As you can probably tell by the name of this blog, I am allergic to nuts. It’s something that is hard to truly understand unless you go through it, because it definitely alters your way of life. By no means is it the worst thing in the world- I feel very fortunate to not have something much worse!- but it can surely be frustrating and scary at times.
I haven’t talked much about my allergy on this blog, so I thought it might be interesting to start this series called Allergy Awareness. In this series I’ll be talking about my own personal experiences with allergies as well as recommending allergy-friendly restaurants, explaining little quirks about having an allergy, and discussing other allergy-related topics. To start, I’ll tell my own allergy story.
I had my first allergic reaction when I was about two years old. I had eaten crackers with peanut butter on them, and little red dots quickly appeared around my mouth. When contacted my doctor told us that it was probably a reaction, but unfortunately I was too young to properly test. He advised my parents to avoid giving me anything with nuts in it until I got a little older and could be allergy tested. A short while later I snuck a pinky-finger worth of peanut butter from my mom’s sandwich one day, and instantly my mouth started to get irritated again. My eyes got itchy and scratchy, my face was red, and the little red dots were back once more. After taking some Benadryl I was brought to my doctor’s office, where the tested me for what felt like every allergen under the sun. Long story short, I was diagnosed with a nut allergy, and it all began.
My particular allergy will result in anaphylaxis, otherwise known as anaphylactic shock. This is when your tongue and face swells and your throat closes up, leading to suffocation in the most extreme and devastating cases if medical attention is not seeked immediately. Because of this I take it extremely seriously, because I could literally die if I eat a cookie with nuts in it. How unbelievably stupid would it be to die because I wanted to eat a cookie? It’s just not worth the risk, so I tend to err on the side of overly cautious when it comes to avoiding nuts.
I’ve carried an epi-pen with me since I was young. An epi-pen is a portable injection containing epinephrine, and will help slow down a reaction in an emergency. The dose in epi-pens only lasts for so long, and as soon as you use it you need to go to hospital. In elementary school I carried two of them around in a dreadful fanny-pack that still makes me cringe to this day. I never cease to wonder a) why my parents thought that was a good fashion choice and b) how I managed to not be the most uncool kid in school. I’m so grateful to the friends I had who looked past my terrible fashion faux-pas and hung out with me anyways!
You can imagine my delight when I went to middle school, the land of preteen girls carrying purses from class to class. Even though the fanny-pack was gone, however, a host of other problems quickly arose. Few of my teachers understood the severity of my allergy, and many a time I had to explain to them that no, they could not allow an Egyptian pyramid project slathered in peanut butter to be in the classroom. I thought this was common sense, but middle school taught me otherwise. I quickly grew out of my shyness when it came to my allergy because I realized that I am the only one who can truly advocate for my own safety. My parents wouldn’t be with me everywhere I go, so it was in my best interest to learn to stand up for myself. I knew more about my allergy than the adults around me in school, which was strange yet liberating to understand.
Besides my nut allergy, I am also allergic to pollen, birch trees, ragweed, cats, dogs, etc. My other allergies aren’t nearly as bad, however, and usually I only get a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sometimes develop a cold. When I was younger I had really bad sickness-induced asthma, which meant that every time I had a cold my asthma would flare up and I would cough all night long. Recently I’ve been able to stop taking my daily control inhaler because I’ve sort of outgrown my asthma, but I still carry a rescue inhaler around just in case of an emergency. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Living with a severe food allergy has become my normal way of life simply because it is all I have ever known. Before I eat I always wash my hands, either with soap and water or with a wipe. Every day I wear a MedicAlert bracelet with my allergy and MedicAlert number engraved into it. No matter where I go or what I’m doing I always carry my epi-pen around, even if I don’t suspect they’ll be food involved. When I eat at restaurants I usually research the menu and their reputation beforehand and inform my server of my allergy.
I could go on and on, but the point of this post is not to complain about allergies and the inconveniences they cause, nor is it to evoke pity or sympathy from the reader. Instead, I wish to explain a little bit of the background behind why this blog is called Nut Free Nerd as well as to provide my own personal experiences to answer any questions that may arise. If just one person better understands what it means to live with an allergy and has more empathy for those who do, then my mission is complete!
Now that you know my allergy story, I can’t help but ask: What is yours? Do you have any allergies? Have any stories, experiences, or advice you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments section below!
Also, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written or if you’d like me to write more about a specific topic, feel free to ask away!