Erfahrungsberichte

Erfahrungsberichte


My life with allergies

 

As a baby, I had a relatively strong cradle cap and also mild eczema. At the age of two, I developed a lactose intolerance, and from then on I had to replace cow's milk with goat's and sheep's milk. One year later I became allergic to strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes. When I ate it, I would have a relatively strong outbreak of neurodermatitis. I fortunately outgrew the lactose intolerance and the allergies to strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes over the years. 

At the age of four, I vomited for the first time after eating peanuts, and then again a short time later. A subsequent blood test finally showed that I have a peanut allergy. Unlike, for example, the strawberry allergy, I reacted much more strongly to peanuts; for that reason I had to avoid them much more consistently. For us that was quite a change. At first, we did not know how to handle it, nor did we know anyone who had a similar allergy.

When I started school at the age of seven, we explained to my teacher about my allergies and gave her a set of emergency medication. I had a second set in my school bag. My teacher always brought my emergency kit to physical education or on trips.

When I was nine, after consuming a chocolate bar, I had an allergic reaction. Soon after I had another reaction from eating a breakfast cereal. I felt a tingling in my throat, had hive on my face, could no longer speak and had a slight shortness of breath. A blood test showed that I had now also developed an allergy to soy. From then on, I also had to avoid all products that contained soy, including chocolate.

When my peanut allergy became life-threatening, I got new medication: I had to always have an adrenaline inhaler and Epipen with me. We then did a very extensive blood test, showing that I reacted to all other legumes, such as peas, chickpeas, and lentils, as well as cashew nuts. I even had to avoid the smell of peanuts. For that reason, when I went to high school, a peanut ban was imposed on the entire school grounds. For invitations, parties and aperitifs, I have to ask the person in charge not to serve peanuts. For larger occasions, I take my own food, at smaller get-togethers food is sometimes cooked for me.

In fifth grade I had my first school camp. I was very fortunate since my older brother accompanied me to the camp and cooked for me. I appreciated that very much, because as a child, of course, it is much more fun if, the big brother comes to the camp instead of the mother. Even in high school he accompanied me to the camps. One even changed the storage place because of me, because it would have been more difficult to cook on my own. I ate hazelnuts on a regular basis and have not shown any reaction so far. That's why I took them on a hike to Sils Maria in the Engadin. As I ate on the way, I suddenly felt a tingling in my throat, hives on my face and had problems breathing.

I immediately stopped eating and took the medication. The inhaled adrenaline worked immediately. We called the doctor, who first had to travel from St. Moritz to Sils Maria. He checked my lung function, my blood pressure and my heart rate, but everything was fine. No one could explain why I suddenly showed a reaction to hazelnuts.

A subsequent blood test revealed that I had antibodies in my blood. We then conducted a hazelnut provocation at the Children’s Hospital in Aarau, but it did not show any reaction. Today I am able to eat hazelnuts, for example in form of Nutella or if they are present as traces, but I still avoid pure hazelnuts.

 
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Due to the size of the school, it was not possible to impose a peanut ban on the whole school in high school, but there was a ban on peanut in the rooms in which I had lessons. These rooms I characterized with a "No peanuts in this classroom" sign on the inside and outside door. On the 6th and 7th of December of each year, I did not go to school because "Samichlaus" came to school. Only after graduation I learned by chance that the Samichlaus never had peanuts at that time because of me. The students adhered to the ban, with my teachers and classmates always helping and informing me early if they ever found peanuts somewhere, which was very rare.
In the second year of high school I began provocation tests at the University Hospital Zurich to find out from which dose of an allergen a reaction occurs. Within three years I provoked for peas, runner beans, chickpeas, lentils, soy, soy lecithin, carob kernels (once in high dose in a baby porridge and once in the form of thickener in cream), cashew nuts, pistachios and peanut oil. I started with a very small dose, for example half a chickpea, and waited twenty minutes. If there was no reaction during that time, I would eat a whole chickpea and wait another twenty minutes. This scenario repeated itself about five times, the sixth time I ate the rest of a normal serving. For peas, runner beans, soy lecithin, locust bean gum as a thickener, peanut oil and pistachios, I did not show any reaction, but for all other allergens. I reacted particularly strongly to chickpeas and cashews. Because of these provocations, today I know which foods to eat, even though I have low levels of antibodies in my blood. Apart from that, I now also know which foods I at least tolerate traces of. This made a lot of things possible and easier for me; for example, thanks to the soy lecithin provocation, I can now eat chocolate again. Still pending is a lupine provocation, which I hesitate to do, as many peanut allergy sufferers also show a strong reaction to lupine.
In the last year of high school I went with the class to Barcelona. We stayed in a hostel, which was equipped with a fridge, a microwave and some dishes. So I took a small stove with me, so that I could bake bread in the pan myself and also cook pasta or rice in between, with time I learned to just be a little more creative.
After the high school I started directly with a degree. In the lecture halls, there is a ban on eating and drinking, which is not always followed by everyone, although I have to admit that I too sometimes belong to it. Once I became aware of peanuts during a lecture from the smell of peanuts, and when I looked around I saw a fellow student eating M & M's a few rows in front of me, but she immediately put them away when I asked her.
 If I go on vacation by plane, I first need to contact the airline and ask them not to sell peanuts and peanut products on the flight in question and have them ask passengers that they do not consume any peanuts. Whenever possible, I fly with EasyJet, as this airline is experienced in this and is very reliable and uncomplicated: it is enough to point out the allergy to the flight personnel when boarding. They then refrain from selling peanuts and peanut-containing products and point out the passengers in a multilingual announcement about my allergy. I almost never go to hotels because the organization of the food would be too cumbersome for me; for this reason, I always rent an apartment in which I can cook for myself. I always take with me the most important foods, such as flour, bouillon and snacks for in between.
Whenever I go out, I will clarify in advance if any peanuts will be served in that particular place. When spontaneously going out, I ask at the restaurant / pub if there are peanuts, or a friend goes ahead of time to check for me. Fortunately, it is rare to find peanuts in clubs. Of course, if there's any in the bar or club, we'll have to go somewhere else, but for my friends this is never a problem.
When I was younger, I had trouble taking my own food to places, as I did not want to attract attention. Meanwhile I have gotten used to it, the allergies belong to me. Life is more time-consuming, because you have to cook yourself, cannot eat convenience foods and always have to check the products while shopping. On the other hand, there are also advantages, you eat healthier, since you always have to prepare everything yourself. I also use a lot of organic ingredients because they contain fewer additives.
Last but not least, I have to say that I have often met lots of understanding people. Even if many people do not have a great deal of knowledge about allergies, having a conversation with them clears up any ambiguity and any questions they might have.
(Name known to the association)