Each year I run a series of Allergy Stories, a series of interviews with people who deal with allergies – either their own or their children’s. It is interesting to hear from others about their experiences, and also to realise when you’re having a bad time of it that you’re not alone and other people go through this too. I’m kicking off Allergy Stories 2017 by talking to the lovely Gwen who is Mum to four boys and writes the fabulous parenting blog Wonderful Wagon. One of her sons has multiple allergies, asthma and eczema. Here is their story.
What age is your son and what allergies does he have?
He’s 9 years old and has been diagnosed with having allergies to dog dander, grass pollen and dust mites. He needs an inhaler in the cold winter months and has been using this for the last three years. He had bad eczema as a baby – his skin would literally peel off as you looked at him but he has outgrown that. When he is a bit stressed or his chest is giving him trouble, he will get a flare up on his inner elbows. I call this his alarm system! It’s a sign for him to pay attention to what his body is telling him. At 9 though, this is a challenge.
How did you find out about his allergies?
He had a severe allergic reaction two years ago when he was almost 7. It started off with his lips swelling slightly. It looked as if he had walked into something but within ten minutes they were noticeably bigger again and I knew straight away he was reacting to something but had no idea what. He had complained earlier on of feeling unwell so I gave him Nurofen forgetting it can increase asthma symptoms in those who suffer so I blamed that. I called the after hours doctor service and even as I was speaking to them, his lips were bigger again. It was frightening. We were told to come over immediately and in the twenty minutes it took us to get there, he broke out in large welts all over his body and he started to panic as he wasn’t able to talk at that point. He went from puffy lips to thinking they were going to explode, drooling and not being able to talk and covered in welts in twenty minutes. My husband broke the speed limit as I tried to keep me and our son calm in the back seat. When we arrived at the clinic, they were waiting for us and administered two injections into his hip. He was kept there for observation for an hour and he fell asleep as they had given him enough antihistamine “to fell a horse.” (their words) The swelling subsided, not entirely, but he was deemed well enough to go home with instructions to go straight to A&E if anything changed in any way over night. I learned afterwards that a secondary reaction is very common and this is what happened to him. I put him in our bed and got in beside him but he was very restless and at 2am he began tearing at himself again as the rash and welts reappeared. Talk about terrifying. We literally flung him in the car and left the other kids asleep in their beds with the door open for my mother to arrive and sit with them until we came home. He was given epinephrine in the hospital and kept overnight for observation.
Oh, that sounds very traumatic! Was he given an epipen?
In the hospital I was told because he needed an epipen on admission, we would most definitely be given a prescription for one before we were discharged. That didn’t happen. They said then, they couldn’t do this as it was his first reaction and it might never happen again and he hadn’t been tested for allergies yet. We had to get that done first with blood tests. I wasn’t happy and enquired on the allergies board on facebook and the general consensus there was this was madness – if he needed it in the first place, he should definitely have one. Exactly what the hospital said to us! Thankfully my GP was very much of the same opinion as was our pharmacist and there was no problem getting two after that.
Did you receive good support from the hospital and GP?
As I said above, GP was great. I was very surprised with the hospital. After that, as we had to wait over a month for the blood test, I took him to someone privately who does non-invasive tests. With her he tested for dog dander, dust and pollen which is what the bloods came back with also, but bloods determined he didn’t have any food allergies. This was a relief to be honest. If I was to delve deeper into my thoughts on the medical support system, I consider us lucky enough not to need it the way other people do, so because of our very sporadic contact with them, we get what we need as is applicable to us. In other words very little. Does that make sense?
Yes absolutely that makes sense. I have interviewed many people on the subject of allergies and while most are doing ok now, many have had difficulties and confusion with the medical support system at some stage. It is such a shame because it makes an already difficult situation of being diagnosed with allergies even more difficult and confusing.
How does your boy manage school, does he carry his epipen in his schoolbag?
Yes. He is in third class now and his epipen is kept in the secretary’s office in a locker. I’m happy with that as to have it in his bag is just asking for trouble – previously there was enough messing about with his inhaler by other kids when he had to use it which is natural curiosity but at the same time, it’s not a toy.
How do you find leaving him with someone else and trusting them to know what to do with the epipen? Do the school have an allergy policy?
I am more than happy to leave him with people. The school filled out proper policy this year only. I had to explain to the principal how to use the epipen but I doubt she would be the one available to administer it should the need arise so I thought that was a bit pointless. They know to ring 999 first and then me or my husband.
Do you find your family and friends understanding?
Yes. Yes, I do. Again, his reaction might just be a once off but he knows know what his symptoms are and not to delay in going to a teacher if he feels funny. I realise it could also happen again just as easily but because it’s not as serious as a food allergy, I’m a bit more relaxed about it.
Did you ever find out what triggered the severe reaction?
The doctors said it was a result of an accumulation of his allergies.
This sounds a little vague. Do you feel you were left with a proper answer or do you feel you have to be cautious without really knowing what might trigger a reaction again?
Initially I was very nervous especially with the refusal to issue a script for an epipen. Because he had never shown signs of having an allergy before and he has asthma, they knitted the two together and said the fish he had eaten for dinner had tipped his scales over and sent his histamine levels through the roof which is why he had the reaction. I’m always nervous around that time of year (early December) as a result and watch him like a hawk. It was a huge relief that he doesn’t have a food allergy. We have a dog and had her for a few years prior to his asthma but there are ways of managing pets. Also dust. It just means a bit more hoovering and dusting. We’re confident with how we are managing it and have to take comfort in the fact that his reaction could simply have been a once off. Having the epipen though is a massive relief.
Thanks so much Gwen for speaking to me about your son’s allergies and his reaction. I am glad to hear that he is well and you are confident with how you are managing his allergies. It is great to hear that you have a good relationship with his school with regard to the epipen and the procedure to follow.
If you would like to take part in Allergy Stories by doing an interview for dairy free kids please drop me a line or comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
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