Caring for Huntington’s patients during allergy season can be tough

Struggling with cognitive challenges alongside hay fever in England

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by Becky Field |

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We’re now halfway through our summer here in the U.K., but you wouldn’t necessarily know it this year. Only last week, I needed to wear jumpers and tights because of unseasonably chilly temperatures. We’ve been lacking much summer sunshine as we’ve had higher than average rainfall. This week, however, has thankfully been warmer and drier.

In the countryside where I live, the hedgerows are exploding with life, and the uncut grass in the fields is tall and swaying in the breeze. The sheep are being shorn, and the crop farmers are silaging, haymaking, and irrigating the ground, ready to grow potatoes and other crops. The landscape is filled with fields and trees of every shade of green.

Spring and summer here are bad news for people with allergies, however. Pollen counts are high right now; news reports last week warned of a “pollen bomb,” causing further misery to many — particularly some of my relatives, whose Huntington’s disease appears to make their allergy symptoms considerably worse.

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I’m familiar with the disease as it’s affected, and continues to affect, my family, including taking the lives of my dad, granddad, and great-grandmother. I tested negative in the summer of 2023.

Several allergic conditions can occur in patients with Huntington’s, including allergic rhinitis, or hay fever; atopic dermatitis, or eczema; asthma; and bad reactions to medicines.

Unfortunately, the situation can be further exacerbated by their neglect of household chores, especially if their homes are full of mold and dust. One was diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, which can be triggered by dust, pollen, or mold.

Trying to help and facing difficulty

I’ve gotten text messages from these family members, who were considerably distressed by their allergy symptoms, such as extreme nasal congestion and cough. They’ve lost sleep because of the congestion blocking their airways. That’s resulted in them feeling exhausted and falling asleep during daylight hours. The cough has also disturbed their sleep and interrupted them when they were trying to eat.

Because they’d communicated their symptoms confusingly, I’d originally been concerned to see them coughing while eating. I’d thought it could’ve been the first signs of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Worse, when I tried to order medicine, organize medical appointments, or otherwise offer help, that help was rejected.

I can only assume that the cognitive damage that Huntington’s causes is behind this behavior, and that their apathy, anxiety, and fear led them to refuse medical appointments. Their confusion and inability to figure out how to feel better must also restrict their ability to accept the appropriate help.

It’s extremely upsetting and frustrating to see someone suffer unnecessarily. It’s awful to have trouble getting through to them on such a basic level.

But as a family, we need to play the long game in these kinds of matters. We aim to be patient and work with the professionals and any personal assistants. By repeatedly communicating the same information, we hope to build understanding and trust gradually so we can support them.

It’s took weeks to address allergy complaints, but they eventually took regular doses of their antihistamines and nasal spray, which seemed to make them feel much better. Cleaning their homes, though, was another matter.


Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.

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