for nasal blockage. And so I began a regiment of antihistamines and decongestants.
This offered some relief, but unfortunately my treatment was cut short.
I came down with a serious sinus infection and had to go on super strong antibiotics. I say they were super strong, because I had taken so many antibiotics prior to this infection that I had a pretty good resistance to many of the antibiotics on the market. And in this case, once my sinus infection symptoms subsided, my allergies were back and getting worse.
And more disheartening, I was left with no sense of smell.
I returned to my doctor and her solution was to utilize nasal spray in both the morning and evening. I asked her if she thought I would ever smell again, and she told me that our primary objective is to open up my sinuses for breathing. In the process, if my sense of smell returned, I should consider myself lucky, but she said my sense of smell may never recover.
I maintained my nasal spray and allergy pill regiment for the next few years. In fact, I was once again popping sinus pills every day. And as we had hoped, this regiment allowed me to breath through my sinuses… without smell.
Hay Fever Hacks: Lessons I Learned:
- A doctor is a teammate. And you are both in this together. I learned I should always go with a doctor who cares more about my health than a paycheck.
- Nasal polyps are tricky critters. They come and go as they please. And sometimes they come back with a vengeance.
- It is important to meet with your doctor and discuss a plan frequently.
- If a doctor says I may never smell again… It’s important for me to search out other options and not give up hope.
- Will sinus surgery help my allergies? Not really.
Part 3: How To Get Rid Of A Stuffy Nose (Life Hacks?)
By this point in my life, I had been suffering with hay fever for over ten years. I had gone to college, studied abroad in England, visited Paris and sampled some of the finest food in some of the best restaurants in the world, without taste. If I could describe my world in a color, it was gray.
I had experience some pretty cool things, but I was unable to smell any of it. And like some years previously, my pockets were constantly full of tissues, always prepared to battle my constant runny nose. Being out of college put me at a disadvantage.
In college, my healthcare was covered by my mom’s health insurance. So with her insurance, whenever I caught a sinus infection, I could simply visit a doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics. This time around, things were much different. I entered the real world with aspirations of working in the film and video industry.
What they don’t tell you in college is that freelance gigs do not include health insurance. And without insurance, doctor visits are very expensive. Keep in mind, this was way before Obama Care. Without the help of a doctor, I had to self-medicate.
One of the remedies I discovered was over-the-counter nasal spray, often dubbed “the bad kind” because it is addictive and can sometimes damage people’s noses. But I didn’t care about any of that. Unlike steroid nasal spray, which can takes weeks to work, the over the counter stuff offered relief from sinus congestion in minutes.
While OTC nasal spray did not recover my sense of smell, it did provide a few hours of unobstructed breathing through my nose. But this is part of the addictive cycle. OTC nasal spray isn’t like the illegal drugs they talk about in the movies.
OTC nasal spray won’t make you experience euphoria. But the “high” is actually found in your ability to breathe clearly. And like other abused drugs, after you experience clear breathing, you don’t want to experience congestion.
So you begin a cycle. You get a stuffy nose, you spray, you have a couple hours of clear breathing and then when you “come down” it is back to congestion. So you spray your nose again, then it’s back to clear breathing and then congestion… Take a spray…
Then a few weeks into it, something else happens. The drug starts to wane in its effectiveness. Your nasal passages actually go back to congestion faster. So you take more spray… And then your nasal passages close up faster. So you use more spray… And at some point you realize you’re addicted to open nasal passages.
I had done enough research to know that OTC nasal spay can only be used for a short amount of time. But lets face it, isn’t it great to have open nasal passages? During that time, I used a lot of OTC nasal spray and enjoyed having open nasal passages.
I was sick of sinus infections and feeling irritable and congested. And I knew, deep down that OTC nasal spray was not the answer. And after a few internet searches, I realized people with chronic sinusitis often fall victim to the lure of OTC nasal spray… And the addiction only fed the fire and made things worse.
While I took comfort in the fact I wasn’t alone… I still had a problem. Bad sinuses. And way too much OTC nasal spray!
Luckily, in my research I also came across something else that was pretty interesting. I read an obscure article on the internet that touted a nasal spray made of chili pepper extract, called capsaicin. According to the advertisement, a couple sprays of capsaicin up the ol’ nose could alleviate sinus issues.
