“My daughter always gets a bad rash when she goes outside – it’s a nightmare”


All seven-year-old Athena Cooper wants to do is join her school’s football club with her friends – but heartbreakingly, she can’t as the school says no staff member can monitor her.

The teen needs special attention as she suffers from urticaria, a condition that affects all aspects of her life – from family vacations to extracurricular activities.

At the age of two, Athena developed severe rashes and medics at Derby Royal Hospital informed her concerned parents that she was allergic to temperature changes as she was on both ends of the spectrum, hot and cold.

So Athena can’t be playing in the snow with her friends at Christmas time or enjoying a dip in the paddling pool in the warmer summer months. Even walking across a supermarket parking lot can give her a rash.

Over time, Athena’s condition has deteriorated, and although her family has tried every available antihistamine, none have worked.

Athena’s condition has deteriorated over time


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Athena has had symptoms since she was two years old


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Speaking to ‘The Mirror’, mother Ellis Cooper said: “It’s very bad now. At school, they keep them indoors pretty much every day. She has nowhere to go, it’s terrible to be lukewarm, she’s not allowed ice cream.

“We registered her with the football club a year ago because she likes to play football, but of course she can only go out at certain times.

“The school contacted me the day before the football club started and said there was no one to supervise them. So she couldn’t go there, she was absolutely heartbroken.”

She continued, “It’s just so hard. Wherever we go Even if we want to go to a farm or something for the day, it’s a nightmare because I have to sit inside with her. Even if she’s in a play center and she gets warm, she’s literally covered in it.

“She gets it every day without exception. Every morning, whether she’s hot at night or cold at night. It’s just a constant case of monitoring her and making sure it doesn’t get too bad.”

A simple day trip to a farm or recreation center is very difficult for Athena’s family


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Athena gets a rash “every day for sure.”


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Ellis first realized something was wrong after Athena started breaking out painful, itchy hives on her face and neck as they walked outside.

Her condition has now gotten so bad that it takes a good 24 hours for the hives to disappear and leave marks on her skin. She even gets rashes internally, in her ears.

Ellis says she was able to get Epi-Pens for Athena, who is complaining about her severe sore throat, with no problem, but luckily she never had to use them.

Aside from rashes, Athena also suffers from a “really, really bad illness” every few weeks. Medical professionals are currently investigating this and believe it may well be related to her urticaria, which can cause problems with the stomach lining.

The family were able to get Athena a disability card, with even a two-minute walk to the shops causing a flare-up, but found completing the form difficult as Athena is a physically able child.

They are currently waiting for an injection treatment, which must be regulated very precisely. If it works, Athena could have a relatively normal life.

However, previous treatment has left Athena with jaundice, so Ellis is rather cautious about possible side effects.

In the meantime, managing the state of Athena is a matter of constant surveillance.

Athena’s family is currently awaiting injection treatment


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Big sister Nala makes sure she plays indoors with Athena on snowy days


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Despite her young age, Athena is very sensitive about her condition and comes in when she knows she has started getting a rash, but her mother knows this is difficult for her.

As the middle child of three daughters, between Nala, 9, and Alaska, 2, Athena’s family works hard to make sure she doesn’t feel too left out.

Big sister Nala Cooper, 9, is particularly aware of this and stays inside to do jigsaw puzzles with Athena while others build snowmen outside.

Ellis says it’s especially difficult when they go to her sister’s house and she pulls out the paddling pool, leaving her with the “really tough decision” about whether to let her other kids join in.

The mother-of-three explained: “It’s really hard and I’m so sorry for my other two girls. Especially my older girl Nala. It’s so sad because when it snows and we see the snow and the kids playing outside, and Athena can’t go out at all.

“Nala will say, ‘Don’t worry Athena, we’re playing inside, we’re making a puzzle, we’re painting, don’t worry'”.

On a recent family vacation, Ellis and her husband Andrew made sure to keep caring sister Nala entertained and encouraged her to go swimming with Andrew while Ellis stayed with Athena.

Luckily, Ellis says that Athena’s friends watch her at school and always check on her to make sure she’s okay.

However, she worries about what life will be like for her when she starts high school, especially given that urticaria is so little known to the general public.

Ellis added: “I don’t want her to be teased or punished by other people because of the way it is. Because I know when she comes to secondary school and she has to go to school in the morning or she’s outside and it’s all over her face.

“I’m really worried about what other kids might say. So I think there should be more awareness of this because everyone I speak to doesn’t know about it and doesn’t know what it is.

“And it’s such a big deal. You have an allergy, you usually avoid what you are allergic to. If you are allergic to peanuts, avoid them. You can’t avoid the inevitable, you can’t avoid it outside”.

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