Last week many of you may have seen the emotional story on ITV’s This Morning Show about how one of their former producers, Amy May Shead, went on holiday to Budapest, and suffered a devastating allergic anaphylaxis reaction to nuts, resulting in her being left severely brain damaged and in a wheelchair.
Amy had, and still has, a severe nut allergy. After informing the restaurant and showing them her allergy card (which was written in the country’s native language) she was assured the dish she chose was safe to eat. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and after just one mouthful of food Amy went into anaphylactic shock. The reaction was so severe that even after she was administered with TWO EpiPens this still resulted in cardiac arrest and her clinically dying for almost six minutes – ending up on life support.
Sadly, as we learned from the show, this could have been easily prevented.
Her mother came on the show to try to help others – she also felt peanuts should be banned on flights.
Her opinion started a huge debate online about whether or not this was a fair thing to do for people who didn’t have allergies: and we felt it something worth talking about. One online comment that stood out was when a person made the statement ” If you’re that allergic, stay out of first class”.
There were many other comments on this thread. Some felt it an unreasonable request as there were so many people who had allergies/intolerance’s to dairy, gluten, shellfish etc., but most felt it was the right thing to do.
As someone who suffers with allergies myself, I know how terrifying it can be going into an environment where you have very little control over your own well-being.
Nowadays, more and more people are presenting with so many different allergies, so much so that when someone says “Oh I can’t have/touch that, I’m allergic”, the general reaction is an eye roll or just not being taken seriously, and this may result in the person with the allergy being put at risk.
But why do people react that way?
Is it because we may have met someone who we felt “faked” it for attention? Maybe they insinuated that they had an allergy – but they didn’t – simply because they didn’t like a certain food, for example? Or maybe they didn’t want to do a certain activity/chore (e.g. dusting – dust allergy) or that they were trying to cut something out of their diet for whatever reason.
Or maybe, peoples negative reactions are simply because they just don’t understand what it is to have an allergy.
Unfortunately, these perceptions can have a negative effect on real allergy sufferers.
I personally have a food allergy. A lot of the time when I go out to eat, or go to someone’s house for dinner, I am constantly on high alert and worrying about what food is available for me to eat or wondering if they accidentally (and sometimes on purpose – to see if I am in fact making it all up) put in an ingredient thinking it was safe, when it was not.
This has happened on more than one occasion.
It does get overwhelming at times. Not to mention feeling like a burden if I have to request a separate dish to everyone else. Most places I go to eat are very accommodating, but there have been a few who just don’t take it seriously.
The lack of options available in restaurants for people who suffer from food allergies or intolerance’s is quite astonishing. Most people may not be aware that having an intolerance to something can be just as bad as having an allergy. You still get sick. You still have that worry that eating the food will ruin your day, night or even your week. It may not be as life threatening as an allergy but it is still a very real and valid condition.
The real difference is that allergy sufferers could potentially die from their reactions.
An allergic reaction is your immune systems response to a particular allergen. Your body senses the allergen soon after it being ingested and the antibodies react by releasing histamine. The histamine reaction causes swelling, itching and inflammation. Symptoms associated with allergies are:
- Wheezing, Coughing, Shortness of breath
- Swelling, Rash, Hives
- Itchy eyes, ears, lips and throat
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
A food intolerance is where your body has difficulty digesting certain foods. The symptoms of an intolerance can take longer to appear than that of an allergy. These symptoms can include:
- Bloating, Cramping
- Migraines, Headaches
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Feeling under the weather
It can be difficult to determine whether someone is allergic or intolerant as many of the signs and symptoms can overlap. Generally though, an allergic reaction is almost immediate, which helps in narrowing down the diagnosis.
Having an allergy/intolerance to any kind of food or substance can be very debilitating. Some people’s perceptions of these can be quite hurtful. I suffered for years before I actually got a diagnosis. Luckily I have never had an anaphylactic reaction, but my body would react within a half hour of eating the particular food. I would vomit for days, with hives all over my body. Until blood tests confirmed what the problem was, it was really tough to know what I could and couldn’t eat. Having people constantly question it and challenge me on “Why” or since I “Didn’t have problems with it growing up” then I “Couldn’t possibly” have an allergy now.
It’s important for people to know, intolerance’s and allergies can develop over time and not just show up in childhood.
I’ve also had people say to me “Sure a small bit won’t hurt you” and “Ah, there’s always something wrong with you”. This is upsetting and has, at times, made me feel like maybe I shouldn’t tell people and just suffer the consequences, but then sense kicks back in. Even if I want that slice of cake really bad (I’m not gonna lie, cake is usually the “almost” tipper for me!), there’s the immediate vomiting, aggressive hives, dizziness, nausea and stomach pains, that I have to think about, and those symptoms can last for up to a week.
So even though there might be some people who think a small bit wont hurt, that’s just the tip of the ice-berg.
It’s a HUGE thing to be diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance, at any age. It can be very tough lifestyle change for a lot of people and for a number of reasons. Apart from having the actual condition to deal with, you also have doctor/hospital visits; if you are in the early stage of being diagnosed you have the numerous tests and biopsies to go through and the cost of all these alone can be very hard on a person or indeed the whole family. You have to consider the certain foods you can no longer eat, which means constantly having to read labels when grocery shopping and planning your meals out ahead of time. There is the constant worry of wondering do you have your EpiPen with you, or going on a trip or a night out and possibly losing your medications. There are so many things you have to be aware of, and so many different scenarios about what “could” happen constantly go through your head.
The reality of this is, they could easily happen, to so many people. #
I really feel society as a whole should take allergies or intolerance’s more seriously, so there’s less of a likelihood for these bad situations to occur.
When I started working with Olive (CEO of MediStori) she told me about a very good friend of hers, Anne Walsh, who has a daughter with a severe anaphylactic allergy. Anne had set up her own website called www.Allergylifestyle.com because she herself found it so difficult to find a “one stop shop” to access solutions to help her daughter. When I visited the site, I felt for the first time in a long time, a relief knowing anything I bought there would be safe for me to use.
Such a simple thing for many, but a huge thing for me.
And this is the point of this blog post. Simple attitude changes, can make the biggest differences.
Whether you suffer from an allergy or an intolerance, as much as many of us hate to make a big deal about it, if we don’t speak up we risk ourselves getting extremely sick. It is then us who are left to deal with that, not the restaurant or the friend or family member cooking for us, so don’t let anyone play down YOUR condition.
We need to create an awareness about allergies and intolerance’s so that people DO recognise that it IS a big deal, maybe not to them, but to us it could be the difference between enjoying life or spending it in a hospital/in bed, sick for days.
Or in the worst case scenario, fighting for our lives.
Thank you for reading.
Jill and the MediStori Team
Do you or someone you know suffer with allergies or intolerance’s? We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please visit our Facebook page or Twitter @medistori and leave your comments.
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