The spray was was called Sinus Buster (which is hard to find these days, so I now use Sinus Plumber.) Either way, I was so miserable, I probably would have tried anything. So I ordered a bottle. When the hot pepper spray arrived, I was hesitant. The label cautioned that I may feel a slight “bite” as the capsaicin connects with my sinus tissue. But when you suffered as long as I have, a slight “bite” is nothing. Plus I was in the middle of an allergy attack and my nose was running nonstop.
So without hesitation, I sprayed some of that stuff up my nose.
Ouch! It was a little more than a slight bite!
It burnt like crazy.
But here’s the amazing part… The sting subsided in like 20 seconds. And you know what? After a few minutes, my allergy attack stopped. And my nose stopped running.
I couldn’t believe my luck!
Sure, I was still somewhat congested, but at least I had found something that took the BITE out of my immediate allergy symptoms. I was so excited that I actually called the founder on the phone and we had an hour-long conversation about the wonders of the chili peppers!
Before you go out and buy a bottle of Sinus Plumber – I want to be clear. I wish I could say that chili peppers cured my sinus issues, but they didn’t. Like other pills and medication, the chili pepper spay served as a pretty good remedy for my symptoms, but I was suffering from underlying issues.
It was around this time that I found a salaried position. The job required that I fly across the country at least once a week. At the time, I was living in Pennsylvania and my work was in Los Angeles. For most people, this type of arrangement would be tiring. But when you have sinus issues, flying is literally painful.
For me, every time we took off, my ears would clog up. Sometimes I would feel sharp pains in my forehead that made my eyes water. And on one occasion, I actually had a posterior nose bleed (this is when your nose bleeds towards the back of your sinuses.)
A new job meant new health insurance. So as soon as I had a week of downtime, I contacted my health insurance provider to recommend yet another Ear Nose and Throat specialist.
My Initial Consultation With An New ENT…
Lots of times when someone meets with an ENT, the first thing the assistant does (after taking blood pressure and writing down your symptoms, etc), is he or she sprays your sinuses with quick acting, unclogging spay. Much like OTC spray, this stuff opens up your sinuses to better allow the doctor to get a clear view of your issues.
To express my dire need for help, for me it took more than one application of the spray to open up my nose. This ENT did something a bit different as well. Unlike previous doctors, this guy carried a long tube looking thing called an endoscope. He shoved it up my nose and was able to see my issues.
You have polyps.
That sounds familiar.
You’ve had them before. We were able to get your records, and it appears that after your previous surgery, your polyps came back.
So, does that mean I need surgery?
If you want me to remove these, then yes.
So I need a CT scan?
Yes. And actually, the surgery I perform is image guided. It combines the use of a CT scan with endoscopic surgery and provides me with greater visual precision… Which will help, since you’ve already had two surgeries.
Do you think I’ll be able to smell?
It depends. With this technology, I’ll be able to get pretty close to your cribriform plate, which is where your smell receptors are located. And if we open the upper passage, there is a possibility you’ll smell again. But we won’t know for sure.
I’ll need to look at your initial CT scan in more detail. But the way I usually explain it is, the inside of your nose is like a crab shell with all sorts of nooks and crannies. My job is to go in and remove some of those cavities and clean it out like a crab shell.
Thanks for that description.
There are several sinus cavities. I’m going to open them up a bit more.
So let me guess? Prednisone and steroid nasal spray.
You got it. But I’ll add one more to your regiment. Get yourself some saline spray and start using it.
Yeah. A guy with your issues should be spraying salt water like it’s going out of style.
And what about post-surgical packing in the surgery?
I use something about the size of a tampon. We remove it a few days after surgery.
And with that, we scheduled my 3rd surgery.
On the day of surgery, my parents took me to a surgical center. By that time I had learned that every ENT has individual methods for performing surgery. This particular ENT was going to perform with an image-guided endoscope. While I was in the waiting room, prior to surgery, the doctor shoved two pieces of moist gauze up my nose.
I just put pure medical-grade cocaine up in your nose.
See what I mean? This doctor used cocaine for surgery prep. In surgeries prior to this, I was only given IV medication and maybe a valium cocktail. But this guy gave me cocaine.
Okay, all humor aside, the surgery went well.
A couple days later, I left my work office early to meet with the doctor who presently pulled out a pair of foot-long forceps and proceeded to shove them up my nose.
