Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Developing a New Allergy

by Courtney, age 20. Allergic to peanuts, soy, and shellfish.

I loved the first months of my freshman year in college. I loved my new friends, and I loved being in New York City. It was so different from the small New England town I’m originally from.

I learned though, that much of college revolves around the campus dining hall. It’s where everyone meets to relax after class, socialize, and eat lots of food. I knew eating food that wasn’t made at home was going to be tricky, since I’m severely allergic to peanuts, so I took precautions. I talked to the chef about what foods I would be able to eat. I found out that I could pretty much eat everything; I just had to put my sweet tooth aside and not indulge in the baked goods because the risk for peanuts and cross-contact was just too high.

Shortly into the semester, I started noticing a strange feeling I would get after eating. After I ate my lips would be itchy, and they got progressively itchier as the weeks passed. It got to the point where they were so sore that they felt like they were burning. They were constantly bright red and swollen and when I looked in a mirror at my lips I was reminded of Angelina Jolie.

At the time, I felt that handling the situation and figuring out what was going on was next to impossible. After a month of this, I was aggravated and stressed. I started avoiding the dining hall and eating in my dorm room because I was afraid of having another reaction. I even kept a food diary, recording everything that I ate, whether or not I had a reaction, and how severe my reactions were. When the semester ended, and I was home for the summer, I got tested by my allergist, and found out I had developed an allergy to soy. I was upset that I had developed a new allergy, but I was more relieved to know what I was reacting to and that my reactions were not as severe as the anaphylaxis to my peanut allergy.

I knew it would take time to learn about my new allergy, but probably for the first time I was grateful for my peanut allergy. It provided me with the experience of living with a food allergy. So, I researched the soy allergy and learned what I could and could not eat.

For other teens who are dealing with a new food allergy, know that, although it’s stressful and difficult, getting upset won’t help change the situation. Keeping a food dairy can be very helpful, and don’t be afraid to talk to friends and family about your situation and how you are feeling. They are a great resource for relieving your stress and anger and helping you solve your problem. Also, always carry your epinephrine auto-injector; it is important to always be prepared.

 

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