Category: allergies

There’s nothing quite like hearing others share stories of empowerment, overcoming challenges, and making a real difference to make you feel inspired. On Monday evening, we hosted our Advocating for Others webinar with Health Activists Janeen and Marla – and I learned so much from these powerful parents. In our community, we often focus on patient Health Activists, but there is a group of dedicated, passionate leaders who have followed a similar path – through caring for someone else experiencing a health condition. This month we focused in on this particular group of advocates and our webinar was a wonderful way to tie up the month on a positive note.

Though Marla and Janeen each bring different skills for overcoming challenges in the world of caregiving Health Activism – there was a lot of common ground and advice that could apply to anyone in a caregiving position whether you’re caring for your child, your spouse, or someone else you love. Here are my top take-aways from the webinar:


  • Educate yourself first. When facing the diagnosis of a loved one, learning as much as you can is the first step. By investigating on your own, you’ll become more confident about your new role as caregiver and be able to be the best advocate.
  • Your story can inspire greater awareness. Marla said that, along the way as she learned and highlighted her son’s potential and achieved milestones, this was an excellent way to open up the conversation and educate others about special needs.
  • You know your child or loved one – be ready to step up and speak for them when you face the world outside. You may be uncomfortable at first – but you will grow into this naturally.
  • One of the biggest challenges is having others understand and making sure they are respectful of you and your choices as a caregiver. Don’t give up. Find people who will support you. Whether that’s family or friends – find people who understand, can give you what you need, and will be able to help you get things you need to in life.
  • Put on your oxygen mask first. Remember, you need to keep yourself in mind. It can be easy to fully immerse yourself in caregiving and neglect your own needs – be aware of when this may happen. Find time for yourself when you can. Pursue your passions. Use your creativity when you can. Connect with others and be social. This will ground you and keep you from becoming overwhelmed. Find stress-relievers that work for you. Schedule it in and pursue what makes you happy. Date nights! Outings with friends! Take time for yourself when you can.
  • Connect with others online – share anecdotes, facts, and what works for you – this could really help other people and, by talking to them, you could learn from them. The online community is the best way to connect. No matter where you live – you can find others who have stories and experiences that you will relate to. Use this and take comfort in everything you can learn there.
  • Anyone can be an advocate. No one is really prepared at the beginning but anyone has the ability to get there and be involved. You don’t even need to have a loved one in the community for you to be an advocate for that community. You will grow into your advocacy. You will find a way, no matter your personality, to be an advocate. Especially if you’re speaking for someone you love or doing something you love.
  • Don’t stop. If people aren’t able to support you and give you what you need – gravitate to those who will. Don’t get discouraged when it gets tough. Look for opportunities to educate, even when it is tough. You can sometimes turn ignorant off-hand comments into the chance to educate and start a conversation.

And, in summation, we asked our panelists: if you could only give one piece of advice to a new caregiver or parent, what would that be? Here’s what they said:

Marla: Take it one day at a time.
Janeen: Trust yourself. Know your child or loved one. You know what’s best. Go with your instincts.

Such great advice. Stay tuned for the archived webinar so you can watch the presentation! And I will be posting a more in-depth recap as well.

And here are the slides from the webinar for you to check out. Feel free to use any of the topics to start a conversation in your own community or blog. And check out the resources on the last few slides that Marla and Janeen recommend to new parents or caregivers for the Special Needs, Down Syndrome, Food Allergy, or Asthma communities:

If you’re living with seasonal or indoor allergies and actively participate in online health communities, you may qualify for a paid survey hosted by WEGO Health on behalf of one of our sponsors.

This 26-question survey is about your experiences with seasonal or indoor allergies, it should take about 15 or 20 minutes to complete.

All participants who complete the survey will receive a $10 gift certificate.

This survey will only be open for a short period of time, so take our Allergy Insight Survey today:

“I wanted to hear about real life scenarios instead of sterile advice from medical sites…I wanted the next mom who got the peanut allergy diagnosis to find me and know that it is going to be ok, really, truly it is.”

