Hockey Dominates Atopic Dermititis and Asthma

Atopic Dermatitis was no match for my son’s love of the game of hockey.

michael on his hockey cardMy eldest son Michael’s love of hockey, proves that love can conquer all!

As a youngster, hockey stick in hand, he would run around in circles hitting balls. He was labelled…a busy boy. His father, also a hockey fanatic, was so proud.

Christmas 2010, Andy and the boys with their hockey jerseys

Our house is situated halfway down a street that encourages only those who live on it to drive by…perfect for road hockey! Neighbourhood boys congregate outside our house for ‘pick up’ games. I always know where my boys are and I get to know their friends.

No one was more excited than Michael to follow every Canadian boys’ dream…signing up for ice hockey.

At the tender age of 5, Michael’s dream came true…he would be playing ‘real’ hockey.

michael's first year playing hockey

Skates and hockey equipment in hand, he headed off to the arena to meet his teammates, coaches and suit up for his first practice. Proud Mama and Papa followed close behind.

Sitting up in the benches, my husband and I watched as he flew across the ice with ease, weaving in and out of pylons and dropping himself on his knees only to pop back up and race down the ice.  Michael was truly in his glory!

All of a sudden, everything changed. Watching him dash off the ice in a panic, my husband raced around to the hockey bench to unearth the problem. Michael could then be seen frantically disrobing on the bench right down to his long underwear. He had overheated and was in an itching frenzy.

Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart broke watching, what could be, the end of his dream.

My husband remained on the bench after helping Michael to re-equip himself in all his gear. Michael returned to the bench another time to undergo the undressing and redressing routine once again.

Waiting outside the dressing room for Michael seemed like forever. When he did emerge, I enquired, “How was the practice?”. With a smile on his face, he answered, “Great!”

Not once did he ever complain about his overheating episodes. Each practice was ‘great’. There was no question in his mind…he was bound and determined to make it work.

He wanted…needed to play the game.

My husband and I questioned how he could continue this routine during an actual game. We needn’t have worried. Come game day, his on ice times never overheated him and he was able to sit on the bench with his teammates and be ‘one of the guys’. I was overjoyed!

Over time, his need to undress completely at the practices dwindled until there was none.(When I asked him recently, if he remembers those times, he calmly states, “I just got used to it.”

Michael, a boy, with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma living a life limited by what he can eat, wear and do, was determined not to have his opportunity to play the game he loved the most, taken away from him. This was something, he himself could control. He mastered it beautifully!

I am so proud of him! As parents, our instinct is to protect our children. How easy it would have been to say, “You, know…hockey looks like it is not working out for you. Your exertion on the ice is making you overheat and causing your eczema to flare up…I think you should give hockey a pass.”

Instead, seeing how in control he was of his situation, my husband and I let him make the decision to continue with hockey. To tell you the truth, it went unsaid…we just followed his lead…heading to hockey practice and games each week.

The look on his face after a practice/game said it all! How could we take that away from him? No matter how painful it was to witness his uncomfortableness.

Winter 2010, Michael playing hockey outside on my brother's homemade rink

If there is one thing I have learned on this journey of ours…stay focused on the positive!

From this experience…I have learned to never underestimate the power of another person’s determination. When Michael chose to take on his eczema with hockey, it became his journey. We assumed he would not be able to tolerate the implications…we were wrong.

I have always felt that Michael has had to grow up much quicker than most children due to the many situations he has had to endure. I don’t necessarily look at this as a negative, rather as a positive. He has acquired so much compassion for others, benefited from living a healthy lifestyle, and discovered the power of determination…priceless!

Michael is now 15 years old. My husband and I continue to follow and cheer him on at his games. In fact, we are heading to one tonight.

After years of playing defence, he has been moved up to right-wing and is considered in second or third place for goal scoring!

Coaches are informed of all his food allergies, and exercise induced asthma. (Epi Pen and puffer are kept at the ready by the Trainer) He no longer suffers from overheating but needs to take his puffer before each game. Showers are mandatory after each game!

Why did he endure all that he did to play the game of hockey?  “…because it is fun!”

Winter 2010, Michael playing hockey outside at my brother's homemade ice rink

Who doesn’t need a little fun in their lives!

P.S. This post was written specifically for those families with children with eczema. Listen to your children…sometimes they are much wiser than their years…willing to make sacrifices that we may feel are unnecessary… all in the name of fun.

P.P.S. At our most recent appointment with our Pediatric Dermatologist, he examined Michael’s skin and told us that he never thought Michael’s skin would ever look this good. I always believed that the day would come when Michael’s skin would clear…it has taken 15 years…happy days!

My advice… keep the flicker of hope alive, focus on the positive, learn as much about eczema as you can and persevere. Remember…you are not alone!

P.P.P.S. Have you ever questioned allowing your children to partake in something due to their eczema? Does eczema limit the choices that are made? Is eczema controlling your life? Would love to hear from you…please leave a comment.

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Questions and Answers: A Teenager’s Perspective: Living with Multiple Food Allergies, Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma

My 15-year-old son, Michael, has lived with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma since he was a baby.

Multiple Food Allergies: Dairy, eggs, beef, sesame, fish, shellfish, peanuts/tree nuts, raspberries and mustard.

