Allergies and why they suck

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As I start menu planning for my vegetarian diet, one thing I’ve noticed is that a heck of a lot of the recipes contain nuts. This is a problem.

I have a nut allergy, as I think I’ve mentioned before. I have an allergy to peanuts, but I avoid tree nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts and the like) because they also cause a reaction even though on my last allergy test they didn’t flag. Which is odd, and this has led to more than a few people saying that my allergies are in my head.

In fact, I’ve heard people say (and also read) that those with allergies are just being ‘picky’ or ‘fussy’ or making it up to get attention. Allergies, and I mean real, genuine ‘I can’t breathe, get me to A&E’ allergies are no joke. They are literally a physical response to a substance and no amount of willpower can overcome them.

My allergies aren’t so bad that I need an EpiPen – I’m lucky in that I can get away with taking three Piriton tablets and I will be fine – but then I am extremely careful. After a lifetime of living with it, I know what to look for on restaurant menus and am not afraid to ask if a dish has nuts in. Because my allergy isn’t severe, as long as something doesn’t have nuts actually in it or on it, I’m okay – cross-contamination isn’t as much of an issue for me as it is for some people.

If you think you’ve got an intolerance or an allergy, get yourself tested at a medical facility and not at one of these herbal shops who claim to offer ‘allergy testing’. Only proper medical tests will show if you have an allergy or intolerance to something. Don’t self-diagnose – get tested.

And for those of you who have friends with allergies, some advice: listen to your friends when they say they’ve got an allergy. Ask them what you need to do to help them if they accidentally come into contact with their allergen – all my friends know where I keep my allergy pills and know how to give them to me if I need them. Don’t dismiss their allergy as a fad, especially if they have to carry medication to deal with it. Allergies can be extremely serious (even fatal), and it’s reassuring for someone with allergies to know that there’s someone they can trust to help them if they need it.

As for me, I’ll continue to avoid nuts until I can get tested again. Maybe I’ll never clear up the mystery of why tree nuts don’t flag yet I react to them. And I’ll never find out what peanut butter tastes like, even though people say I’d like it if I ate it. Allergies are kind of weird, if you think about it – what makes my body go ‘oh my days, a peanut! I must close her throat and swell up her lips!’ yet I can eat most other things with no issue? Why have I been chosen to be allergic to peanuts, and yet one of my dear friends can eat peanuts quite happily, but can’t eat tomatoes? I find it all quite baffling!

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