The real cost of living with allergies

Last updated 05:00 13/11/2014
Honey bee

STAYING ALERT: Honey bee venom and hayfever are among Sue's daughter's allergies.

Does an allergy rule your life?

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Our 6-year-old daughter has allergies to honey bee venom, pineapple, grapefruit, dairy, cats, dustmites and chlorine. She also has asthma and gets hayfever.

She has an epipen for the first three (bee, pineapple, grapefruit), and antihistamine for the rest. She is on two different preventors for her asthma, along with Ventolin and steroids when needed.

We have to be constantly alert with her allergies, checking food she is eating if we are out, and ingredients on everything we buy. We need to be aware of bees when out and about, and have her medical kit with us all the time.

Inside is antihistamine medicine, an epipen, a ventolin inhaler and spacer, antihistamine cream, her action plan, and contact phone numbers. In summer, we also have sunscreen in it as she reacts to many of them. This bag goes everywhere with her. When she is at school there is one the same in the office.

When we are out, there are times we can't go to certain places because there is nothing she can have to eat there or, like at the gardens recently, there are too many bees. It's always in the back of our minds.

I'm always on the lookout for reactions and if I see spots or hives coming up on her, I immediately give her antihistamine and keep a close eye on her. Random reactions to unknown things are very frustrating.

There are times when I need to be there with her, for example at school swimming, to make sure she isn't reacting too much, has had antihistamine beforehand, and showers properly afterwards.

When we are at family or friends' places with cats, we are constantly reminding her to wash her hands if she touches the cat or anything the cat has sat on.

Epipens are not funded in New Zealand and expire after a year, so have to be replaced. This is a significant cost, at approx $125 each. We have been petitioning the government to help get these funded.

We have a fantastic GP, but specialist care in Wellington is a little hit and miss as there are no immunologists (allergy specialists) for children.

We get most of our support from a Facebook group that five of us set up late last year when Allergy New Zealand closed their forum group. It's great to get advice from a group of people who fully understand what we are going through, and also to be able to help others who are just starting the allergy journey.

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It's incredibly overwhelming when you discover your child has allergies, and having the support of others who have been there, done that is priceless. The group is private so you need to request to join. Being private, it also means that unless a friend or family member is also part of the group they can't see your posts, which is helpful when you have family and friends that just don't quite get it.

We are lucky that our daughter's allergies aren't too serious, and she isn't likely to go into anaphylactic shock from just touching foods she is allergic to. But even then, her allergies are unfortunately still a big part of our family life.

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