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The TRUTH about food allergies

ALLERGIES: Akilah Russell on a life spent reading the back of food packets

BY NOW you might have seen the adverts in magazines and newspapers - not to mention those very annoying pop ups on the internet - asking: 'Have you had your allergy test yet?'

It then goes on to tell you exactly why and where you should get one as soon as possible. Glossy magazines like Company and Glamour have even joined forces with outside companies offering deals for cut-price allergy testing.

Breaking out of the somewhat ignorant idea that if you indeed had an allergy, by now you would have had a chance to figure it out, it seems that having an allergy is all the rage, as nearly everybody is claiming to have one.

You know that irritating friend or colleague who "just can’t eat that", coming up with reasons that are so detailed and disgusting on why the food in question is evil, that you wonder how they are even alive.

Unfortunately, this is a subject all too close to my own heart as I suffer from severe allergies to: nuts, fish, pollen, dairy, citrus, eggs, soya, some anaesthetics (because they contain some fish oils, yes really!), and the strangest one of all… pesticides… don’t laugh!

Do we exist? Yes. Are there many of us? No.

Allergy test

If you think you are alergic to something, be sure to get tested.

However, do not be drawn in by the gloss of the paper you see the adverts on, there is absolutely nothing glamorous about allergy tests.

ALLERGIC REACTION: Person suffers from hives after skin test

The most common test being a doctor pricking you with little needles containing a tiny dose of the substances they are testing for a possible allergic reaction to. After this, they measure – if any - the bump and/or skin reaction you may have.
In the end, the larger the hive, the more severe the allergy is.

Or you can try it the old fashioned way, and eat. If you have a reaction - and I do not mean simply not liking taste and heaving - then go to your GP or hospital and explain what happened and then get tested properly.

In my case, I was just two-years-old when my mum first gave me fish fingers at breakfast and I ended up in hospital for lunch.

Then at eight-years-old, I decided to re-test myself and touch a fish, then completely forgot I had done so, and touched my eye.

Once I had regained my sight a few hours later, I vowed never to test myself again.

So in conclusion, needles, pricking, rashes, and hives, are not very sexy at all are they?

Family matters

It's becoming clear that genetic factors play a significant role in how predisposed to allergies one may be. For example, if you have one parent with an allergy, there is a 30 per cent risk of developing a condition, and that figures rises to 70 per if both parents have allergies.

In my case, myself and my eldest sister Natel Brandy, 32, suffer from the same allergies as well as asthma and eczema, except hers are considerably more severe than mine: ‘‘When I went for my allergy test, they literally had to run the test up my back because each hive was so big they couldn’t continue on my arms,’’ she said.

‘‘Allergies have taken over my life, ever since I was a baby. I have no idea why anybody in their right mind would want to have any at all,’’ she added.

Research has shown that parents who actually give their children tiny doses of the potential allergen are less likely to develop an allergy in the future.

Doctors at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge have pioneered this technique to treat allergies: ‘‘Every time people with a peanut allergy eat something, they're frightened that it might kill them. Our motivation was to find a treatment that would change that and give them the confidence to eat what they like."

"For all our participants, a reaction could lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock - but now we've got them to a point where they can safely eat up to 10 whole peanuts or more,’’ he told The Guardian.

Allergic reality

Spending your life reading the backs of packets constantly checking to see where your potentially lethal injection could be coming from can really suck the fun out of food.

WARNING: May contain allergies

Although in most cases allergies can be kept at bay by not eating foods and taking antihistamines.

In special cases like my sisters and I, we are forced to carry around an epipen just in case we need to stab ourselves with a giant adrenaline needle whilst having a severe reaction.

Not being able to eat what you want when you want, is no fun to put it frankly. Spending your life reading the backs of packets constantly checking to see where your potentially lethal injection could be coming from can really suck the fun out of food.

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