Support Groups for Allergies

By Heather Legg

These days, support groups are very “in.” There are support groups for divorce, for cancer, for eating disorders and grief. You can find support for smoking cessation, weight loss and substance abuse. And even here and there you can find support groups focusing on allergies, either food or other allergies, and asthma, or a combination. Support groups can really help when you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, worried or alone. They are a place to share triumphs and express fear. If you feel you need support with your or your child’s allergies, think about joining one for allergies.

Here’s a quick little Q & A on support groups:

Why a support group? I have my doctor and other friends with the same allergy issues.
Support groups provide a safe venue to discuss all aspects of whatever the topic is; in this case, allergies. Whereas your doctor has time restraints and may or may not be very personal, support groups can provide the time you need to discuss your issues in a setting where you can be personalized, not generalized as is often the case with doctors. Also, though friends can be a huge help, a support usually has an experienced, knowledgeable leader who is just a little removed from the situation.

So what are this leader’s qualifications?
Qualifications may differ, but usually a support group leader is someone who has already been down the road you are presently on. In many instances, he or she is still dealing with the issue, but just has more experience, has been through what you are experiencing now. He or she is often a professional, maybe a counselor or nurse, some type of health professional.

What do you do in a support group?
Usually everyone who wishes gets a chance to speak, tell their story, express concerns. It’s a place to vent if needed and a place to learn if you have questions. The people attending will have the same concerns as you and it’s a great place to form a network.

Why would I go for allergy/asthma issues?
If you or your child is newly diagnosed with allergies, it’s a great place to find the “support” you may be seeking. Others can offer suggestions and guidance. If you’re not sure what exactly to avoid or how to get the severity across to your child’s teacher, or you’re looking for some new recipes or how to let your child still participate in PE with asthma, someone there has probably been through the same thing.

How often do I have to go?
Support groups will differ in how many people go and how often they meet. Perhaps you want to go once ever or maybe once a month. Online support groups are also popping up and these can be beneficial as well. It’s just nice to know that you aren’t alone in this.

What if I can’t find a support group to fit my needs?
Start by asking in your doctor’s/allergist’s office. They may have something already or you can suggest they start one. Check online for your surrounding areas or in the bigger community and religious centers around you; they often have groups. If you keep coming up blank, think about joining an online group (see below for resources). If you are a little more experienced in allergies and feel confident, think about starting one yourself. You can hold it in your church, synagogue, community center or maybe even school. It may surprise you how many people would be interested and grateful.

Resources:
http://www.allergicchild.com/search_for_a_local_support_group.htm
http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/
http://www.allergysupport.org/
http://www.aafa.org/esg_search.cfm
http://allerjeez.com/2007/07/10/food-allergy-support-group-listings/

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