a shrimp, a clam, and nuts on plates made into speech bubbles

Advocating for Food Allergies

I was lucky enough to be invited to a conference sponsored by the Food Allergy Collaborative. They had invited patients to give feedback to the FDA about how food allergies affect our lives, and what kind of treatment would we like. (Can we PLEASE get something other than epinephrine auto-injectors? Needle phobia is real you know.....)

Well, where do I start in sharing my story about food allergies?

My 3 adult children and I have been battling allergies and asthma for decades, and we are used to our bodies overreacting to normal things. You know - like petting someone's cute little dog and then accidentally rubbing your eyes. Achoo! Or inhaling someone's stinky perfume and then having an asthma attack. The list of allergens and irritants that cause asthma attacks for us is endless. Sigh.

But several years ago, I was suddenly allergic to seafood. Surprise!

Now, am I sad? Well, No! I have never liked seafood......and it doesn't like me either. But seafood has the upper hand as it's tried to kill me several times.

Most people think you have to EAT your allergen to have an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), but some of us can have an allergic reaction from just SMELLING seafood. Lucky me.

Inhaling seafood

I had eaten seafood over the years but had an allergic reaction when Hubster was making clam chowder. I thought it was weird because I had eaten clam chowder before. Allergy Doc confirmed that I was allergic to shellfish. So, I tried to avoid seafood. That meant no one could cook seafood in our house, but if they wanted to go out to lunch or dinner with friends, they could.

Shortly after that, I would have an allergic reaction at times when I was in restaurants that served various foods, including seafood. It usually happens a few minutes after I enter a restaurant, and I start to feel my face tingling and swelling, my chest gets tight, and my heart starts racing. I have to literally RUN outside to get some fresh air.

I'm one of those people that is allergic to shellfish AND finned fish. A few years ago, the Hubster kissed me after he had eaten salmon. I had another allergic reaction then. So, I went back to Allergy Doc and he confirmed that I'm allergic to shellfish and finned fish.

Unfortunately, asthma is a strong predisposing factor to developing food allergies. It's all part of that overreacting that our body does to harmless allergens. 1

Did you know that you can develop food allergies anytime - even to food you have eaten your entire life?! I developed my seafood allergy as an adult, and Middle Son developed an allergy to tree nuts in his teens. Both tree nut and seafood allergies can be lifelong food allergies.2-4

So, you have allergies, asthma, and food allergies - now what?

For us, we make sure our family, friends, roommates, and colleagues know that we have environmental allergies and asthma. They know about our late-night trips to Urgent Care, the ER, or the hospital. They know my kids have been in the hospital multiple times for asthma.

With food allergies, people seem to forget when you tell them you are allergic to a food. They can eat whatever they want, so they forget that we cannot. So we remind them - over and over....and they still bring food with seafood or tree nuts to family parties, neighborhood BBQs. etc.

We usually have home-cooked meals. But, if we eat out, we notify the restaurant, give them a Chef Card, and then carefully examine the food when it comes out. We also carry epinephrine auto-injectors at all times and have medical alert bracelets. Even with all those precautions, we have had multiple accidental exposures to seafood and tree nuts. Argh!

Who else has to battle food allergies? What would you like to see in a treatment plan for food allergies?  Do your family and friends support you?

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