With a gentle tug, the doctor removed what felt like part of my brain. It was the packing material. I will happily save you the gory details. But let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Unlike my previous surgery, this one was immediately disappointing. Even with the fancy image guided surgery, while my sinus breathing had improved, my ability to smell had not.
After the appointment, I bought a burger and fries. I remember biting into the bland burger. Maybe the doctors were right. Maybe I would never smell again…
Like my previous experience, it didn’t take long until I had yet another sinus infection. By that time, I knew how it would play out. Antibiotics would be used to treat the infection. Steroid nasal spray would keep the airways open. And saltwater would keep everything humid. UGH!
As I type these words, I remember that sense of dread all over again. Man, I suffered! And at that time, it didn’t take long until I was right back where I started. Unable to smell. Unable to breathe. And I was sure it wouldn’t be long until the polyps returned.
- Surgeons are human too. Their business is called a “practice,” not “perfection.”
- Ones’ ability to smell is finite and fragile. Often it’s taken for granted.
- If my sinuses can’t drain, they get infected.
- Allergies are worse when my sinuses can’t drain.
- And as always, it’s important to see a qualified doctor.
Part 4: Hope Springs Eternal… “Ouch?”
By this time, I had all but given up hope. Fifteen years had passed. That’s a significant portion of one’s life without having normal use of my nose or sense of smell. What a royal pain in the butt!
After a year into my job, my company moved me to Los Angeles. And while I had no hope that anyone could help me, one day I once again decided to check out some Los Angeles based Ear, Nose and Throat specialists.
My search led me to two world renowned doctors. Both had a track record of being the go-to gurus for sinus issues. My first appointment was different than my previous consultations back east. One doctor had the ability to perform CT scans in his office. And we studied the results together.
Looks like you have some blockage. Polyps.
With that, a nurse entered the room and asked me to take down my pants. I kid you not! She then proceeded to shove a needle in my butt, saying:
This is a steroid. It’s anti-inflammatory.
It should help reduce the polyps. We need to schedule surgery. I can remove the polyps.
Do you think it will help me smell?
It could. We utilize what is called image guided endoscopy. It allows us to…
You get the point… It was the same treatment protocol.
The doctor offered surgery. But as far as I was concerned, it was traditional. I was SICK of being SICK.
And I was going to suffer through another sinus surgery, I wanted to at least know I was trying something new. Suffice it to say, I decided to check out some other doctors.
Some popular TV shows had me thinking that since I was living in Los Angeles, I may as well check out Beverly Hills and find out if there was anybody who could help me there. So I got a recommendation from a friend of a friend.
And upon visiting the doctor, I was saddened to find this ENT seemed to be more interested in the appearance of my face, than my actual sinus problems.
Well, there is no guarantee you’ll be able to smell again. And if you get your surgery with me, I could straighten out your nose.
Thanks. By the way, do you utilize image guided endoscopy?
I find it’s easier just to go in the old fashioned way with an endoscope and get everything out.
I’ll think it over.
OK. We will call you in a few days to find out what you decide. But again, I think I could help you regain your self-esteem.
Beverly Hills, right?
A couple days later I got a call from that doctor’s office. It was his assistant trying to hard sell me on surgery. I kindly declined. It was beginning to occur to me that some doctors (not all of them) sometimes perform surgeries for the money first and the ability to help later.
I almost gave up hope. I’m not kidding.
That night, I went home and did a few web searches. And at some point, I came across a website for a doctor who used a surgical technique called Sinu-Clear. His name is Doctor Paley. And by the time you read this, perhaps he will start paying me a commission for every sinus sufferer I refer.
(I am always talking about Dr. Paley. You’ll see why in a sec.)
Sinu-Clear is basically an endoscope, attached to a laser that also uses saltwater. Saltwater is run through the nose. The laser heats the saltwater and diseased tissue is removed without harming the normal tissue. There is very little bleeding during the procedure because the laser cauterizes the tissue.
As a result, there is no need for nasal packing! I remember thinking: Where do I sign up? I couldn’t dial the number fast enough. Two days later, I met the doctor of my dreams. When I walked into his office, he was already looking at my CT scan with a smirk.
See this? They opened the window on you. We used to do that in the old days. But guess what we learned through the years?
