Hi I’m Greta (you chime in with hi Greta now). I am a 42 year old, very athletic, live life with gusto, have more energy than the Energizer Bunny, healthy woman. Well…I feel fabulous… better than when I was 18 and people even tell me I look healthy (never turn down a compliment). But, the “Princess of Positive,” yours truly, is actually one giant walking allergy behind the healthy exterior! If I go 24 hours with Allegra…hives. Right now, I’ve got my asthma under control, but trust me, I have full stock in pharmaceuticals for those bad days. After having 3 sips of white wine for the very last time (sniff sniff) last night (I immediately felt ill and could tell that I was going to have a severe allergic reaction). I thought I would write a little blog post about my allergies. Who knows…. it might give hope and a positive outlook for those with or parents of children with severe allergies. Allergies (peanut & more) are certainly a bigger deal today then they were when I was kid.

You see, my health is nothing I ever really discuss. I don’t really talk about my list of allergies with people, I just live life to the fullest and deal with them. Well here goes….

ages 6 – 17 What can I say, but I was for the most part a miniature version of who I am now – busy & energetic. However, I was probably around 6 years old when going to an allergist because of rashes, hayfever etc… became part of my life. I took allergy shots early on and that pretty much went on and off until around age 26! My kooky allergist loved me because I got him in some journal for having extreme dust, mite, pollen, tree and grass allergies. So I took the shots, went through tons of pharmaceuticals, went to other allergists for second and third opinions and went through more “scratch tests” than I care to remember (itched for a week afterward). I got sick a lot as a kid and winters in MA were never easy for me. I remember having to stay in for recess because of bronchitis, pneumonia or some funky sickness. But my allergies never stopped me from being a wild and crazy kid. I’m just fortunate they let me graduate my senior year as I was sick more than the allowed days!

18-25 My wonderful college years. Let’s just say I had more fun than humanly possible and somehow squeaked out a couple of degrees. But my college was speckled with lots of illness…especially during exam times. I sometimes even ended up in the hospital and I lived on prednisone (I looked like a chipmunk most the time) and would visit the ER often with allergic reactions or sickness. I started going down the list of antibiotics and crossing them off. I developed allergies to: penicillins, cephalosporins, sulfa, tetracyclines,,,ya that pretty much sucked. So I decided no more antibiotics unless I was dead or close to it and someone would have to convince me I needed it to live. Clearly, I was given too many antibiotics early on). One doctor wanted me to be admitted for desensitization of antibiotics, but I refused. Figured new ones would be created before I needed them again (I was right). When I was 24, my parents insisted I go to a week of outpatient testing at National Jewish Hospital in Denver (I managed to do some skiing too) . After they identified everything that was a trigger and changed my medicines around, I swear I was a new woman! Got a new lease on a healthy life! Really never got sick much since that. Asthma and allergies were now under control with the newest and best combination of medicine (I took a bunch). I used to come in between periods of teaching PE and suck on a nebulizer.

My late 20s: Bring on the food allergies to everything I love! My 2 favorite things – raw oysters and red wine! UGH! Go ahead and break this Boston girl’s heart by adding in clams and scallops too! Now that a shellfish allergy is in full blow – iodine is also an issue. Then the worst allergy possible happened (I never thought anything could be worse than losing my red wine) I became allergic to LATEX!!! My son was in the hospital on and off for his first 3 years and I got itchy a lot. Then one day I had his catheter laying across my leg and BINGO – it was all swollen where the latex was. This made the hospitalizations a bit tricky as latex-free stuff was not readily available and cost-effective. Latex allergies were pretty new. We moved around and I was thrilled when one children’s hospital became latex-free because spina bifida children also had latex allergies. Every cleaning person would insist on coming in the room with latex gloves on and somehow touch me. I would break out instantly – insane. A party with balloons was now a huge ordeal. Then there was the fact that I was a PE teacher and Athletic trainer: athletic tape, rehab equipment, playground balls (you have no idea how much stuff has latex in it)! Now you understand why I am perfectly content working behind a computer.

My 30s I seem to get a grip on most things and just learned what to avoid. I had kids now and no time for sickness and actually became much healthier. Of course, there was a large learning curve to the latex allergy: some garden hoses, that rubber stopper in the sink, some of those gripper kitchen tools, the hammer handle, the rubber mats in my car, golf club grips…. and more. So I learned to avoid and that was the name of the game!

The last month: Dang sunscreen landed me with a week of hives and prednisone. No more PABA for this camper. And of course, the culprit that lead me to this post…white wine!!!

You see folks…I’m just fine! I no longer see an allergist or a pulmonologist, watch what I eat & touch, take my medicine, exercise, eat right, drink enough coffee in the mornings, enough alcohol on the weekends and life is good! Just don’t expect me to look all cheerful when you decorate the party with balloons…I’ll be the one hanging on the patio! Ya, I need a new medic alert bracelet and I need to reload benadryl in my purse and check the expiration of my epi-pen (I am such a slacker)…but I forget most days that I have any allergies at all! PLEASE…all I ask is do not make me allergic to bananas (it is a common crossover latex allergy).

8 Replies to “Living With Severe Allergies”

  1. Wow, Greta, I had no idea! I have some allergies (more than most people but less than you) and I know what a pain it can be. It’s surprisingly difficult to get other people to take it seriously.

    Once again you amaze me with all that you do. You really are a tiara wearing Energizer Bunny!

  2. Mercy, woman! You are the Princess of Positive. Love that about you. Great post on living with allergies.

  3. You are the Princess of Positive, To me Princess. Read your great post on allergies three times. Always trying to fully understand you. I have now learned a lot. As stated you are indeed like the energized bunny, never stop or run out of energy. Yet, I never noticed nor appreciated the problem you were trying to control. You fooled me. I have now learned, and no long will, question your food or drink choices Notwithstanding, that which you reveal in your post, you are the healthiest person I have had the pleasure to have known. A live health poster girl. Greta, we share a common wish, that your allergy problem will soon be a threat of the past . Don’t change.

  4. Thanks Ellen. Sir JJ – now you know why I flinched when you tried to give me an oyster the other day!!! LOL!


  6. Oh my gosh! I just hope this is not how our little boy will look back on his “allergic journey”. That must have been so hard and it sounds like it has really defined you. Our son has had food allergies, intolerances and severe eczema. We have always had to be so careful about what he comes into contact with. The one thing I wanted to share though is that his food issues and skin have dramatically improved once he started taking a probiotic from Vidazorb. He was once on so many medications that were making him weak and sick and when we he became steroid dependent we knew we need to find something to help him and not to cover up his symptoms. His probiotic is incredible and maybe this would work for you too? I hope our story helps 🙂

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