No day off from daughter's deadly allergies

Last updated 10:00 19/11/2014

DANGER FOODS: Accidental exposure to dairy products has caused anaphylactic reactions in Leasa's daughter.

Does an allergy rule your life?

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Does an allergy rule your life?

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Allergies have changed our lives forever. When my daughter was small she developed eczema and it spread quickly.

When I first asked our GP he said it was probably allergies and she would grow out of it. He gave us a bunch of creams to use and sent us on our way.

Fast-forward to 13 months old, she still had eczema head to toe and we were beginning to suspect the allergies were worse. I had been very cautious about how I introduced new foods and was taking it slow with dairy as it made her eczema worse.

On this particular day, she had eaten the most yoghurt ever - a whole two tablespoons. Within minutes she had hives all over her body and her face became unrecognisable as it swelled up. I had no idea what was happening.

As it started to settle, I took pictures. I wanted my doctor to believe me. I took her in the next day to show him the pictures and he referred me to see a paediatrician as soon as possible.

The advice I received at the time was all over the place and I was totally overwhelmed, but the resounding message was don't feed her dairy. Everything else was a blur.

I can understand why it is so confusing for people who don't have allergies, it is confusing enough when you live with them.

Almost a year later, she had her first full blown anaphylactic reaction to an accidental exposure to dairy in a piece of luncheon meat, literally a week after seeing a paediatrician who said this was unlikely. From then on we knew we needed to read the labels for everything.

The first few supermarket trips took nearly two hours. We now know she has a long list of allergies; most are mild but two could result in anaphylactic reactions and kill her.

It is not something we can have a day off from, like any chronic health issue. We need to be aware all the time and as time goes on most things become automatic, like grabbing her medical bag whenever we go out.

Don't get me started on the price of Epi-pens, it's ridiculous and the odd relief as they expire knowing we haven't had to use them but that's still hundreds of dollars a year that could be used for so many other things.

She started school this year and that was a tremendously worrying time. It was a new environment and a lot more independence; she could easily be away from teachers when a reaction starts or they could miss the early signs.

Thankfully the school has been amazingly supportive; organising training for all their staff and a long list of other things to help her to be as safe as possible. I have heard some horror stories about schools not taking it seriously enough.

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I always have my cell phone on me and it is always charged and on loud. I have near panic attacks any time the school calls, dreading that it's 'that' call.

I have to go on all her play dates with her and it involves multiple phone calls with the other parents first. I find that hard sometimes because I am not that kind of overly organised hovering person, but to keep her safe I have to be.

The support of other parents in similar situations has been invaluable over the years.

Aside from her allergies though I really want people to know she is a really normal kid. She rolls down hills, she loves her cat, she is super excited to have lost her first tooth and wants to join the circus when she grows up.

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