Ellen Joy and Hannah G. have never gone out for ice cream or pizza with their family. Some people might think they are missing out. But Ellen Joy, 9, and Hannah, 6, who have severe food allergies, find many other great things to do with their family and friends.

Hannah is allergic to milk, soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat. Ellen Joy is allergic to milk.

The girls both participate in research studies at Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. These studies are helping doctors find ways to help other people with their food allergies. When Hannah was five she chose to be a part of an egg allergy study. She told her mom, “I want to do this study to help others with food allergies even if it does not help me!” Ellen Joy started participating a month later in a milk allergy study.

Family Support

The girls’ family has made sure that they all know how to use emergency medications for when an allergic reaction might occur. Even their younger sister, Mia, knows how!

Mia knows a lot about their allergies and is very careful to help her sisters. When Ellen Joy offers to get her little sister a drink, Mia will say, “Please don’t touch that, Ellen Joy! I have been eating cheese crackers, and cheese is on my cup.”

Their parents make sure they provide meals that are free of allergens. “For sacrament my mom brings rice cake, which I have instead of bread,” Hannah says.

Guidance from the Holy Ghost

Hannah and Ellen Joy trust that the Holy Ghost can guide them. Hannah said, “The Holy Ghost can help me anywhere! I have to wash my hands a lot and be careful and listen to the Holy Ghost to help me.”

When Ellen Joy was five, she wanted to eat her friend’s chicken nuggets. But she got a feeling that she shouldn’t, so she ate her own lunch. She found out later the chicken nuggets had milk in them and could have made her sick.

People Who Are Aware

Ellen Joy and Hannah feel it is important to teach their friends how to be aware of allergies. Ellen Joy is currently working on a presentation to teach the girls at activity days more about food allergies. When Hannah’s friends want to hold her hands when playing, she first asks them if they have washed their hands. If they haven’t, they hurry to wash them before touching her.

When people ask Hannah and Ellen Joy for a list of things they can’t eat, the girls usually give them a list of things they can and do eat. Their list is long, healthy, and yummy!

Ellen Joy likes to …

Swim, play soccer, embroider, play outside, ride horses, play with family and friends, read, and draw

Ellen Joy’s favorite foods

Oats with raspberry soy yogurt, pancakes (made with soy milk) with fruit, and homemade minestrone soup

Hannah likes to …

Swim, ride horses, enjoy nature, dance, read, draw, play outside, read and write stories, and watch bunnies outside

Hannah’s favorite foods

Homemade popcorn, smoothies, and pasta with Mom’s homemade sauce

Allergy Tips

  • Have courage to stand up for your own health. Speak up if you feel a reaction coming on!

  • Don’t be afraid of being different. Make your allergy a part of your life and be grateful to be you!

Making yummy gluten-free cookies (there’s no wheat in the recipe).

Some people with allergies use an EpiPen® in case of a dangerous allergic reaction.

Ellen Joy and Hannah wear bracelets that say what their allergies are.

Photographs courtesy of the family