Coping with all kinds of allergies
About 20% of Americans suffer from allergies. You or someone you know is likely allergic to any of these common culprits: pollen; pet dander; latex; bee stings; all sorts of foods; and, of course, the latest “fad” allergies, such as gluten. (See “Do You Need to Go Gluten Free?”)
What are allergies?
The experts say allergies are nothing more than an immune response. The body detects something as harmful, even when it isn’t, and reacts by releasing antibodies. The antibodies cause the symptoms we are familiar with: inflammation of the skin, sinuses, airways, or digestive system. These antibodies cause symptoms that can be as benign as a runny nose to as life threatening as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is serious; symptoms can include loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, rash, weak pulse, nausea, and vomiting. If you or anyone you know exhibits these signs, please call 911.
Who gets allergies?
If you have a family history of allergies, you are at a higher risk of getting them yourself. Children are more likely to develop an allergy than adults. Children have been known to outgrow their allergies, but don’t be surprised if they come back.
Can they be cured?
There is no cure, but there is help. If you suspect you or your child has allergies, see a physician. They will question you thoroughly about pets, family history, symptoms, and other possible health issues. The doctor may also diagnose allergies using skin or blood tests. Once an allergy has been determined, your doctor will prescribe medication and treatment. There are effective over-the-counter products, immunotherapy (a series of shots), or emergency epinephrine if allergies are severe. Your doctor will also discuss preventive and lifestyle remedies that are often very effective.
Of course, you can avoid allergic responses by avoiding the allergen. Keep an electronic or a handwritten journal of your symptoms, activities, and what seems to help.
If you or your kids have had a serious allergy attack, talk to your doctor about wearing a medical-alert bracelet.
Real-life Solo Moms and allergies
Solo Mom Cassie tells the story of her latex allergy and the scare that revealed her son’s allergy to peanuts.
When Cassie was a young girl, her Solo Mom owned a balloon business. Cassie loved helping arrange balloon bouquets for her mother’s clients. One day, Cassie couldn’t stop itching. She broke out in hives and had blotchy skin for hours. Her mom, desperate for answers, took her to several doctors to get tested for allergies. They even gave away their beloved cats for fear it was a reaction to the fur. It turned out that Cassie was allergic to the latex in the balloons. Her Mom took the balloon business to the garage, and the allergy symptoms subsided.
When Cassie grew older, she had her first child, Tyler, a beautiful baby boy. His health was perfect. He loved to play with other children, and at the age of three, he started going to birthday parties. One day, at his best friend’s party, he was playing with the other children when Cassie heard him and the other children start to cry and scream. Tyler was blue in the face. “It was terrifying. He was gasping for breath. His face blew up, and he made awful choking sounds.” Cassie panicked and called 911. Emergency medical services responders arrived just in time. They administered epinephrine to Tyler, put him on oxygen, and removed him from the area. The hospital staff told Cassie to have Tyler tested for allergies. He turned out to be allergic to peanuts, and the children at the party were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
It is an alarming and frightening experience to go through anaphylactic shock. Now Tyler has to be very careful not to get too close to peanuts. Cassie needs to be constantly aware of what Tyler is exposed to and has to make sure the rooms he enters are peanut-free.
Today it’s not uncommon for parties, lunchrooms, and even entire schools or buildings to be peanut-free because so many kids are living an allergy-aware existence. Moms of kids with life-threatening food allergies must always be vigilant and prepared with special lunches and snacks.
Solo Mom Vanessa has a daughter, Sylvie, who is allergic to wheat. It breaks her heart to send Sylvie off to parties with her own piece of cake that she can enjoy while the other kids eat the main birthday cake. She must pack special snacks and lunches, and be very careful with cooking and grocery shopping—one more task to add to a Solo Mom’s already busy list. “It’s difficult,” Vanessa says. “It’s become part of life and is our ‘new normal.’”
Solo Mom Becky dreads the springtime. She used to look forward to the buds, flowering trees, and crocuses popping up out of the soft ground. Now the first scent of spring sends her into a panic. Her son, Nick, has terrible seasonal allergies. He is allergic to pollen, and he feels miserable from the beginning of March until Mother’s Day, when symptoms begin to subside. Becky keeps Nick on a strict regimen of medication and institutes pollen precautions: windows stay closed; Nick showers frequently; he uses saline spray throughout the day to keep his nose clear of the offending allergens; Becky vacuums frequently; and they keep the dogs away from Nick, as they bring pollen into the house. The good news: by summertime, Nick is free and clear to run around and enjoy the outdoors.
Allergies are generally not life threatening and are manageable with help from your doctor and some careful precautions. Just don’t let your kids convince you that they’re allergic to school!
Not everyone understands the impact allergies can have on your daily life. Here at ESME, you can connect with Solo-Mom Sisters who face the same challenge.
Debi Conocenti has been keeping people fit and healthy for more than 20 years. A developer of corporate health, fitness, and wellness programs, she stays active with her two sons and English sheepdogs.
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