/ Food & Drink, Health

Your view: living with allergies and anaphylaxis

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We’ve been moved by the number of you sharing the difficulties you have managing your allergies. We’ve rounded up some of your views and tips for when travelling on holiday as our writer Mark plans to do…

Natalie’s son is sadly affected by a number of allergies, including wheat, dairy, soya, fish, nuts, eggs, grass, pollen, dust, dust mites, feathers, animals & cleaning products. She said:

‘He has four different antihistamines & Epi pens plus meds for he skin & asthma. This is a very hard to control & shopping is a nightmare. He’s nine but has shown no sign of growing out of his allergies yet!’

Dee’s advice was to not let your younger ones see you anxious around foods. She told us:

‘My daughter went into anaphylaxis shock when she was 8 years old and it terrified me as at the time I didn’t know she had any allergies. My daughter has now got a fear of food. I feel responsible for this as I was very anxious around food after she went into anaphylaxis shock even though she always has Epi-Pens on her at all times.’

Keeping tabs on your holiday food

Alfa had some good tips for holiday trips, suggesting taking a note translated into the destination’s chosen language for ease when ordering food in restaurants:

‘My daughter has a severe allergy to eggs, nuts and dairy products, AND wheat (which makes things nigh on impossible).’

Paul told us he’d had mixed success with dealing with allergies overseas:

‘Finland, ahead of the UK in free-from foods- way more choice in alternatives which we don’t have in this country yet. Russia, took translations cards, they just waved us away in restaurants and didn’t want the hassle! USA pretty good, somewhere between UK and Finland experiences.’

And Kate told us:

‘I’ve never had any issues on flights (other than rubbish food),Ii used to carry a letter from my GP so I could take milk on board.’

Allergies from an array of foods

And you told us about some more usual allergies you experience. Malcolm R said:

‘My eldest son reacts badly to bananas, my wife to melon, and another offspring to cucumber – not fruits I would have thought of as other than benign.’

And Wavechange told us how he’d developed an allergic reaction to certain moulds:

‘The biggest problem was that even expensive muesli can contain nuts with traces of mould, leaving me gasping for breath and with a swollen throat. My GP gave me a drug and syringe for use in emergency. Over a period of five years the problem gradually disappeared. Now I can eat as much muesli as I like and might find out if I can cope with Stilton.’

Rosy, who gets our Comment of the Week, told us:

‘I have a fairly severe intolerance to all the onion family. It is almost impossible to find food without onion, onion seeds, or onion powder these days. When we go out to eat I’m usually restricted to fish and chips! It isn’t life threatening but I’m not alone, there are quite a few people in the same situation.’

Ali says:
28 March 2014

First my son as an infant was diagnosed with a dairy and egg allergy. He seemed to grow out of those by the time he was about 3 years. Next along the line was my daughter who developed a severe nut and pulse allergy in her teens, plus a problem with some other foodstuffs ie. itching mouth. Not outgrown. Lastly her son, my grandson, has a dairy and fish allergy, present since birth. He attends hospital for an annual check to see if he has improved, so far no change at age 9 years. As you can imagine, their shopping is a problem to say the least and ends up being more expensive as more items need to be purchased to offer a variety for both. By the way we all summer from hay fever, but different sorts! Mine is tree pollen etc at this time of year, the others have a problem later in the year. It is an ongoing problem having to check all food labels and not helped by those manufacturers who, though they do not use nuts etc in the process and do not have them in the factory, still put warnings on the package to cover themselves regardless.

I do sympathise with all sufferers of allergies and food intolerances and can relate to some of them myself, mainly pollen and shellfish [some of the most common.]

There is hope on the horizon however with ongoing research into the workings of the immune system in relation to food intolerance since the discovery of the ‘second brain’ commonly known as the gut wherein lies certain neurotransmitters [originally thought of as being solely part of the brain] and in particular serotonin which generates feelings of well being. 70% of our immune system is aimed at the gut to expel and kill foreign invaders. Between 80/90% of the body’s serotonin is contained in the stomach [along with other neurotransmitters] and can vary in accordance with the seasons which may explain why some intolerances come and go and also why young developing immune systems in children can enable them to grow out of them and why they can return in later years when the immune system starts to weaken. It may also explain why symptoms can worsen with anxiety and stress as Mark has experienced with his children.

Although I accept the above info does not solve the immediate problems of sufferers, it may provide some semblance of encouragement to know that continuing research is being carried out in an effort to establish the root causes of allergies and intolerances which are responsible for the disruption and are the bane of so many peoples lives.

The Food Standards Agency provides free emails or texts to anyone who has a food allergy or intolerance: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/allergy-subscription-service