Food allergies:hard to swallow:living with allergies

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Can you imagine reading the ingredient label on every single food you ate? Of living in constant fear of a deadly allergic reaction? For many kids right here in the Pine Belt, the answer is yes.

First, meet McKayla Bryant. She suffers from a milk allergy that is so severe that even coming into contact with milk products causes a reaction.

"When I have a reaction, my tongue starts itching, I get whelps, and my tongue starts itching. But then my throat starts closing up and that's when I know it's really bad," explained McKayla.

McKayla's mother remembers her first reaction. "She was about two weeks from being a year old and she had never had a reaction before because she was on special formula," recalled Michelle Bryant. "She had a biscuit from Hardy's that morning and just started fussing and crying and getting really splotchy. I wasn't sure what it was so I rushed her to the emergency room. We knew it was an allergic reaction but to what, we didn't know."

After being tested, the diagnosis revealed that McKayla was severely allergic to milk and milk byproducts. Once the family started reading labels, they realized just how many foods contain milk. They also learned that there are over 100 words that mean milk on an ingredient label.

An accidental ingestion caused McKayla's worst and most recent reaction. "I was at home when it happened but we went to the hospital just to be safe," said McKayla. "And it's pretty good we did because the first Epipen didn't work."

Now, meet Zachary Reid. He's allergic to peanuts.

"Sometimes it you eat it, nothing happens," he explained. "But if you eat it one time, it goes wrong and you could die. It's scary, it's really scary."

Zachary's diagnosis occurred when he was just over a year old after he had ingested fish that was fried in peanut oil. "He would start swelling and he turned blue. We rushed him to the hospital."

Once he was diagnosed, the family had to change their lives and learn to take care of him. They removed peanut butter as well as snacks and cookies made with peanuts or peanut flour from their home.

Often Zachary cannot attend school field trips or participate in projects, such as trips to the peanut farm. As a baseball player, he also runs into problems. Baseball traditionally goes hand in hand with eating peanuts and at the ball field, he has to be extremely careful not to come in contact with peanuts or their shells. He also mentioned the difficulty of going to friends' houses where he has to read the label on everything he eats there.

Zachary's mother, Michelle, worries that her son will feel left out or bullied. "It's a constant worry I have at work," said Michelle. "Every time the phone rings and it's the school calling I'm worried somebody's done something or he's gotten ahold of peanuts. It's really just frightening altogether."