As a student, I am just starting to branch off into the world on my own and to really begin accepting this part of myself. Growing up, there were a lot of tests and hospital appointments to see if I had outgrown the severeness of anaphylaxis or to see if there were any other allergies present in my body. Whilst increasing numbers of people across the world now have allergies (there have been tests linking the rise of nut allergies in particular with pollution levels) the majority of the world still doesn't really see what goes on beyond that barrier. To some it might seem that someone is just being fussy and that this isn't anything too drastic, when the reality is that allergies are life threatening conditions which must be handled carefully and take years to adjust to.
So this article is not necessarily my usual compilation of allergy tips but instead a collection of thoughts on things that have become increasingly frequent allergy myths, which are true + false and common misconceptions on exactly what it is to have an allergy.
|Keep calm + Carry Epi-pens|
The way I've always been brought up to look at allergies is that it is a problem with my white blood cells. These are the cells which are more commonly known for fighting off colds and all that bad bacteria that can make you sick. When I eat something such as a peanut or have a dose of paracetamol (both things I have anaphylaxis to) my white blood cells have a strong adverse reaction because they mistakenly recognise these things as poison. This is why my body swells up and makes me vomit, because it is trying to shut out the harmful substance and keep me safe.
2. What Does An Allergic Reaction Feel Like? + Symptoms
Everyone has different reactions depending on the seriousness of their allergy. As someone who suffers from anaphylaxis, when peanut ingredient is so much as in the room then I can have an airborne reaction that would be just as bad perhaps as if I consumed the food. Whereas for another person, they might only react if they ate it. There are lots of common minor allergies such. Some people get mild hayfever, which means their eyes are irritated and they can't stop sneezing. Whilst those situations are also allergies which can range in seriousness, the minor reactions are often not life threatening and containable with the use of prescription medication.
Symptoms as previously mentioned can alter from severe swelling to hives, or coughs and sneezes. Every individual with an allergy has become extremely attuned to their body so they will usually notice instantly if something is wrong. But all the same, it can be useful to know what to look out for and to make a mental note of this in case a loved one (or even a stranger you see in the street) is having an allergic reaction and might need help.
3. It IS That Serious!
I know personally I am hyper aware of everything I eat because every time I eat out of try something new it gives me a burst of adrenaline, just as if I was sky diving. That's how scary it can be!
Allergies aren't the same as intolerances - the reactions are usually instant and in 1 out of 3 cases, life threatening. Every year an average of 200 people die of allergic reactions, that is quite how serious this situation is. So when someone is uncomfortable about asking about food or doesn't seem to be getting any straightforward answers, make sure that you back them up. They aren't just being fussy! Trust me... I know how awkward it is to have to be the odd one out whilst everyone is eating in a restaurant. It literally is a matter of life and death and they are just keeping themselves safe as you would if you were in the same situation.
4. Will You Outgrow Your Allergy?
This is a tricky one answer because again, everyone has a different individual experience. With me, I have retained anaphylaxis since I found out about it on New Year's Eve when I was 5 despite those many hospital appointments and tests. There are lots of experimental trials but unfortunately there is not yet a widely available tried and tested cure to allergies of any kind.
Some people are fortunate enough to grow out of their allergies - this one isn't a myth. It is most common for children to outgrow allergies. This is why I had a big group of tests at 10 and then again at 15. The result was the same for both and after 15, because I didn't want any further tests or trials, I adapted to this part of my life and began on the current path: learning to accept this is part of who I am.
5. What Do You Eat?
I wanted to end on this one because I always find it rather funny! Whilst lots of products contain nut products or say there is a possibility, there are still just as many foods available that do not and are completely safe for me to eat. Whilst it is harder to find things such as nut free birthday cakes or chocolate ice cream, it is usually pretty easy (in a supermarket) to find products such as waffles or bread that are safe to consume.
Tip - The free from isles which are now widely available in supermarkets across the UK (though were not when I was growing up) are one of the best places to head to for nut free food. I've found so many of my new favourite snacks here and they are often much healthier than the brand name alternative!