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Life With a Severe Allergy: Maddie’s Path to Staying Prepared

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Bailee Gilchrist, MD
Medically reviewed by
Bailee Gilchrist, MD

After experiencing a severe allergic reaction to tree nuts, Maddie, a patient of Dr. Bailee Gilchrist, MD, at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center is now equipped to manage her allergy – and so is her family.

Every time Maddie ate food containing nuts, she experienced uncomfortable symptoms – like hives, itchiness, and abdominal pain. Eventually, she had a severe reaction, which prompted her parents to visit Carolina Asthma and Allergy to address their concerns.

“For several months, we noticed that Maddie would be in pain or experience a lot of discomfort after eating certain foods. We were worried that she may have an allergy, and when she had a bad reaction, we came in immediately.”

Tree nuts are one of the most common food allergies in both children and adults, and very few individuals will outgrow the allergy in their lifetime. The nuts that most frequently cause allergies are walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and pistachios – and it’s likely that if a person is allergic to one of these nuts, they will be allergic to another. Many people – like Maddie – experience mild symptoms at first, but then gradually notice more serious symptoms and even anaphylaxis.

When diagnosing an allergy, doctors will often perform a skin prick test, which is used to discover if antibodies for various allergies are present in the body. During this food allergy test, a small amount of an allergen is placed on the skin and then pricked underneath the surface. The doctor will then look for signs of redness, swelling, or other reactions, which will start to appear in about 15 minutes.

When Maddie’s family visited Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, they saw Dr. Bailee Gilchrist, who performed this test and took a history of the foods that were causing reactions. At the time, Maddie’s mom was a patient of Dr. Gilchrist, and knew that she would take great care of Maddie.

Dr. Gilchrist is a board certified allergist, treating adults, children, and infants. In 2023, she was a recipient of the Rising Star award in Charlotte Magazine for her status as an emerging medical leader in the community. Dr. Gilchrist is dedicated to improving the quality of life for her patients and providing them with the best and most appropriate medical care.

Navigating Maddie’s Allergy: Equipping Her Family with Information and Preparedness

As Dr. Gilchrist suspected, Maddie’s skin prick test was positive for a severe tree nut allergy. This meant that she would need to avoid eating or drinking anything containing tree nuts. And because of the severity of her allergy, she should also avoid coming into contact with them. Since the FDA requires food labels to identify when a product contains tree nuts or may contain them, careful label reading is necessary. Maddie should also be especially careful around homemade foods that are not labeled.

Dr. Gilchrist explained that it’s also important for Maddie to alert others about her allergy – like school personnel, friends, and coaches – and educate them on how they can help should a reaction occur.

At first, all of this information was overwhelming for Maddie and her family. But Maddie’s mom said that Dr. Gilchrist spent a lot of time with them, helping them understand more about Maddie’s allergy and how to treat it.

“Dr. Gilchrist took time to listen to our concerns, provided options, and gladly answered any questions we had. It was nice to have a doctor that truly wanted the best for Maddie.”

Dr. Gilchrist also prescribed Maddie an EpiPen – an auto injector that contains epinephrine, a medication that blocks the effects of anaphylaxis. It can be a life-saving medication for people with severe allergies like Maddie’s, as it prevents accidental ingestion of tree nuts from stemming into a life-threatening allergic reaction. EpiPen’s work by constricting the blood vessels in the body, causing an increase in blood pressure that allows the muscles around the airways to relax and the lungs to open. Maddie now carries her EpiPen wherever she goes.

Going Above and Beyond: How Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center Brought Comfort During a Difficult Time

Before coming to Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, Maddie’s family had serious concerns about her health, and the process of diagnosis was difficult at times. But Maddie’s mom noted that the caring staff around them made all the difference for their family.

“The staff went above and beyond to make us feel informed and comfortable. Maddie had an especially hard time with the skin prick testing, and they took their time and made her feel like a superhero after. They gave her prizes and praised her for getting through it, which just showed how much they cared about creating a positive experience
for us.”

Maddie’s family is grateful for the help of Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center in easing their concerns and preparing them to manage Maddie’s allergy.

“This experience helped us feel educated about her allergy, and we are content knowing that we are equipped with the right tools should she ever have a reaction again.”

Find the care you need to manage your allergy

Living with allergies can be serious, and it is important to find a provider who listens, understands, and provides the best standard of care – like Dr. Gilchrist, who was dedicated to easing the concerns of Maddie’s family.

If you or someone you know is concerned about an allergy or how to treat it, schedule an appointment with a physician at Carolina Allergy & Asthma Center. Our team of board-certified allergy physicians and asthma specialists bring expertise and compassion to every patient.

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To schedule or request an appointment with one of our physicians, please contact us online.