How Allergic Are You?

I am flying to an asthma conference sponsored by Allergy & Asthma Network in Washington DC.  As part of my registration, I always include that I have food allergies.

The Conference Coordinator sent an email to follow up and asked, “How allergic are you?” You might be a little surprised by that question, but some people are confused about being sensitive (or intolerant) to food vs being allergic to foods.

So, she wanted to check and see if I was sensitive or allergic. There’s a big difference!

Food intolerance can cause digestive problems.

Food intolerance (or sensitivity) is when you are lactose intolerant, have celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. Those can cause a lot of digestive problems (and pretty much ruin your day or weekend.)

Food allergies can be deadly.

In fact, death can occur in as little as 30 minutes after eating a food you are allergic to.

With allergic reactions, I have found that some of mine are more severe than others. I’ve had times when my face started to tingle and swell, my heart started to feel funky, and I was suddenly nauseous. This happened 2 weeks ago after I ate a turkey sandwich with pesto. (Now it appears that I am allergic to pesto, which is made from a pine nut.) Surprise!

The problem is that once your body has a reaction to a food, it builds up antibodies. So, the next time you are exposed to that food, your reaction can be a LOT worse.

I’ll never forget the time when my then - teenage son had full blown anaphylaxis. It was after he had allergy shots, so we don’t know what exactly set it off. But, his eyes were glassy and bulging, his face was red, and veins on his neck were bulging. He was also coughing as he spluttered, “Mom! I think something’s wrong! ” It’s something I never want to see again as long as I live. He was lucky that Shot Nurse at Asthma Doc’s office had a cool head and acted fast to treat him. It was one scary experience!

He now carries 2 Epi Pens with him at all times. As do I, since I’m allergic to all seafood (not just shellfish). And another son is allergic to all tree nuts (you know, the nuts that grow in trees - not to be confused with peanuts, which grown in the ground and are actually a legume, not a nut).

Anyway, when Conference Coordinator asked “how allergic I am?” I let her know that I sport a medic alert bracelet and carry 2 Epi Pens.

She then asked if I have a Chef Card? Which surprisingly, I didn’t. But I do now! I quickly searched for “Chef Card” and found one on FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education.) It’s a fill-able card template where you can write what you are allergic to, print out the card for your wallet, and then share it with the Chef.

So, I printed out 2 cards for my wallet that list my seafood allergy, and 2 cards for my son that list his tree nut allergy. And - I ended up using mine the very next night when we went out to dinner! They’re pretty handy and you can print out a new one if you develop a new food allergy.

I try to be very careful so I can avoid an allergic reaction.

I had a reaction once when The Hubster ate salmon and then kissed me. I had just returned from dinner with friends, and he kissed me when I came home. My face started to swell up and tingle and I asked him if he had brushed his teeth after he had salmon? He said no. That’s all it took to start a reaction.

Now if he eats seafood, I make him brush his teeth, use mouthwash, and wait 24 hours before he kisses me. I want to avoid anaphylaxis from a kiss.

So, protect yourself and make sure you are carrying your Chef Card and Epi Pens with you at all times.

Your life may depend on it.

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