HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Meet Caroline Prather. She is allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, tilapia, shellfish, fruit with a pit, melon, garlic, onions, and tomatoes.
Caroline's allergies were first discovered when she was given milk in the hospital as a newborn. After swelling and developing a rash, an allergist tested her. The list of allergens that the tests revealed was staggering. Caroline's mother knew instantly that their lives would be forever changed, but she didn't know quite how drastically.
"At first I thought, 'We can do this,'" said Cheryl Prather, Caroline's mom. "My son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and we're used to reading labels. But then I went to the grocery story…and I was overwhelmed."
Because most of her daughter's reactions are anaphylactic, Cheryl keeps multiple Epipens with her all times in case one of her children has a reaction that causes their throat to close. An Epipen is an auto-injector that contains a single dose of epinephrine. She must prepare everything that her daughter eats and be extremely careful of what she comes in contact to. Cross-contamination can cause a deadly reaction as well.
Although some allergies, such as milk, egg, and soy are often outgrown by school age, Caroline's numbers have continued to go up. As far as growing out of some of her allergies, Caroline's mother said, "It's not likely."
Meet Madison Bullock. She is allergic to milk, eggs, and most seafood.
Similar to Caroline, Madison's allergies were first diagnosed in the hospital. After doctors realized that she couldn't tolerate milk, she was tested.
"It was scary," remembered Michelle, Madison's mom. "I really didn't know what to do. I had to learn." And that is exactly what she did.
Madison's allergies are airborne, meaning that she can have a severe reaction from merely smelling or coming into contact with an allergen, even if she doesn't ingest it.
"Usually I get hives or something," said Madison. "All in my mouth it starts to itch, especially my tongue. And my throat will close up."
Like most parents of kids with food allergies, Madison's mom worries that she will feel left out. "It would always hurt me when we'd go to birthday parties and she could never have the cake or the ice cream," said Michelle.
But the family has faith that one day Madison will grow out of her allergies. "We have faith that God is going to heal her," said Michelle. "Until then, we just take it day by day."