A Wanaka woman knows all too well the challenges that come with allergies.
Her three children, who are now adults and whom she wishes not to name to respect their privacy, had a range of allergies growing up – related to both food and the environment.
The woman’s youngest daughter was born with an allergy to dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, kiwifruit and pollens.
She has grown out of the allergy to eggs and can tolerate a bit of dairy now without getting hives.
Her son is allergic to dairy, grasses and pollens, and her eldest daughter is coeliac and allergic to eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, grasses, pollen, pineapple and melon.
“Coping with the allergies has varied over time,” she said.
“There is a larger abundance of food available that is suitable for their allergies. So finding dairy, gluten and egg-free alternatives has definitely [become easier since] they were younger.”
She said going out for meals had always been “tricky”.
“Coping with the allergies has varied over time.”
However, most places were “great” as they offered gluten and dairy-free options.
But unless they had completely separate preparation areas there was often a bit of contamination.
Some of the children’s allergies had improved, but other had become more of an issue, especially those related to nuts.
“When one of my daughters went on a school exchange [she] was advised by the doctor to carry two EpiPens [adrenaline auto-injectors] on the long-haul flights. These are very expensive,” she said.
“Additionally, airlines do not make any effort to accommodate for severe nut allergies, despite these being relatively common and the only allergy that we are aware of that can cause anaphylaxis from breathing in the nut allergens.”
She said it was difficult to ask that no nuts be taken on to planes, making travelling difficult.
She hoped more could be done to educate the general public on the severity of allergies, particularly to nuts.
It was not just a case of “people being fussy”, she said.
For the family, one of the scariest allergy experiences they had encountered was when her son climbed an almond tree.
When he climbed down he looked grey and felt unwell.
“We rushed him to the after-hours doctor, who stabilised him and said he was having a severe allergic reaction.”
“I think subsidisation should have occurred a long time ago and should be made much easier, as the ongoing costs can be a huge strain on families or individuals.”
The children’s parents have never had to administer adrenaline.
Instead, they have worked hard on coming up with preventive measures.
“I have always been careful about making sure they are aware of their allergies and making sure any friend’s parents were aware. They always carried EpiPens with them too.”
As a family, they always had two auto-injectors and a couple of adrenaline vials.
“The EpiPens would last three to six months and were over $120 and continued to go up in price. The vials are much cheaper through the doctor and have better expiry times, but they’re much more difficult to draw up and administer than EpiPens.”
Their spending had been “extensive” over the past 21 years.
“We would very much appreciate [the auto-injectors] to be subsidised,” she said.