Atopic Dermatitis: his triggers include: heat, stress, grass, citrus, cantaloupes, and non-hypo- allergenic detergents (Tide in particular)

Asthma: his triggers include: dust, exercise (over doing it), hockey arenas (over doing it on the ice), colds, really cold air and really hot air (high humidity), and lots of pollen in the air.

I thought it would be interesting to post a question/answer period with my son to get a teenagers perspective on what it was like growing up and living with the tri-factor of the allergy world: multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma.

Michael  is entering that stage in his life where studies have proven that teens with food allergies take more risks. Two good sites for teenagers with food allergies are FAAN, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and Why Risk It?, at Anaphylaxis Canada. Both provide information for teens with food allergies.

In order to help our teenagers through this period of adjustment, I believe we need to: ask questions, truly listen, keep the lines of communication open, and show compassion, love and understanding. Our children’s’ journey with food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma will soon be their’s alone…they need all the support they can get.

So…what is a teenager’s perspective on growing up and living with the tri-factors of the allergy world?

In typical teenager fashion, Michael tended to want to rush through the questions with yes and no answers. A little ‘pulling of teeth’ garnered a few more ‘tid bits’. As you can see from the picture below, we were still on speaking terms at the end.

michael and me after our interviewIn all honesty, I can’t express enough how proud I am of Michael. He has truly been through so much…he deserves a happy ending.

What is your earliest memory of living with atopic dermatitis?

I remember staying home from school because my skin was so bad. It was probably in kindergarten or Grade 1.

Food allergies?

I remember getting my first allergy testing done on my arm. It was very itchy and it hurt a bit. Not like it is now. I like to get it done on my back now because I don’t like to see it. It doesn’t hurt… I think it hurt because I was young and was scared.

Asthma?

Playing road hockey. I remember having coughing fits.

How would you describe what it feels like having atopic dermatitis?

It sucks!

I mean what does it FEEL like?

I try to block it out. I don’t feel it anymore.

What gave you the greatest comfort when you were uncomfortable?

When you sang ‘Ally Bally Be’ to me.

What did you like about my singing that song?

I liked it when you would sing and rub my back. I would forget about the itching and was able to fall asleep.

Did you ever notice a correlation between food and your skin?

Yes. Oranges for sure. I would eat too many and then my skin would go all red. When it was red it was dry and when it was dry it was terrible.
One time I had a whole bag of Swedish Berries and went all red in the face.
Coke would make my skin break out the next day after I drank it.
Yes, we discovered that Coke had caramel in it which can be derived from dairy. After you stopped drinking Coke, the break outs on your hands went away.

Was it hard to focus at school? What helped?

Yes. Nothing helped.

How would you describe the on-coming of an allergic reaction?

I would get a tingling on the tongue. After that I would feel like I was going to throw up and I would.

Were you ever bullied or teased for your skin issues or food allergies? Did you feel different? Were you treated differently?

No, I was never bullied. Yes, I felt different but I can’t explain it. Yes, I think people felt and still feel bad for me.

What has having multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma taught you?

To be thankful for what you got: my loving family, everything I have and  am able to do.

If you could give any advice to children and parents of children living with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma, what would you say to them?

It will get better eventually…I think. It wasn’t set in stone that I would get better so…I don’t know. I feel I got lucky getting over the eczema part.

What do you do to maintain your skin now?

I moisturize. I like the Vaseline intensive rescue, extra strength, unfragranced formula. I put it on after I shower in the morning and sometimes at night.

Do you feel safe at highschool?

Kind of because I have friends that look out for me. When someone pulls out something with nuts, they tell them to be careful because I’m allergic.

Do you think it helped that your Grade 8 class was educated along with you on the signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and how to use an epi pen?

I think they feel more comfortable around me.

You eat in the cafeteria surrounded by your food allergens. What steps do you take to ensure you do not encounter any cross-contamination?

I don’t eat anything that isn’t from home. I use hand sanitizer and don’t put my food on the caf table.

You had an allergic reaction this past weekend from cross-contamination. What did that teach you? (Michael ate plain chips from a bag that were contaminated with a dairy dip that his dad had been eating with the chips.)

I need to still be careful eating foods that I can eat.

Eating out in restaurants is on our to do list. Where would you want to go? What would you want to order that you can eat?

Swiss Chalet. A salad with their Chalet dressing, plain baked potato and a 1/4 chicken plate with their special sauce.

Do you ever get frustrated with your food allergies, atopic dermatitis or asthma?

Yes. I can’t eat stuff, I get itchy and I can’t go as hard as I want to playing sports.

What do you look forward to in the future?

Hopefully being able to eat foods that I can’t right now, getting my asthma under control and hopefully I can improve my skin.

So, what do you think about our interview?

Awful…just torture…it was okay…I don’t know…I don’t know what else to say…are we done?michael in our interview

As he walked away munching a Krispie Square, he said, “I hope I get a happy ending…”

“I do too sweetie, I do too!

Remembrance Day: Today I remember all those who dedicated their lives so we may live a better life…especially Thomas Beaton, my grandfather’s brother. He was part of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets (Part 1) and died August 24th 1944. His name, along with many others, is in the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. I have had the priveledge to visit and surprisingly found his name to the shock of my grandfather…priceless!

P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!