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Living With a Severe Food Allergy

An Inside Look from a Student Who is Allergic to Peanuts


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Imagine having to walk through each day of your life worrying that anything you eat could end your life. Every time you go food shopping, you have to read the ingredients and make sure whatever it is you are allergic to is not found in that product. Imagine going out on a first date and you have to have the waiter check with the chef to make sure the food they are cooking does not contain the allergen as well. This is a small example of what it is like to live your life with a food allergy.

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), 15 million people across the country have food allergies. Some of these allergies people are born with, but they can outgrow them. However for others, there are certain food allergies that are so severe that they are often lifelong. The one that I fall victim too is a peanut allergy, which according to the FAAN is one of the allergies known for being lifelong.

I became aware I had this allergy when I was just ninemonths- old. My mother gave me peanut butter on a Ritz cracker, but instead of eating it I thought it would be a great idea to rub the contents of the cracker all over my face. When I did this, I broke out in hives. My mother called the doctor and gave me Benadryl and the reaction subsided. Had I eaten that cracker I most likely would have died.

It wasn’t until years later that doctors’ then told my mother that I had a severe peanut allergy and that I was going to have to take several precautions throughout my life when it came to eating food.

“When we found out about the allergy, the doctor was actually shocked at how allergic you were. To be considered highly allergic on allergy tests you have to score in the 15-25 percentile. You scored off the chart with a 115,” said Christine Gurrera, my mother.

The reaction could occur as a result of consuming, touching, or even smelling peanuts. So every time I go food shopping I have to read the ingredients of each item I buy to make sure there are no peanut products in them. When I go to restaurants I have to check and make sure my food is nowhere near peanuts, and that my food is not being cooked in peanut oil. If I am exposed to peanuts, my throat will close, I will break out in hives and my body could go into anaphylactic shock which could result in death.

Because of this idea that I could die if exposed to peanuts, everywhere I go I have to carry around an epipen, just in case I have an allergic reaction. The epipen is filled with Epinephrine, which according to epipen. com is a drug that acts as a form of adrenaline that keeps me alive long enough for me to get emergency medical treatment.

All my life these have gone everywhere I go. They’re with me when I go out to eat, when I go to class, when I play sports, etc. The epipens are always on me or in a bag in my vicinity. Most people who have food allergies have a set or two of epipens just in case that they are ever exposed to what they are allergic to.

Living life with a food allergy is not something that’s easy, but the future could be a much brighter place for all of us who suffer from food allergies. In a recent Chicago Sun Times article, it was reported that there could be a potential cure for food allergies in the near future. The study is currently being performed by researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. What they are doing is basically tricking the immune system by attaching peanut proteins onto blood cells and reintroducing them to the body. The immune system then doesn’t think the peanut proteins are a threat so no reaction occurs. Unfortunately, this has not been human tested yet so they are still years away from finding an actual cure, but at least we have some hope.

In a recent New York Times article, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that early exposure to peanuts might provoke tolerance. However, the article still cautioned that it could benefit some children, but parents should still be hesitant.

The most baffling thing about food allergies is that no one is really sure what caused these food allergies to become so common. According to WebMD, most food allergies are hereditary Experiment Shows the Speed of Light Cannot Be Exceeded so it could be something that is passed down from generation to generation.

Dealing with the allergy is always a difficult task, but after doing it for nearly 21 years you become a pro at dealing with it. You do get the occasional people who are fascinated with it and feel the need to ask you a million questions about it. The allergy is tough to deal with, but at the end of the day all you can do is accept that the allergy is a part of you. You just have to make sure every precaution is taken to make sure that the allergy never gets the best of you when all is said and done.

PHOTO COURTESY of babble.com