This is a blog post that I’ve been intending to write for years. I wanted to share what we’ve experienced about helping our son, Morgan, learn how to manage visiting his allergist while he still lived at home. He could then make good choices about getting an allergist once he was out on his own, and Mom wasn’t around to give directions!
We’ve been blessed that Morgan was able to have the same allergist for 21 years, until he graduated from college. She watched him grow up and to learn to take responsibility for his health. However, it wasn’t until he was 19 years old, as a freshman in college, that he went to the allergist unaccompanied by Mom. Boy did it take work to get to that point!
Morgan visited with our allergist at least every 6 months throughout his life, beginning with his first appointment at 15 months old. He learned the routine of an office visit – fill out the paperwork listing all his medications, have a height and weight check, take a lung function test or two, and visit with the allergist to tell her how he’s feeling.
If Morgan had experienced any type of issue – a cold, virus or a pollen reaction – I wanted him to learn how to use his words to explain what happened. This was good practice for him to be able to explain to any adult what he was experiencing in his body and what he needed to feel better.
It took many years for Morgan to learn how to properly list all his medications that he took for pollen allergies and asthma, and to not forget any of them. He had to know the exact medication name, the milligrams, how often he took the medicine and whether he needed refills. I began having him complete this form when he was in grade school so that he could learn the details of his health needs. He would need to check with me about the answers, but he did all the writing.
Many times he would have school forms or camp forms that needed to be completed. He would complete parts of those forms, and I would fill in the rest until he was able to complete the forms by himself once he applied for accommodations in college.
It is vital that our children know all about their health condition(s), and are prepared to go to the doctor by themselves. Taking the initiative and the time when they are young to allow them to learn about the paperwork will help them later in life when they leave home.
It was at Morgan’s first allergist appointment that he had his first skin prick test. Holding down a wiggly, itchy toddler for 15 minutes was no easy feat!
From that test on, I kept an Excel spreadsheet where I input results from every skin prick, RAST and Immunocap blood test through the years. Every 3-4 years, we had repeat tests run. Because of the number of allergies that Morgan has, it has been helpful for him to refer back to this spreadsheet to see if he’s got an allergy to mold, or to some food that he wants to try. Then he can discuss the allergy test result with the doctor to see if a food challenge is warranted.
Once Morgan graduated from college, and moved to a suburb of Denver, Colorado, he needed to get a new allergist. He searched around and found a physician who knew our allergist. This doctor had been an allergist for over 30 years, and that made Morgan feel more comfortable. Morgan moved again two years later, and once again wanted to find an allergist near his home. This time, it wasn’t as easy to find a good fit. The first doctor he saw said that carrying just one autoinjector – Auvi-Q – was enough. That was enough for Morgan to decide this wasn’t the doctor for him. He knew he needed to always carry two Auvi-Q’s, and the fact that this doctor didn’t state that was concerning enough to leave the practice.
He decided to search for another doctor, and has now found a younger woman that he likes very much. She has redone all of his food allergy testing, and found that he is able to do an oral challenge for almonds. So far, he hasn’t found a desire for this. He continues to have food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish and shellfish, and continues to see an allergist once a year and ALWAYS carries two Auvi-Qs with him everywhere.
I have full confidence that he knows how to manage his health, and he is fully capable of communicating with an allergist about all of his medical needs. And that was always the goal!