Going Gluten-FreeSeptember 7, 2011

Airborne Allergies and Mothering Moments

For over a year, my 11-year old son, Robby, sniffed and snorted every 15 to 20 seconds. Loudly. Without fail. SNIFF. SNORT. Driving in the car, eating his dinner, doing his homework, getting ready for bed. SNIFF. SNORT.

It drove me crazy. It really bugged my otherwise Zen-like husband. We’d routinely hand him a tissue and command him to blow his nose. But 15 seconds later, he’d be right back at it again.  SNIFF. SNORT.

“Robby! At least try to stop sniffing,” I’d plead. 

“Okay, I will,” he’d promise. But 15 seconds later. SNIFF. SNORT.

Outside playing football or Frisbee, on the tennis court, watching TV, playing computer games. SNIFF. SNORT. It drove his three older brothers nuts. They’d punch and hit him to get him to stop. His friends would cajole him to knock it off. Even strangers would offer him Kleenex. It was that bad.

I’d try to reason with him, explaining that the snorting sound was really gross. Once I pointed out an old man doing it and asked, “Do you realize that’s what you sound like, bud?” He would somberly shake his head and promise to stop. But 15 seconds later. SNIFF. SNORT.

We yelled and we scolded. We’d send him to bed early, ground him from the computer, make him go to his room. Nothing would make him stop the infuriating noise-making. SNIFF. SNORT.

After an extremely frustrating, irritating and exasperating morning drive with Robby to school, I called a pediatric allergist and made an appointment -- but I didn’t really believe he needed an allergist. He’d never had any allergic symptoms when we lived in Ohio … except maybe a week or two of a mild runny nose. Nothing like the snorting and sniffing that’d been going on since we moved to Atlanta over a year ago. I thought threatening him with this appointment and the possibility of shots or nose surgery might break this habit and scare him sniff-less.

It just scared him. 

The day of his appointment, Robby was so anxious he couldn’t eat breakfast and trembled as we sat in the waiting room. He bravely held his tears as trays of potential allergens were pushed into his back and his arm was pricked with tiny needles full of dust and mold.

After a few minutes, hives began popping up all over his back and up and down his arm. Ten minutes later, the bumps ran together and his entire back became red and swollen. Robby was allergic to dust mites, dog and cat dander, ragweed and many different molds. He was also allergic to red oak, willow, hickory, birch, red maple, red cedar, elm and sycamore trees, as well as Bahia, Bermuda, timothy fescue, Johnson and June grasses. He was even slightly allergic to peanuts.

He squirmed and complained that his back hurt and itched. The allergist told me that Atlanta was infamous for its year-round high pollen count and the large numbers of allergy sufferers — both native Georgians and transplants like Robby -- who had no problems when they lived elsewhere.

Robby burst into tears, as if the pressure of trying to stop sniffing and snorting to please his family finally hit him.

I held him and apologized again and again for being so hard on him. I begged him to forgive me. Obviously, I wasn’t going to win any Mother of the Year award. 

With tears running down his face, he looked up and asked, “Can you talk to my brothers and make them apologize, too?” SNIFF. SNORT. 

I promised I would.

When it comes to allergies, have you had similar “mothering moments”?

Diana Keough is founder of ShareWik.com.

Comments (5)

I was also your child! Turns out wheat allergies and molds were my nemeses, but no one understood any of it! I just learned to live with a tissue box glued to my body, and when I moved to California from Moldy Missouri at age 38, I began to live ! Counseling helps the person who has been abused by siblings for sniff snort.. apologies are nice, but it goes deep..

Posted by: GAil Q | September 9, 2011 9:06 AM    Report this comment

I'm sure many people have had these types of issues. In our case, my daughter had what the doctor called "non-allergenic rhionitis". He was not an allergy doctor... In any case, my daughter was also diagnosed with Crohn's disease which is an auto-immune inflammatory disease. It has become clear to me that she has a lot of inflammation in her body. When we switched to a gluten-free diet, most of the sniffling has disappeared, or at least is more manageable. Seriously, we would get so irritated with all the sniffling -- especially at night and in the morning upon rising. I thought, "How will she ever live with anyone with this annoying habit!" Things are better now, tho.

Posted by: Leslie D | September 8, 2011 3:31 PM    Report this comment

Makes me think of my little sister. She was diagnosed with a milk allergy at birth. When she was around a year old she kept getting horrible hives. We literally went through everything she ate and made several trips to the doctors office. It turned out that her baby wash had milk proteins in it an that was what was causing the hives. We were literally bathing her in milk. Poor baby.

Posted by: ASHLEY CASTRO | September 8, 2011 1:22 PM    Report this comment

I was your child. It was a miserable existence. I constantly cleared my throat and was yelled at for having a "bad habit" I wheezed when ever I ran. At school, after running there, I would almost pass out when I got there.....Only my parents never took me to an allergist. I just retreated into myself and tried to stay away from everyone. . I ended up with sleep apnea. I was supposed to get my tonsils taken out but my parents refused. I am 56 and this summer have stopped ALL grains and sugars and every processed food. I eat a Paleo diet. I can finally breathe through my nose and sleep with out a machine.I am off of all meds. I still get a runny nose in the fall from mold and pollen. Atlanta is the worse place for me. My parents lived there for 25 years. When ever I visit, I struggle. I was so happy to read that you took your son to an allergist. Do not think that you are a bad parent.

Posted by: GooseHonk | September 8, 2011 9:41 AM    Report this comment

My son does the same thing! Drives his sister crazy! I never considered the airborne stuff...just what he's been ingesting. Guess it's time for an allergy test to see what we are dealing with. Thanks for posting. I am forwarding this to his sister & Dad :).

Posted by: Unknown | September 8, 2011 9:33 AM    Report this comment

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