Your cilia move in the opposite direction. So the procedure doesn’t help too much with drainage. Bet your doctor used cocaine too… Nothing wrong with it. But I do things differently. Then there are the polyps. Your nose is full of them. And check this out… Did you know you still have a deviated septum!
That was fixed when I was fifteen.
Looks like they fixed the front part, but not the back part. See this?
He then showed me a normal CT scan and compared the two. In comparison, mine was all gray and cloudy. I looked at the scan and sure enough, my septum was crooked. I don’t know what alarmed me more, the fact that my sinuses were neglected by the other doctors or the fact that this new doctor was practically laughing in disbelief.
Is there anything you can do?
One guy came to me after 15 failed surgeries! 15 failures! I fixed him. Some people call me the surgeon of last resort. You have a screwed-up sinus cavity, but not the worst. I can fix it.
How close can you go to my cribriform plate? (I thought I was so cool for using such a big medical term.)
I could go close to it, but I’m not going to take the risk. I’ll tell you why. There is no telling how much damage that area of your sinus cavity has sustained through the years. But what I do know is this, if I correct everything else and get your nose working again, then once things are able to drain better, it’s been my experience that on some people, the upper cavities open up.
My Final Sinus Surgery
My mom flew out to California to drive me to an LA based surgical center. When I arrived, it was pretty much protocol. The nurses made me wear one of those hospital gowns that expose your butt cheeks.
Then once dressed, they had me lay down in a bed. After that, they insert the IV line into my arm. And by this time, I had enough experience to ask for a shot of Novocain to numb the IV entry.
Believe me, this helps. And that’s what I did for this surgery.
Once the IV was inserted, I asked for something extra to calm my nerves. I don’t know about your experience, but it sure seems like hospital professionals love to give you drugs. And I figured I was in for a pretty long day, so I may as well get stoned… Legally of course. So I took a pill. And suddenly surgery seemed like the best idea of my life.
Doctor Paley greeted me and said he was looking forward to getting me breathing clearly once again. So I said goodbye to my mom, and they wheeled me into the Operating room. In the operating room, there is a guy who knocks people out for a living. He’s called an anesthesiologist, and his whole mission in life is to dispense just enough anesthesia to keep you under without causing permanent damage or death.
So the first thing he asked me, was “Have you ever had anesthesia before?” And I say “yes.”
OK, can you do me a favor and count backward from 10 to 1?
10, 9, 8…
And (what feels like) a couple of minutes later I wake up with a nurse whispering in my ear.
You’re out of surgery. Everything went OK.
I remember lying in the bed groggily, uncomfortable, with all sorts of machines connected to my body. There were heart monitor things stuck to my chest, a blood pressure band on my arm, and some stupid thing on my finger. I looked down the end of my nose and there was a dressing taped on. Familiar territory.
When I woke up in the recovery room, I tried to force myself awake enough so I could get the heck out of the hospital, go home and relax. I always feel crappy after surgery. I’m never comfortable.
Then the doctor walked over to my bed.
Four hours kid! What a mess. You had gunk up there that could best be described as salt water taffy. I sucked it out and fixed your septum and removed the polyps. I want to see you in a few days. I’m sure you’ll feel a lot better.
On the drive home my mom told me how Dr. Paley took time to explain my procedure. He showed her some photographs taken of the inside of my sinus cavity. Yuck!
My Life Anew!
To recap – by this time in the story, I had had crazy hay fever, bad sinus infections and finally, the last surgery in a series of FOUR sinus surgeries. As explained earlier, I had taken or sampled just about every medication on the market and nothing seemed to help me.
So while my mom was taking me home, one of the first things I noticed was a smell. I smelled my own bad breath. And even though it was disgusting, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in years and years!
The recovery from the surgery wasn’t long. As advertised, the Sinu-Clear Laser sinus surgery required no post-surgery sinus packing. But because my nose required so much reconstruction and work, I did experience quite a bit of discomfort.
I wouldn’t call it pain, per-say. But it didn’t exactly feel great either. It took a few weeks.
Then one night, I was eating Mexican with a friend and was suddenly filled with an entire palette of taste sensations I had not experienced for the majority of my life. I could taste! I then smelled the food and was instantly blown away with sensation.
In fact, the experience was so dramatic, I can only liken it to a blind man being able to see, but his first view is straight into the sun. It was overwhelming.
