I've never had an allergic reaction before, and I have no known allergies. I did break out into a very mild rash once after a sip of gin (I don't ever drink) but that was years ago. Still, juniper is blooming here now, and there was a lot of it in the area where I happened to be when the reaction started. It began as an itchy scalp (which I originally thought was because I was sweating) but then quickly became extremely itchy and spread to the palms of my hands, and the rest of my body broke out in hives. My face started to swell, and that's when we called the ambulance. The itching stopped once the Benedryl hit my system, but the rash didn't go away until the steroids and epinephrine were added. I did not experience breathing difficulty at the time of the attack, which the doctor and paramedics attributed to the fact that I had called right when the swelling began. I was told that is the next phase of an anaphylactic reaction (bronchial swelling, breathing difficulty).
It's been about a week since it happened, and I've finished my short course of steroids. I attempted (yesterday) to quit taking the Benedryl, but found that I was having some difficulty breathing (not enough to be an emergency, more like a bad case of bronchitis or a chest cold) and my chest (lungs?) are very sore. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and it hurts quite a bit. Mostly when I breathe in deeply, but the rest of the time it's just generally sore. The Benedryl helps with the breathing issues, and I have been taking Tylenol for the soreness.
So, here are my questions... 1) is it really possible that I could be so allergic to juniper that walking around during a high pollen season in an area where a lot of it is present would bring on anaphylaxis when I have no history of such? and 2) why is my chest hurting so much? Is this a leftover symptom from the reaction now that I've stopped the steroids (as in, the steriods were calming the inflammation, and now they're not in my system anymore), or is this a reaction to further exposure to the allergen?
I'm quite new to this allergy thing, but I knew enough that hives and facial swelling was not good ~ I also know that these types of severe reactions generally get worse with future exposure... I'm still in disbelief that it happened at all, since I have no history of allergies to anything, food, meds, etc.
Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated. I know I need to get in to see an allergist, and I'm hoping to do that within the next few weeks. For now, I just need to hear from the experienced folk what the heck you think may have happened.... also, I moved recently from Portland, OR to Dallas, TX, where the weather is much warmer and drier all year, so that may also have something to do with it, however, I've been here since September 2008, so if it's the area causing the issues, I don't know why it would have taken so long to affect me. I do know that (at least today) the juniper pollen count is very high, according to an online weather/allergy index.