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Mom Talk: Allergy Season is Year Around

While summertime brings on allergies caused by pollen, food allergies are a year-round threat.

Watery, itchy eyes, runny noses, sneezes, and itchy throats . . . yes, it is that time of year again—allergy season!

Every day, I check the news for the tree pollen count for myself, and then I check my medicine cabinet to ensure I have enough of everyone's medications to get us through yet another season of sneezes and runny noses. 

My children are a bit more irritable during this season, as some days their eyes itch so badly that they cannot stop rubbing them, and their poor noses keep running. 

Fortunately, their animal/seasonal allergies are pretty much managed through proper medication, and they only suffer when tree pollen counts are extremely high or they are exposed to the dander of the animals to which they are allergic.  

My oldest takes Allegra all year long and uses Nasonex from February through December, while my youngest takes Singulair.  Not only do I need to have enough Allegra and Singulair for my boys, but I need to make sure their nebulizer/inhaler medications have not expired in case they have an allergy-induced asthma attack. 

My oldest son is allergic to a few types of trees, cats, dogs, and all nuts (peanuts and tree nuts). My youngest is allergic to cats and all nuts, as well. I was not surprised that they have allergies to animals, or even trees, as it runs in my family.  However, the nut allergy was a big surprise, which we learned the hard way. 

Following my pediatrician's advice, I tried peanut butter with my oldest when he was 14 months old (He is now 5.) and within two minutes of eating it, he broke out in severe hives all over his body. The poor boy was screaming and scratching at his chest where the hives were the worst. 

Fortunately, my neighbor had children's Benadryl, and we figured out the proper dose for him. I had no idea what the hives meant and mentioned it to the pediatrician at his next visit. However, I was told children aren't tested for allergies until they are over 2 years of age.  

After an emergency room trip later that summer because he was having difficulty breathing after being around three dogs at a friend's house, we decided to visit an allergist. I found a wonderful asthma/allergy specialist who is excellent with children and moms.

I quickly became an expert on children's allergies and was prepared for my youngest child's first experience with peanut butter. My husband gave him some peanut butter while I sat by with the proper amount of Benadryl ready in one of those medicine droppers. I also had my oldest child's Epipen nearby just in case it was a bad reaction. He, too, had hives and we knew we were going to take him in to see the allergist for a skin test, as well. 

Although my children's allergies are now under control, and we see the specialist every six months, it is scary as a mom for your children to have allergies, especially food allergies. 

I am fortunate that my children actually have to ingest the allergen before they have an anaphylactic reaction. 

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening type of allergic reaction where tissues in different parts of the body release histamine and other substances. This causes the airways to tighten and leads to other symptoms. 

Some moms are not so lucky, and their children have this reaction when they walk into a room where there is milk or peanut butter. 

The fact that your child has an allergy that could cause him to stop breathing is scary, as is anything with the potential to harm your child. 

My son's action plan (Action plans are "what to do" lists for parents and schools.) states that if he has a major reaction, anything other than a rash, that he needs to be given his Epipen and to call 911 to ask for advanced life support. It also states that he has asthma, which means he is at a higher risk for a severe reaction.

You cannot put your child in a bubble for protection, but as a mother you need to be vigilant and advocate for your child with a life-threatening allergy. School is a scary place for me right now, as my oldest will leave the safety net of the wonderful preschool we have found that is entirely nut free and enter an elementary school where there will be ample opportunities for accidental exposure. 

Thus, I have prepared him by teaching him about his allergy and showing him the Epipen.  He is terrified of needles, so the thought of having the Epipen injected into his leg is enough for him to stay away from foods such as chocolate that might contain traces of nuts or be manufactured on the same machine as products that contain nuts. 

Cupcakes look innocent enough, but many baking mixes contain traces of nuts, as well as the icing for these treats.  Gummy worms seem innocent, as well, but they, too, are forbidden, as many are made on the same machines that produce treats with nuts. 

It is not horrible that my children cannot have the same treats as everyone else because there are many treats that they can have (and really, who "needs" candy?). What is scary for me is that someone who is not used to reading labels for this allergy might inadvertently give my child something that could cause him to stop breathing.

Thus, during this allergy season and every day, please be mindful of those children that suffer from more than seasonal allergies. 

Please ask parents before you give children food ... perhaps on Halloween, you could have Skittles as well as Reese's Cups, or bring yogurt into school as a snack instead of Chex Mix. 

We allergy moms are not neurotic for watching every bite our children take. We are doing what all of us as parents do on a daily basis. We are protecting our children from a life-threatening accident.

Stacey May 01, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Nice article! It's vital to educate people on your child's allergy and what to do in an emergency. It's even more important to educate your child. If you are looking for a free allergy action plan, you can download one at www.peanutfreezone.com. They also have attention-getting products to help increase awareness of peanut allergies.

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