Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis

Most people take eating for granted.  They do it with very little thought. They decide what they want, buy it, prepare it, and eat it.  It’s not complicated.

For people with food intolerances and diseases, such as celiac disease, it is complicated.  Those of us who have to avoid even traces of gluten know that having to scrutinize everything you eat is a different lifestyle.

Young Girl Eating a Hotdog --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisImage by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

From the beginning of my gluten-free days I knew I had to be extremely careful or I would react.   But I also knew that there were other people out there—people with life threatening food allergies who had it worse off than I did.

I would tell restaurant employees that yes, it is serious, but I’m not going to die—today, right here—if I eat gluten.

Food allergies are not always life threatening, but for some people they are.  The allergy can cause an anaphylactic reaction which can quickly lead to death.  Such people often carry an EpiPen which is used to give a shot of epinephrine.  The epinephrine counteracts the reaction, immediately giving relief from symptoms. But it only lasts 15 minutes.  If medical help hasn’t arrived another shot may be needed.

Young Boy (10-11) Eating a Mince-Pie --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisImage by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Last month I had the privilege of listening to a lady speak about her experience as the mother of a son with several life threatening food allergies.  I was brought to tears more than once.   This seven-year-old boy needed his first EpiPen when he was three.  They have had to use one a total of eight times.  That’s an average of twice a year that he needs life saving intervention for a food allergy.

I can’t imagine.  I can’t imagine trying to balance protecting him and allowing him to be a kid.  But somehow this mom does it.  And others do too.

It makes me appreciate my life just the way it is.  My gluten free, label reading, celiac life.

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  1. Donnie says

    I have Celiac, but I also have severe food allergies. I’m allergic to corn, sulfites and a few other foods. For those of us with corn allergy, our lives are put at risk because corn is “king”, and corn allergy is ignored by the FDA, USDA, FAAN and others. Corn is used in so many ways with our foods and non-food products, that it is impossible to avoid. Most food additives are made from corn, and it’s used in processing and packaging and not labeled. Be very glad you don’t have corn allergy, because corn can not be avoided. Just about all prescription and OTC drugs contain cornstarch or other corn additives, too.

  2. Virginia says

    Very well put!!! My daughter also has Celiac Disease (was dx at 13). Reading labels is definitely a way of life for us. But I know I do have to remind myself that at least she does not get serious life threatening results if she ingests gluten. I really feel for those people who do have such allergies.

  3. says

    My mom has a gluten intolerance and her husband has a very rare type of wheat allergy that is exercise-induced. My sister and her husband are vegetarians so it makes family get-togethers very interesting food-wise. At a restaurant it’s difficult to convey the different levels of caution that we have to take with our food. I feel for parents of young children with allergies who struggle with controlling what goes in their kid’s mouths.

  4. Christine Robinett says

    I am gluten intolerant and have multiple food allergies including wheat, corn, rice and several others. I will get the allergic reaction within minutes and then the intolerance reaction kicks in. It’s very hard on my blood pressure that will shoot up within 20-30 minutes of ingesting. So far I haven’t had anaphylaxsis but have come close. Hemp/Cannibis is pretty bad. I can’t eat, wear, apply anything made from hemp and discovered this problem when I was in college. The first time I inhaled Cannibis as second-hand smoke I wound up with pneumonia and pleural effusion. While I’m pro hemp/cannibis legalization for enivronmental and medicinal, I have reservations obviously about where and how it will be delivered. I hope vaporizers become the norm v. Smoking.

  5. says

    We’ve recently gone dairy and gluten free to try to deal with recurring chest infections and skin issues with one of my twins. I am glad they are not life threatening issues, at least not in the emergency sense (long term damage is a different issue).
    They are under 3. They have no clue about what food is safe and what isn’t. We go to playtimes and drop ins that often have muffins and breads out and I have to watch the one with problem like a hawk (he can find food a mile away) and make sure I always have extra food with us.
    As vegetarians, I’ve always had to read labels carefully. Now I have a whole new list of foods/additives to check for. And I am constantly having to remind people who give my kids food to check with me first. I just ordered some of those fun arm bands that list allergies for kids. Hopefully it will at least stop people from passing down the tray of muffins that I so carefully put out of reach.

  6. says

    Thanks for this post. My daughter carries an EpiPen for a tree nut, peanut, and sesame allergy and although gluten free is difficult what you said here is so true.

    “I would tell restaurant employees that yes, it is serious, but I’m not going to die—today, right here—if I eat gluten.”

    Life with any food issue is so challenging but the reality of life with a life threatening allergy and the reality of needing an EpiPen makes it even more challenging.

  7. JillW says

    This is a great post! And I share your sentiments here. I would only add that allergic reactions can come and go for some folks and should maybe never be ruled out as a possibility. As I go through the process of healing my immune system, I’ve found personally that a mild reaction to something one day is no assurance that there will not be a stronger reaction on another. It seems to me there is much mystery to depressed immune systems, allergies, and celiac–from all of which I suffer. My prayers go out for those who are most challenged by life-threatening reactions.

  8. Joanne Zennamo says

    Thank you for pointing out the seriousness of food allergies. I have an allergy to casein and whey so any form of dairy is out for me. I cannot tell you how many times I have been served food containing dairy products after specifying to a waiter/waitress that I cannot have it. It is very frustrating and I do wonder at times what it would be like to just choose a food without having to think about it.

  9. Heather says

    My daughter has a severe peanut allergy. We can’t go out to eat very often. If we do it is the same thing. Talking to the manager about her meal. Then I can’t even enjoy it because I am so scared she might come in contact with a peanut product. She also carries and epipen. She is also intolerant to gluten, dairy, corn and soy. So I cook everything from scratch. This year we even decided to home school because it was just to dangerous to send her to public school with all the peanut butter sandwiches. Seriously count your blessing!!!

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