Thursday, June 16, 2011

Henry: My Child With Allergies

I know I've mentioned before that Henry, my oldest child and only boy, has multiple allergies.  He's allergic to most nuts and has to carry an epi-pen and read ingredients before eating any processed foods.  It's not the most fun allergy in the world, but it's not the worst either.  In fact, in 11 years of eating non-stop, Henry has never really had a reaction to nuts and has never used that epi-pen.  For this fact, we are very thankful.

Most of the time, we don't think too much about Henry's nut allergy and that is because we are all consumed by his other allergies.  Henry is allergic to ALL TREES and ALL GRASSES and when these allergies are not kept in check, he gets asthma.  And not the simple "use your inhaler" type of asthma either.  I'm referring to the type of asthma that lasts for days and leaves Henry hooked up to a nebulizer and gasping for air and when that doesn't work, being rushed to the hospital and dosed with oral steroids.  Henry's allergy problems are not limited to breathing in pollen either.  When he gets pollen on his hands and rubs his eyes, his eyeballs over-react and swell out of his eye sockets.  How do we know this, you ask?  I've seen it.  Twice.  And it's not pretty.

Henry was an early June baby and mere days after his birth, I noticed that as my own pollen allergies got bad, my little baby seemed to be suffering from the same symptoms.  I brought up the possibility of Henry having seasonal allergies with his pediatrician (a no-nonsense type of woman who lost the honor of our custom soon after the following conversation) who told me with no uncertainty that I was a hysterical new mother and was losing my mind.  Babies, I was told, can not have allergies.

But we now know better, don't we Henry?

By age two, Henry had sampled and outgrown numerous allergy medications.  We got a new pediatrician who specialized in allergies and asthma and Henry was tested for allergies at two different allergist offices.  I mentioned here that Henry once visited a World Famous Allergist (Dr. Michael Young, Children's Hospital Boston, in case you arrived here by google search and are curious) who concluded that Henry might want to live in either a plastic bubble or a desert (okay, those weren't his EXACT words, but the message was the same).

The desert was tempting after a few winters in New England, but the bubble thing seemed a little extreme and Seinfeld-esque.  Instead, we spent years trying different combinations of allergy medications and inhaled steroids.  Henry, who had moved beyond the OTC medications as a toddler, tried multiple pills, sprays, inhalers and eye drops.  Some things worked for a few months, some things worked for a year or two.  Luckily for us, we have an amazing allergist who loves to solve a good puzzle and luckily, Henry doesn't know a life that doesn't include snorting liquid up one's nostril twice and day and swallowing over-sized pills.

Gordy and I have done our part, too.  Henry's bed and linens are covered in hypoallergenic cases and he has an air purifier in his room.  We NEVER open a window in our house lest the dreaded pollen finds a way inside and we have high-tech air filters running all year long.  If we could figure out a cost-effective way to hermetically seal our house, and we could guarantee that it would end our asthma-induced sleepless nights forever, we would do so in an instant.

I have come to dread the spring and it's inevitable arrival of tree / plant pollen.  Historically, spring is when Henry racks up the absences on the bottom of that report card.  And it is also that time of year when Gordy and I find ourselves lying in bed, listening to our child cough and wonder if we'll be able to sleep through the night without having to get up multiple times to nebulize.  

For many years, our wonderful allergist tried to convince Henry to start allergy shots.  It has always been our personal goal to get Henry through the bad allergy season without going on oral steroids and frankly, I've never been too crazy about his inhaled steroid use either.  The allergist assured us that Henry would be medicine-free once he got on the shot regimen and that all we had to do was wait for Henry to be old enough and brave enough to agree to be injected each week.

Last August, Henry decided his time had arrived and for the last 11 months, Henry has faced this picture once a week:

Two shots for his right arm.

And two shots for his left arm.

Four shots total.  Every week.

Henry has been a very good sport about the entire thing:

It can't possibly feel good to have allergens injected into your bony, little arm.

And it's not that much fun to have to wait the required 30 minutes in the doctor's lobby with your annoying sisters:

But he's been doing it and we've had our first good spring.  Ever.  The change in Henry has been unbelievable.   With the exception of one or two rescue inhaler puffs, Henry has not had a single asthma episode this entire season.  His eyes are no longer red, swollen and half-closed.  I don't hear him cough or sniff every few seconds and the sneezing has completely stopped.

The most amazing thing?  Henry is off his steroid medications!  He's still taking a little allergy medicine to get him over the seasonal hump, but his Adair disk sits unused on his dresser.  

So there, pollens!  Cover our deck furniture with your ugly green-ness.  Float invisibly in our air and up our nostrils.  Henry has found a bubble after all!


Granny said...

Good job, Henry! Not fun, but such great results.

Shanon Hilton said...

Wow, poor Henry! To be allergic to trees and pollen! I'm so happy that you found a solution!

Diane Freeman said...

Well, that’s quite a good news for Henry. It could only mean that he can now live normally, without any restrictions from what he should or shouldn't eat. But I think you should still observe him. He does have a chronic condition. Meaning, his asthma or some allergies may come back eventually.

Martha said...

Thanks for the advice, Diane!

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