Where to find her: Peanut Free Mama
I’ve been blogging since 2002. I started a personal blog in 2002 at Gab’s House o’ Sass, then I started a blog for my daughter in 2004 which evolved into my current blog (where I devote most of my writing).
Occupation: I manage the marketing department of a scientific publisher in Northern California.
Why “Peanut Fee Mama”?
When my daughter was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, I really felt that I absolutely had to live peanut and nut free as well. Partly as a sign of solidarity, but also I didn’t want to run the risk of causing a reaction by something I ate. So when I created a blog to document the journey we were on, “Peanut Free Mama” seemed like a natural choice.
What made you start your blog?
When my daughter was about 18 months old, she ate a tiny bit of toast (about the size of a pea) with peanut butter on it. Within minutes, her eyes were swollen, her face was covered in hives, and her nose was running. It was awful! Once we had an official diagnosis (and not much else, except for an epi pen prescription), I started on a journey to find as much information as I could via my own research online. I came up empty handed alot! I wanted to hear about real life scenarios instead of sterile advice from medical sites. I started my blog to show how a regular mom was dealing with a peanut allergy and trying to give their child a normal life. I wanted the next mom who got the peanut allergy diagnosis to find me and know that it is going to be ok, really, truly it is.
Are there other places that we can find you on the web?
You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter.
What has been the hardest part about dealing with your child’s peanut allergy for you?
Two things:
First: Trust. Trusting that whoever is watching your child (be it at daycare or school or babysitting) REALLY understands the ramifications of her allergy. It doesn’t matter if it’s family or not, it’s hard to trust another person with your child’s care when they have a special need like this. I’m not worried about my daughter eating peanuts or peanut butter directly. I AM worried about her trusting an adult who doesn’t know how to read a label (or wont bother to).
Second: Mortality. There’s nothing more sobering than facing your child’s mortality at an early age. Sure most parents deal with general fears about their kids getting hit by a car or talking to strangers. But having a child with a food allergy that involves anaphylaxis makes you think about your child dying. A lot. It isn’t fun.
What do you think is the hardest part about dealing with the peanut allergy for her?
She’s just starting to get that she can’t have many of the things her friends have. She doesn’t cry about it, but I can sense the frustration of it. She also isn’t enjoying sitting at the “allergy table” at school. I think she’d be happier if we came up with another solution once she’s in Kindergarten this fall.
What do you wish non allergic parents understood about food allergies and allergy parents?
We’re not doing this to them. We’re not asking them to refrain from sending in nutty treats to school or checking a food label to make their lives difficult. They have the luxury of sending their child off to school or a playdate without wondering if they’ll come home (literally) or not due to something they may have inadvertently ingested. If we could make this allergy business go away, we would!
What do you think is the most important thing a parent of a newly diagnosed food allergic child should know?
You aren’t alone. It gets easier. Day by day you’ll get used to this and after a while this will all be second nature and (dare I say it?) a non-issue for you.
To connect with Gabrielle, visit her WEGO Health page.
This Spotlight Interview was conducted by Janeen, one of WEGO Health’s Community Leaders and author of Our Story: The Good, The Bad, and the Food Allergies, a blog about raising children with food allergies.

In our ongoing work to empower Health Activists, we are holding Community Insight Groups – online focus groups – for people who are active contributors to the online seasonal allergy community.

We are holding Insight Groups on Tuesday, June 23rd for people who suffer from seasonal allergies AND are active contributors or frequent visitors to health care communities. Insight groups will be held at noon and 6pm Eastern Time. All participants will receive a $25 gift certificate.

Please note: These groups will take one hour and are held remotely. Participants can join from anywhere in the country, but will required to be online and on the phone at the same time.

Not sure if you’re an active contributor? We’re looking for people who participate in online discussion forums, question & answer sites, blogs, Twitter, etc.

If you are interested, please complete a short survey to be eligible for participation.

You will be contacted, if you are a good match for this study. For additional information please contact us. All participants will receive a $25 gift certificate.

Check out a few great WEGO Health links on Seasonal Allergies:

Allergies are everywhere and WEGO Health is no exception! Since Spring sprung a few weeks ago – we’ve had a lot of great discussions and blog posts about itchy eyes, sneezing fits, and prevalent tissue piles.

Have you noticed that this year your seasonal allergies are worse than ever? You’re not alone. In fact, some say that this year seasonal allergies are at an all time high! Some say allergy attacks started a month earlier in 2009 than 2008!

Photo courtesy of code poet

As plants and trees bloom and flower earlier each year due to climate changes, the pollen gets more unbearable. In places where the weather shifts from cold to warm really fast – the plants get confused and often release their pollen all at once, causing an allergy overload! Did your city make The Worst Cities for Spring Allergies 2009 list?

Here are a few tips to try:

  • Use an air conditioner to filter the air (even using the fan on your AC unit can help keep pollen out of the house)
  • Try to avoid outdoor activities at peak pollen times (early morning and late afternoon). If you want to exercise or be outside – midday is the best (between noon & 2pm).
  • Switch up your shower routine: washing your hair or bathing before bed gets pollen off you so you won’t be sleeping with it.
  • Wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly. This is a good way to get rid an environment of pollen and dust mites (which can trigger allergies all year round!)
  • Check out webmd’s comprehensive How To Survive Spring Allergy Season

Check out these WEGO Health links to great content on Seasonal Allergies: