Finding out you are allergic to something isn’t any fun. Many things you might have enjoyed eating may now be off-limits. Some people are allergic to corn, wheat, and other grains. Others might be allergic to milk and dairy products. There are those allergic to peanuts and nuts, while some are even allergic to fish and meat products.

Allergies and sensitivities to things around us come in many forms. Food allergies, like the ones listed above, are just a few of many. Many people struggle with environmental allergies like pet dander, molds, grass, pollen, and trees. The number of people who are allergic to chemicals is growing steadily every year. These people need to avoid cleaning products like laundry detergents and soaps, as well as dyes, pesticides, and certain medicines like penicillin.

How an allergy affects us varies greatly from one person to the next. Sometimes it’s not the obvious signs of sneezing, watery eyes, or a case of hives that tell us we are allergic. Allergies can change people’s emotions or make them hyperactive. Allergies might make muscles and joints ache, or become a cold that never seems to go away.

It’s often thought that a person’s allergies are inherited. Statistics show that if one of your parents has allergies, you are 50% more likely to develop allergies as well. If both of your parents have allergies, your chances jump to 75 %. But inheriting allergies is not the only way a person can develop them. Food allergies can be caused by a weak immune system or by eating the same foods over and over. Environmental allergies can occur by overexposure. 

So how do you find out if you have allergies? Most people will go to their doctor to have tests taken. There are skin tests, blood tests, and alternative methods like muscle testing. You can become a detective yourself and possibly discover allergies by keeping a diary of what you eat or what you are exposed to and the symptoms that result.

I invite you to study the world of allergies with me!

Science

What happens to your body when you develop an allergy? How does it affect your immune system? Let’s take a close look into the intricate ways our bodies function when allergies come in to play.

     •   First we need to find out what an allergy is. Look up the definition of an allergy.

     •   What triggers allergies?

     •   There are several kinds of allergies, but some are more common than others. What are the eight most common allergies?

     •   A normal reaction to a bee sting is different from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. What is the difference? What should you do if you see someone having an allergic reaction?

     •   What are common reactions your body will have if the item you’re allergic to (the allergen) is in the air?

     •   What reactions are common if the allergen is digested?

     •   Environmental allergies are often worse in the spring. What types of plants produce the most allergy-causing pollen?

     •   What is an IgE and what does it do?

Vocabulary

histamines, anaphylaxis, allergen, photosensitivity, asthma, eczema, celiac disease, elimination diet, antibodies, mast cell

Activities

     •   When does the allergy season begin and end? Research the plants in your area to find out which are active during allergy season.

     •   Ask family members and friends about their allergies. Make a list of the symptoms that can occur and how to treat them. Add any additional information, like which places or foods they should avoid and which are safe.

     •   Make a poster showing the most common allergens.

     •   If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you have a food allergy, a good way to test yourself is to keep a food diary. Create a chart with the days of the week listed across the top. Going down the left side, write each meal and snack and what time you eat them. Now, under each day of the week, write down everything you eat at each meal and snack time. In a separate column, write down any reactions you may have. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice.

Bible

Sometimes we might wonder why God allows us to develop allergies to foods, pets, or outdoor pollutants. By reading God’s Word, we can be comforted, encouraged, and ready to share God’s truths with others who have allergies.

     •   Memorize Romans 8:28.

     •   Copy Psalm 139 in your notebook. Memorize verses 13-17.

     •   Memorize Psalm 31:24.

     •   Read Genesis 1:31 several times. Copy Genesis chapter 1 in your notebook.

Math

     •   Ask your family, church family, or friends what they are allergic to. Make a bar graph to show the kinds of allergies they have. How many people are allergic to animals? What fraction of your friends and family have allergies to foods?

     •   Check pollen counts in your area on the Internet or in the newspaper (many weather reports include pollen counts). When are pollen counts the highest? When are they at their lowest?

     •   Asthma is a common reaction to allergies. Gather your family together and time their breathing. Compare how many breaths they take per minute, hour, day, and year. You can experience what it’s like to have asthma by running in place for one minute while breathing through a drinking straw. How many breaths can you take per minute? How would having asthma affect your daily activities?

Reading

     •   Allie The Allergic Elephant: A Children’s Story About Peanut Allergies by Nicole Smith.

     •   Zooallergy : A Fun Story About Allergy and Asthma Triggers by Terri Ravanelli.

     •   Aaron’s Awful Allergies by Troon Harrison.

     •   Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food for Kids: 150 Family-Tested Recipes by Sheri L. Sanderson

     •   Allergies (My Health Series) by Alvin Silverstein.

     •   Living with Allergies (Teen’s Guides) by Paul Ehrlich.

     •   The Complete Kid’s Allergy and Asthma Guide: The Parent’s Handbook for Children by Robert Rose.

Writing

     •   Pretend that you are a journalist. Write an article explaining to the public what allergies are and what symptoms they should be looking for. Mention restaurants in town that serve allergy-free meals. Share a recipe that does not contain the eight most common allergens. Tell your readers what new tests are available from their doctors. Remind them of what to do if they have an asthma attack.

     •   Pick three allergens and pretend you have just discovered that you are allergic to them. Write a letter to your friend and tell them how you made your discovery and how your life has changed because of your new allergies.

Internet

     •   For in-depth information on environmental allergies, food allergies, triggers, and treatments, visit www.webmd.com/allergies.

     •   If you are interested in finding recipes for gluten-free and other allergy-free cooking, visit blogs from real-life people like www.gingerlemongirl.com or www.goodtobeglutenfree.blogspot.com, who have learned the joys of cooking with their allergies.

No matter if we have allergies or not, how our bodies work and how they react to what surrounds us is a wonderful testament to God and His creation. He’s created each of us with a specific design and a specific purpose. What a joy it is to be used by Him to bring Him glory! 

Published on April 8, 2009


Paula Miller is a children’s author, freelance writer, and homeschooling mom. She and her husband Travis live in south central Minnesota with their four sons. You can read more about  Paula’s Faces in History Series for children 7 and up by visiting www.paulajmiller.com

This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2009 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE 8-page report entitled “The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom” by visiting http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/resources/report.htm