My Allergy Story // Allergy Awareness

My Allergy Story

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!

Yours,

HOLLY

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4 thoughts on “My Allergy Story // Allergy Awareness

  1. Thankfully my allergies do not result in anaphylaxis though I do have to be extremely careful about what I eat. My allergies weren’t diagnosed until after high school.
    The suspected gluten intolerance became celiac where even a crumb of gluten will make me extremely sick.
    Then there is the slight lactose allergy that I can, thankfully, take dairy pills before I eat and still enjoy my cheese.
    While gluten is in most foods, my third allergy affects mostly health and beauty aid stuff: alcohol in all its forms. Not only does that rule out alcoholic beverages but also hand sanitizer, most soaps, most shampoos, conditioners, most toothpastes, ect, ect.
    So, while none of mine are totally life threatening (though celiac would be it I ate gluten regularly), I get really picky about what I eat and what I touch/use so that I don’t develop itchy rashes and terrible stomach aches.
    Starting with college years ago, I had to learn quickly that I have to be the one to educate people about what I can and cannot have/do. It is hard when everyone just assumes that adults can do anything when I can’t. It makes it more difficult sometimes. I do work in a school though where I am sure to make sure my students know my allergies so they can help educate others.
    Thanks for sharing your story.
    Amanda

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  2. Living with food allergies is, I know, rough. I have slightly more minor milk, but I still can’t eat it, and celiac to wheat, as well as other suspected more recent ones that we’re checking. Thankfully, those aren’t too hard to eat around.
    We have three people in my house, however with extreme anaphylaxis (the worst kind) with the throat and the whole thing. So their allergens aren’t allowed in the house, which makes it a bit more tricky as you obviously understand.
    Anyways, I applaud you for writing this post, and I hope it helps with awareness.

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  3. Oh it’s so good to read this! I’m also allergic to nuts though I’m lucky that my allergy has declined a bit over the years and I’m not at risk of severe anaphylaxis anymore.

    I know it’s not the end of the world but it can be really tiring constantly having to explain why I’m careful around food. I have a reputation as a really picky eater but I’d just rather be safe than throwing up for the next hour 😛

    I live in Singapore and travel a lot in South East Asia, there’s a really big street food scene and it’s usually impossible to be sure food is ‘safe’. My close friends are completely great about it but I’m still quite shy explaining to people I don’t really know. I’m very impressed you take charge so well, I need to learn to do that better!

    Also, I totally sympathize with the embarrassing time in middle school! I didn’t have a fanny pack but I have excruciating memories of being terribly shy and having to stand up in front of everyone on my first day and explain what my epipen was and how to use it. Very glad that stage is well behind me!

    Thanks again for sharing this, so nice to hear other people have similar experiences 🙂 x

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