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Allergies: Gillian's Story

I was diagnosed with allergies when I was a little kid. Some people have mild allergies while others are unfortunate enough to have severe allergies that could even kill them.

Although my allergies aren't that severe, I am allergic to so many different things that they could really interfere with my life if I let them. Some of the things that affect me are pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and certain medications (like penicillin, which makes me swell up like a giant balloon!). I'm also allergic to some foods.

The Rx for All Those Tissues

I've been dealing with allergies for a long time now. I've been going to the allergist since I was 5 years old! I go every 2 weeks to get two shots, which really don't bother me at all. It's become a part of my life. I also take two different medications. As long as I get the shots and take my medicines, I can pretty much carry on with my normal activities. It's all up to me whether I want to suffer or not!

There are times my allergies get really bad, though — like winter and spring. Winter is the worst because we all spend more time indoors where it can be dusty. I am always sneezing like there's no tomorrow, and most people think I have a cold.

How It's Affected My Life

Other than family, no one truly knows I have allergies, although I have to tell people it's allergies when my eyes start to tear up. I do get made fun of. Sometimes my buddies just tease in a friendly way, but kids I don't know can bully me. I just ignore them. I often just tune them out by blasting my music. I also like to write in my journal or do yoga to work through any sad feelings.

You can't tell by looking at me that I have a health condition. I look like a normal kid, just like anyone else you would run into on the street. I don't mind telling people about my allergies — after all, it's normal to have them. It may come up in health class or when I'm congested or my eyes tear up or something. But I don't go out of my way to talk about it or make it a big deal. Having allergies hasn't affected my self-confidence.

Sure, my allergies have held me back from doing some of the things that I love to do. For example, I am big traveler and I would enjoy going to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. But when I come anywhere within a 10-foot range of cherry blossoms it feels like I lose almost all my senses — all but my dear little taste buds! My eyesight goes blurry, everything sounds like it's underwater, and I can't see or smell anything. Even though it's only temporary, I still feel miserable. And when I went to Guatemala, I felt kind of funny because the group I was with was given fresh coconut, which I'm allergic to. So I had to eat an apple.

My allergies haven't stopped me from traveling when I can, though. My class trip was to Williamsburg in Virginia. At first it was supposed to be during cherry blossom time, and that had me worried. Fortunately, it was changed to February, so I went and had the best time!

I've had to rethink some of my dreams, too. For some people, allergies go away over time, but doctors don't know if my allergies will ever go away completely. Since I'm allergic to animals with fur such as cats, dogs, hamsters, and gerbils, I may need to adjust my hopes of being a veterinarian or working in an agricultural-science department. But I'm interested in so many things and there are plenty of other careers out there!

Dealing With Allergies

I have learned to deal with my allergies and even see the good side sometimes. Having allergies has taught me not to be prejudiced about people's health conditions.

And I could have it much worse. Allergies run in families. Just about everyone on my dad's side has them, and my dad's allergies are, like, 10 times worse than mine. He's great support for me, though, because he knows how it feels. I just talk to him when it gets tough.

My allergies have been getting better. They aren't as bad as they used to be now that I look back on it. I think part of that is my treatment is working.

But knowing the things I have to avoid and what to do about the allergies definitely helps a lot. For example, if I don't take my medicine I can get really bad breath. And there are too many cute guys out there to let that happen!

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014