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Allergy shots aim to make a nature-lover out of Ramos

WORTHINGTON -- You know those ads for allergy medications that show smiling women with flowing hair skipping merrily through sunlit fields of sweet grass and flowers while butterflies flit about?Ashley Ramos was not the model for them."No, I don'...

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Ashley Ramos (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - You know those ads for allergy medications that show smiling women with flowing hair skipping merrily through sunlit fields of sweet grass and flowers while butterflies flit about?
Ashley Ramos was not the model for them.
“No, I don’t like running through the weeds with the butterflies,” laughed Ramos. “That’s not fun for me.
“I’m more like that ad for Mucinex, where the person’s head is just one giant stuffed-up nose - that’s what I feel like a lot of the time.”
At least until recently, when Ramos, who had been plagued with allergic reactions to just about anything - cleaning products, grass, perfumes, leaves - for most of her life decided she was miserable enough to seek out a more effective, long-lasting remedy.
“I’ve had allergies since I was very young, but they seemed to get worse after I had my kids,” said Ramos, who has lived in Worthington for 16 years. She and her husband, Luis Enrique Ramos, have two young children, son Phineaus, 6, and daughter Phoebe, 1.
“I always seemed to have the basics - watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing - but last year, after Phoebe was born, the medications I was taking to keep things under control didn’t seem to work anymore.”
Ramos’ symptoms progressed, accelerating from seasonal sinus infections to chronic sinus infections and bronchitis, along with asthma attacks, hives and worse.
“I was on Zyrtec for years, I have a rescue inhaler, Zyrtec D for sinus congestion - otherwise I’d get severe sinus headaches - and eye drops for my eyes, which get really puffy and watery,” she noted.
“I just didn’t like being outside because it made everything worse, and when the pollen is really flying and it’s windy, things are very bad,” she continued. “When I was around dogs, I started to get asthmatic symptoms, and if I was around cats, I’d get instant asthma attacks and have trouble breathing.”
In the past year, Ramos also developed an increasing allergy to mosquito bites; at one point, she ended up with a cellulitis infection on her leg when a bite there swelled grotesquely.
“It was annoying to be using eye drops, nasal spray, a decongestant and an antihistamine and still not getting any guarantee that I wouldn’t experience symptoms,” said Ramos.
Finally, frustrated by her diminishing enjoyment of the outside world and desperately wanting to take her eager children outdoors to play, Ramos scheduled an appointment with an allergist, Dr. Gregory DeSautel. DeSautel is an otolaryngologist and an allergy and immunology specialist with Sanford Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“He recommended allergy shots, and I’ve been on them since last October,” said Ramos.
“They haven’t completely removed all my symptoms, but things are a lot better. I’ve noticed I’m not as allergic to dogs, for instance; I was at my sister-in-law’s house recently and was able to play with her dog without having any severe symptoms.
“Earlier this week, I even helped cut the grass without suffering an asthma attack,” she continued. “My eyes did get itchy, and I woke up the next day with a raspy voice and some congestion, but it was still better.”
At the onset of her treatment, Ramos endured skin allergy testing that confirmed her worst lifelong suspicions and experiences.
“Basically, I’m allergic to everything outdoors,” she said. “There wasn’t one thing they tested on me that didn’t cause a welt on my arm: ragweed, all kinds of grass and trees, dogs, cats, horses, cockroaches, dust, mold, hay, you name it.”
Additionally, perfumes and other scents could trigger bouts of sneezing and a stuffed-up nose in Ramos, and cleaning agents with a lot of odor “tend to make me sick, so I started using all-natural cleaning agents with essential oil bases,” she explained.
“And we stick to using all-natural body wash and laundry detergent.”
Unfortunately, both Ramos children have also exhibited some sensitivities.
“My son’s allergies tend to flare up in the spring and in the fall, so eventually he might need to get allergy shots, too, and both of the kids have eczema,” she noted.
But things are starting to look up for Ramos, who explained the process she’s undergoing improve her health.
“Once a week, I go in to the Worthington Sanford clinic and get two shots, one in each arm,” detailed Ramos. “They make a serum of all the allergens I’m allergic to, and I get a tiny dose of that, with an increasing amount each week until I reach the maximum.
“I’m under the impression I’ll be getting them for maybe about three years, but by the end of the treatment, I should be almost fully cured.”
The idea is that, over time, Ramos will build up an immunity against the allergens to which her system reacts so negatively.
“Yes, it’s dominated my life, but everything could change if the treatments work, and Dr. DeSautel seems very optimistic,” said Ramos.
Ramos has been largely an “indoor girl,” for obvious reasons, but she is looking forward to the day when she can freely go outside, run around Lake Okabena, take her children to the park and not feel confined to air conditioned spaces.
“Until now, the symptoms from my allergies overpowered my desire to do any ‘fun’ activity I could be doing outside,” said Ramos, who nevertheless remains quite active indoors.
“I like to dance a lot, especially with my kids, and I used to do Pilates and Zumba at home,” she shared. “Otherwise, I try to maintain a balance between what I eat and being active.
“My son likes to exercise with me sometimes; we do aerobics, jumping jacks, things like that.”
Ramos worked at the Fulda Area Credit Union for about five years following high school, and later worked at Guidepoint (later Sterling) Pharmacy.
“I worked there until I had my daughter,” she explained, adding that she has a pharmacy technician license. “I really enjoy pharmacy work and will probably go back to doing that when my kids are a little older.”
In the meantime, she stays busy raising her kids, making it to her medical appointments and caring for her husband’s aunt, who is ill and lives with the family.
“It’s certainly more convenient that I can get the weekly shots here in Worthington, but it’s been quite the workout, trying to fit it into my schedule,” she laughed.
“Between the kids, my husband’s aunt and coordinating everyone else’s doctor’s appointments, making time for my shots has been quite the task.”
But with a very supportive husband (“He takes care of me really well,” she affirmed) and an optimistic doctor, Ramos just might eventually be a candidate to star in those “running through the meadows” allergy medication advertisements.
Reported Ramos, “Dr. DeSautel’s most memorable quote from my first appointment was, ‘The goal is to make you love the outdoors.’”
Ramos can’t wait.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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