What an allergy looks like
- Rashes (mine bleed and look like burns)
- Forceful vomiting
- Debilitating pain and nausea
- Anaphylaxis may or may not be present
What an intolerance may look like
- Cognitive changes (*more on that in a bit)
- Changes in bowel habits
- Stomach upset
- Other odd symptoms that may or not be food related
What is just plain silly
- Believing gluten free items are superior to conventional ones, which is why you buy them
- Claiming to have an intolerance to soy, but you eat Powerbars (example)
- Claiming to be allergic to a food even if a test result proves otherwise
- Claiming to have a food allergy but not taking proper precautions to ensure there is not cross contamination (eg: "allergic" to wheat but goes to McDonald's, orders a hamburger, takes the bun off, and is perfectly fine)
When you look at this list, sort of clears things up a bit. A lot of people don't know better. It doesn't mean necessarily that someone is being a fanatic and over the top about asking questions in restaurants and cleaning park bench surfaces with Clorox wipes before sitting down (as in a true allergy, which can be life threatening), or even trying to fake an allergy for attention (like our friend who went to McDonald's).
However, there are a LOT of people who claim multiple allergies that don't have a single one. Even with intolerance, it may represent to most that the worst an allergy will do is give someone a stomach ache for a few hours to a day.
Allergy to one food, as well as many, is a whole other ball-game. You may know someone with a food allergy and understand just how important it is to keep your friends or loved ones safe and out of contact with offending foods. But generally, this is not the case.
Saturday I took my noon medications and went back to my apartment. I was supposed to meet up with some friends later on. But no sooner as I closed my bedroom door I noticed raised splotches on my arms.
I dove into my medical supply drawer and immediately crushed and administered two Benedryl into my tube. I washed my hands, administered the med, and Cloroxed all surfaces I may have touched.
Blisters formed on my hands and around my abdomen (there are still some marks right now). Busted out the Benedryl cream. This responce came from someone who had spilled popcorn on the counter where I do my meds at the med station. The kernals had set for awhile while a staff went to get a broom. The surface wasn't cleaned by the staff nor by me. As a result I had touched the surface and what was left over was ingested as a result.
Luckily this pretty mild compared to what other foods could pose a problem. But this is why a series like this is so important. The funny thing is, I am new to this too! So what I am writing about are events that are recent and therefore fresh in my mind.
Development of potential anaphylaxis in one's twenties isn't common, but evidence of allergy have been present my whole life, though in earlier years was passed off as intolerance or bad behavior (being accused of throwing up on purpose, example. The anorexic symptoms actually started from sensory issues and the fact that food has been painful and more so with the passing years).
I was given the link to a few websites for navigation of food allergies, and one of them was the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN -- link is on my Google + profile). A wealth of information and a truly valuable resource I am so grateful is there.
But it did sort of sting. In the next visits to the doc the talk of medical ID bracelets, what to keep on my person (EpiPen, pill crusher, Benedryl, tube extensions, special hand sanitizer...).
In eliminating formula feeds, and being liberated from TPN and line concerns I now have a new set of needs I have to care for. I have a larger, very pretty messenger bag I used for my feeding or IV pumps. Now I will need it for sanitizing surfaces and my hands, having appropriate cards on me at all times.
That's a tough pill to crush (lol...feeding tube joke...). But in the end its still steps toward progress.
Food intolerance, real intolerance, is still a very real issue and it is best to avoid foods you are intolerant to (most adults are lactose intolerant here in the Western world). Food intolerance is thought to cause behavioral issues in children, yet there is little evidence to support this. But YOU know your loved ones, and if you keep record and it's consistent, then do what is best for them.
There is also argument of "mild" to "severe" allergic reactions. I know one of my own doctors felt that a mild reaction didn't warrent avoiding the food completely. But in my experience, in avoidance, each re-exposure produced more severe reactions until it truly was something very dangerous. And aside from my current treatment from dysautonomia, allergen avoidance has been key in my ability to even eat and start my road again to true wellness.
So to recap: food allergies are serious and life threatening. Food intolerance is also real and significant.
But allergies are "trendy". And if your wheat allergic friend wants to grab for that muffin, insisting that they can handle it every once and awhile, well...
...smile, nod, and carry on.
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