These are just a few of the things that can send three-year-old Gabby Marler into anaphylactic shock or make her skin so itchy she scratches until it bleeds.
Peanuts, dairy, eggs, shellfish, dust mites, wheat.
The toddler’s body is so sensitive she cannot walk barefoot in her own home, even though her mum Tiffany spends hours daily vacuuming and mopping the floors.
‘Gabby’s eczema and allergies control her life,’ Tiffany told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Most of the time Gabby simply isn’t able to be a child.’
Gabby Marler, three, has severe eczema and allergens that include peanuts, dairy, eggs, shellfish, dust mites, wheat – to name just a few
Her mum Tiffany, 23, and father David, 26, work around the clock to make sure their home is as safe as possible for their little girl (pictured with their 18-month-old daughter Adalynn)
Gabby’s problems began just a few days after she was born, when she suddenly developed a rash on her face and began struggling with stomach pains and gas. She was losing instead of gaining weight, and her faeces were either full of mucous or bright green foam.
Gabby was diagnosed with infantile Atopic dermatitis, also know as eczema, when she was just six-weeks-old and a nurse warned she may have food allergies as well.
‘We knew something was amiss from early on but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was because all of our health professionals had different opinions,’ Tiffany, 23, said.
At first Tiffany and her husband David, 26, thought Gabby’s eczema would be easily manageable with creams. But at just 10 months Gabby was having multiple allergic reactions and the eczema would get so bad it covered her entire body.
Gabby was diagnosed with eczema when she was just six-weeks-old. At 10-months-old she was officially diagnosed ‘at risk of anaphylxis’ with allergies to multiple foods
She was officially diagnosed ‘at risk of anaphylaxis’ with allergies to multiple foods, and the length of the list completely shocked her parents.
Gabby’s additional allergies include salmon, tuna, and topical steroids, as well as dairy or eggs in any form. She is intolerant to gluten, sensitive to chemicals and polyester, and cannot tolerate fragrances and perfume.
‘Her allergic reactions depend on what she is reacting to,’ Tiffany explained. ‘For her dust mite allergy she gets hives, itchy watery eyes, an itchy throat.’
‘She will sometimes get swelling, rashes, and vomiting from her allergens simply touching her skin.’
‘Gabby can get all of the above symptoms, plus diarrhea or constipation, struggling to breathe and becoming unconscious from ingesting even the tiniest amount of her allergens.’
Tiffany describes eczema and allergies not as a daily battle for Gabby, but a life battle that dictates every hour.
Gabby cannot have dairy or eggs in any form and is also intolerant to gluten and sensitive to chemicals, polyester, and cannot tolerate fragrances and perfume. Gabby’s symptoms when she comes in contact with an allergen can be anything from hives and itchy eyes and throat, to swelling, rashes, and scratching so bad her skin bleeds
Tiffany describes eczema and allergies not as a daily battle for Gabby, but a life battle that dictates every hour
‘Gabby’s days revolve around the foods she eats, skincare regimes, and a massive amount of self-control for someone her age,’ the mum-of-two explained.
Everything that Gabby eats must be made from scratch, because she reacts to any kind of preservative, and at all times she carries a medical bracelet, a medical bag and information card, antihistamines, and three EpiPens.
Because Gabby can have a severe reaction from just a brief touch with an allergen, she cannot go to daycare, kindergarten, or school. Tiffany always has to make sure Gabby’s skin is covered, putting her tot in cotton-footed leggings to protect her feet from the carpets
She can’t participate in any kind of group activity unless every child around her has washed their hands and faces and there is no food around at all.
‘We are left out of social events because people are too scared they will cause a reaction,’ Tiffany said.
And Gabby’s allergens and eczema have even affected her life at home, determining everything from what her bedding is made out of to the pyjamas she wears. Tiffany always has to make sure Gabby’s skin is covered, putting her tot in cotton-footed leggings to protect her feet from the carpets.
Gabby sleeps with special bamboo bedding, specially-designed bamboo pyjamas with enclosed feet, and has special mittens so she won’t scratch in her sleep. In addition to a special autoimmune Paleo diet, and this intense skin care and cleaning regime, Gabby’s condition has improved significantly.
But Tiffany revealed that the level of work has been exhausting for the family and isolating for Gabby herself.
‘It leaves me with little time to enjoy being a mum and doesn’t allow Gabby to do things that other children are able to do, which is incredibly heartbreaking,’ she said.
‘We are confined to our home and, no matter how hard I am working to make it safe, it simply never will be.’
Tiffany revealed that the level of work has been exhausting for the family and isolating for Gabby herself, as she can’t go to kindy or do group activities with other children. At one appointment Tiffany and Dave were feeling ‘at the end of our tether’, and asked Gabby’s team of specialists if there was anything else they could to help her.
‘They simply replied: “Aside from putting her in a bubble, we’re doing everything we currently can be doing”‘, she recalled. ‘As a parent, that is devastating to hear.’
But the family has renewed hope they can at least give Gabby a semblance of a normal life by building her a ‘safe home’.
The Marlers current rental in Caboolture, Queensland has carpets full of dust mites – no matter how often they clean – and the paint on the walls emit chemicals that cause added inflammation to Gabby’s body.
‘It is just another thing added to the list of things that cause her body not to work the way it should,’ Tiffany said.
The family have launched a GoFundMe campaign to build their dream home for Gabby, hoping to raise $25,000 for a deposit. Tiffany said the house will require special hardwood floors and special paints that do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOC).
The house will also require an air filtration system, a ducted vacuum system to combat dust mites, and special built-in drawers to reduce the risk of dust mites living in her clothes.
‘Having a safe haven for Gabby with everything she requires will finally give her body a break,’ Tiffany said.
Now the family is raising money to build a ‘safe haven’ for Gabby (pictured here with her sister), in hopes of giving her a normal life at least in the comfort of her own home
‘It will be able to start healing, which means she will hopefully start to get better and be able to live life like a normal child.’
The hope is that as Gabby’s body begins to heal, it will be strong enough to respond to treatments like immunotherapy.
‘There currently is no cure for eczema or allergies, but healing Gabby’s gut and reducing inflammation is the first step to improving her quality of life,’ Tiffany added.
Tiffany will be the first to admit that the strain of constantly caring for Gabby has tested the family, but said it has made them stronger than ever.
‘Raising Gabby has changed my outlook on life completely. She is strong and resilient in ways that I couldn’t fathom even as an adult,’ Tiffany said.
‘I draw strength from her on the hard days because she is a little warrior. Despite everything, she is happy.’
‘My ideals of parenthood and family life couldn’t be further from what I envisioned our life to be like, but I am learning that’s okay,’ she added.
‘As long as we have each other and we as a family support each other we can overcome the challenges we face day to day.’