This sensory overload stayed with me for a few weeks. I can remember getting unexpected smells from all sorts of places that made me flinch or made my eyes water. I’m not talking about anything abnormal, just common sensations that most people take for granted.
In a way, regaining my sense of smell was like being reborn. And like an infant, I realized that in addition to being able to smell, I also had to relearn sense association.
While explaining my new experiences to friends, we devised a game whereas they would make me close my eyes, then make me smell something. Everything I smelled didn’t make sense to me. One item was peanut butter and I simply had no idea what it was. For some reason, I described the smell as “dirt.”
“It smells like dirt…”
Nothing made sense, in a fun way!
But then I suffered a blow. What started out as a common cold symptom quickly progressed into a full blown sinus infection. This would be my first test: Do my unclogged nasal passages cut down on infection duration and intensity??
Thankfully, the answer FOR ME was yes!
This sinus infection was nothing like previous sinus infections. I was able to blow my nose and the infection seemed to last a shorter amount of time.
But something else started to happen. Like before, my sense of smell began to decrease. I went back to the doctor to share my concerns. He informed me that I was beginning to show signs of polyp reemergence.
Have you been using your steroid spray?
Not as frequently.
Clear nasal passages does not mean you won’t have a reemergence of polyps.
What do you suggest?
Get back on the steroid nasal spray. And you may want to try something called nasal irrigation.
There are several devices and machines on the market that enable one to irrigate their sinuses with a salt water solution. This has helped some people with hay fever and sinus infections.
Like a neti-pot?
Conduct a web search. There are machines in the marketplace that may provide relief.
That evening, I began a web search for nasal irrigation websites. In the search, I came across a machine called the The Grossan Hydro Pulse System. Basically the machine produces a gentle, pulsating stream of salt water that helps cleanse and moisturize the sinuses, while removing gunk. So I ordered a machine. And let me tell you, sinus irrigation machines aren’t cheap. But I figured, if the machine could help me, then spending close to one-hundred dollars was worth it.
If you’re thinking about getting one of these machines, make sure you talk with a doctor and read the directions first. I personally found that if you do things the wrong way, you could risk hurting yourself. As for me, I had already talked to my doctor. So I felt confident I’d be okay. I plugged in the machine and put the dry power solution into the water mixture (as instructed) and proceeded to irrigate my sinuses.
After utilizing the sinus irrigation machine, I found much of my previous allergy symptoms began to subside. And soon, I was able to eliminate dependency on allergy medication. So instead of popping a pill, whenever I felt an allergy attack coming on, I would go into my bathroom and irrigate my sinuses.
Within a couple months, I was breathing and smelling better than ever. Keep in mind, I was still using steroid nasal spray. And I had laser surgery. But these factors combined with daily nasal irrigation seemed to do the trick. Upon my last visit with my doctor, something else happened to me that has never happened. I think this dialogue will reveal the amazing event:
Jason, looking in your nose, I see no infection and no reemergence of nasal polyps.
You don’t need to see me anymore. Come back in year or so… Go out and smell the world.
At this point, my sinus experience was nearly a decade ago. I have retained my sense of smell. And I have not had any more polyps. (Thank goodness!) On my bad days, I still use Sinus Plumber and nasal irrigation. But I figure this is a small price to pay for the benefits. Most importantly, I’ve been able to smell the world.
What I Learned:
- After a diagnosis, it’s important to research on the internet.
- I wish I would have talked with others who found relief sooner.
- Something silly and simple like nasal irrigation works wonders for me.
- Sometimes doctors utilize outdated techniques.
- There is no “cure,” but there are a lot of doctors and solutions that exist to help me.
Hay Fever Hacks: Resources
In full disclosure, many of these resources are affiliates. That means I get paid to promote these resources.
So you should conduct your own due diligence before you make any purchase. You should also talk with your doctor first too.
• Sinus Plumber: Hot Pepper Nasal Spray
• Grossan Hydro Pulse Nasal and Sinus Irrigation System
• Dr. Paley: Sunu-Clear Surgery Information
Remember, I am not a doctor or medical professional. I’m just a sinus sufferer. Since everybody is different, what may work for me, may not work for you. But I do hope some of this info was helpful to you. Please share this article with anybody you know who suffers with sinus issues.