May 6, 2014 8:29 pm

Allergists in high demand in Manitoba

WINNIPEG — Spring is finally here, and for allergy sufferers, it means dealing with itchy, watery eyes and runny noses — and for many, a long wait to see a specialist.

The Fontaine family found out about their daughter’s allergy the hard way when Summer, now 9, put a tiny piece of fish in her mouth last winter.

“It was the size of say a pen tip,” said Summer’s mom, Amanda. “It touched her tongue, it touched her lip and she spit it out, didn’t even swallow it.”

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That bite still landed Summer in the emergency room, suffering from anaphylactic shock.

“My lips would swell up first, and I would end up getting itchy in the throat, and have trouble breathing,” Summer told Global News.

Roughly one-third of Canadians suffer from allergies, and 10 per cent of that population is allergic to foods. According to Nancy Ross with the Children’s Allergy and Asthma Centre, there is only one way to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction.

“Food is everywhere. There could be cross contact, can get in to the food you think is safe — avoidance is the key,” Ross said.

A short time after Summer’s first reaction, Amanda Fontaine again rushed her to the ER for a similar reaction. She decided her daughter should be tested for allergies, but getting an appointment took time.

“We ended up having to see a specialist, which was a three month wait due to the severity of the allergy,” said Amanda Fontaine.

In Manitoba, eight allergy specialists take patients under the age of 18. Adults have three specialists to choose from. Wait times vary from clinic to clinic. Some patients are seen within a few weeks’ time, others could wait a year and a half before getting in to see an allergist.

For the Fontaines, waiting three months before knowing what caused the reaction was scary.

“It was nerve-wracking, not knowing what it was,” Amanda Fontaine said. “When it puts your child in the hospital, you’re scared. You don’t know what to do — whether to go out to a restaurant or not — and it’s scary. Very frustrating.”

For kids with a life-threatening condition, annual allergy testing is required until age 18.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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