Family Health Guide

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Allergies: Parent's Experience

Like any chronic condition, allergies are stressful for everyone. And when allergies are severe, parents live with constant fear. It’s no wonder they feel frustrated and angry when other people minimize or completely disregard the challenges they face.  

  • “Whether it's camp or just a play date, we always have a nagging worry even though we always make sure her environment is as safe as possible,” says Breakey. “Of course we train babysitters and everyone around her how to deal, but we never feel quite safe if it's not one of us with her.”
  • “Devastated. Helpless. Angry. Overwhelmed.” That’s how Jennifer Grenz, 29, of Vancouver, British Columbia, felt when one of her twin daughters had a life-threatening allergic reaction and then both girls, Alicia and Madelyn, 2-1/2, tested positive for peanut allergy. “Alicia is so sensitive that she could react to 1/70,000 of a piece of a peanut,” Grenz says. “I knew that it meant their childhoods would not be normal, that I would always be fearful for their lives. I feel like we live out lives watching out for a giant peanut monster that is out to get us. We were recently at the aquarium watching the whales and my husband suddenly smelled peanut butter. It was the little girl beside us eating her peanut butter sandwich, leaning up against the same glass our girls were, peanut butter all over her hands. I cried all the way home, because I feel like we aren’t safe anywhere.”
  • Before her son, John, got treatment for his allergies, Mooney endured dirty looks from other parents when her son started coughing in public. “I heard nasty comments, such as ‘Stay away from that kid,’” she says. “It breaks your heart to hear someone say that about a one-year-old!”  
  • “When Elle was first diagnosed, at 18 months, grocery shopping took two or three hours because I had to read every label, and had no idea what was safe and what wasn't. It's shocking how much American food is processed with peanuts,” says Lisa Daily, of Sarasota, FL, about her peanut-allergic daughter, Elle, 6. “Now that she's in kindergarten, I have to worry that about whether or not one of her classmates has brought a contaminated snack. One mom brought peanut butter cookies to our nut-free classroom. If she is accidentally exposed, I worry that no one will notice in time to give her the EpiPen. Kids with peanut allergies can die within a few minutes of exposure. Halloween is a nightmare, eating in restaurants is a challenge, and even birthday parties pose a threat.”