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Staying Active and in Control Despite Their Allergies

Meet four people with allergies who combine medication, alternative therapies, and the right attitude to maintain control over their lives.

Liz Erk: Runner, Rower, Skater continued...

As she grew into adulthood, her passion for activity was often curtailed by unpleasant allergy symptoms that made athletics and even socializing a challenge. Instead of retreating indoors, though, she decided to tackle the problem head on.

First came the allergy medication, which helped ease her difficulty with breathing and relieve her asthma symptoms. Next, she turned to acupuncture, which provided more relief. Soon she noticed a marked improvement. The only exception was when the foliage changed each fall and spring.

She still had a problem with cats, but then ironically fell in love with a kitten named Mia. A doctor told her to get rid of the furry feline, but she refused. Then a friend gave her some encouraging advice: Making a kitten part of your home, her friend said, might allow your system to develop immunity to the allergens as the cat matures.

So she did it, and it worked -- perhaps too well, she chuckles. Erk now owns 10 cats and volunteers at a cat shelter in her spare time. She even upgraded to a three-bedroom home specifically so her cats would have room to roam. An activity that she once considered "virtual suicide" has now become an integral part of her life and lifestyle. No more wheezing. Her eyes no longer swell shut when she hears a "meow" and the cat nuzzles her. She even credits fighting against her cat allergy with improving her social life. She no longer shies away from visiting friends who have pets.

Meanwhile, Erk's found a new athletic passion. Two years ago, she learned how to skate and started to play ice hockey. That’s brought back her inner competitor. "For my level, I'm pretty fast," Erk says. "And it's all because I have the stamina for it."

Fighting back against the irritants that caused her such grief has altered Erk's life both mentally and physically. "My life is completely different," she says. "Tackling my allergens head on made a total difference for me. I'm in the best shape of my life."

Fred Coe: Keeping Allergies Off the Court

Fred Coe spent part of the fifth grade encased in plastic. Having had asthma from the time he was very young, Coe developed double pneumonia. It was so severe that he was placed in an oxygen tent. He didn’t return to school until his sixth grade class had already begun.

Coe’s list of allergic substances – both indoors and out -- contains all the typical culprits: dander, dust, pollen, and other airborne allergens. Sauerkraut is another trigger, but he admits it’s one that isn’t quite as challenging to avoid.

Despite spending an entire winter of his life without leaving his home, Coe is now determined to make his allergies an annoyance rather than a crippling condition.

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