A couple of weeks ago we had a fun KMB Mom’s Night Out event at Hunter Valley Farms sponsored by The Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center. During the Q&A session, lots of moms posed great questions to the doctors about their kids’ allergy issues, when to introduce foods to their babies, etc. It was super informative and the staff members who came were fantastic. Because my kids are 11 and 14 and have, thankfully, never had a problem with food or seasonal allergies, my burning question was about the person in our family with the most “issues” – me.
Beginning about five years ago, there were a few seemingly random nights that I broke out into hives, just on my neck up. And by that I mean all over my head – my scalp, ears, eyelids – all of it. (Annoying and attractive.) It always seemed to be out of the blue, but after several instances I narrowed it down to a single culprit – shrimp. I’ve never been a big meat eater but shrimp is my favorite. I loved it from a very early age and I could eat my weight in cocktail shrimp; anywhere, anytime. So to realize, after leaving a restaurant where a bowl of cocktail shrimp was the only thing I ate, that my hives had to be coming from my favorite food on earth, was infuriating.
Shrimp, we’ve had 35 good years together – how could you betray me?!
I had never heard of other adults developing sudden food allergies – honestly, I didn’t know it was “a thing” at all. I finally (begrudgingly) went to an allergist and had a skin test performed. The results were what I had feared – the shrimp prick showed the most extreme reaction. At our Mom’s Night Out event, I
cornered spoke with one of the knowledgeable (and patient!) doctors about my issues and was so happy to have some more insight into this frustrating problem.
I told him my story and he explained everything in greater depth, helping me better understand what was going on. Skin tests rarely produce “false negatives” (results indicating that you are not allergic to a food, even though you really are). Negative results almost always mean that you are not allergic to a food. Hurrah for that. But positive tests are not always accurate. About 50-60 percent of tests yield “false positive” results, meaning that the test shows positive even though you are not really allergic to the food being tested. So that’s kind of good news, too. I had some other skin pricks show a positive result but they were on foods that I had never had a problem with. I’ve continued to eat those foods with no issues (yet). He told me that a shrimp allergy could show positive when you’re actually allergic to dust mites, which are somehow related. Interesting, right?
What is most frustrating is that researchers don’t know exactly what causes the body to react to an allergen after many years of uneventful contact with it… There just aren’t any concrete answers when it comes to adult-onset allergies of any variety. The kind doctor did say that aging, along with hormonal changes, are thought to have some part in it. So, as we already knew, getting old is the worst.
Another KMB contributor talked to him about drug allergies – she has known for as long as she can remember that she’s allergic to a certain medication. I’ve had the same story, with a different medication – I write it on every form, wore the “alert” bracelet in the hospital when both of my babies were born, but when asked what happens when I’m exposed to the drug, I have to answer stupidly, “I have no idea.” My mom has always told me that I’m allergic, but because testing is done at birth or soon after, our contributor brought up a great point that our bodies obviously change over time and the doctor wholeheartedly agreed that we should be re-tested now to confirm those allergies. A simple concept but one I had never considered… How great would it be to never have to write anything in those “Allergic to” boxes at every doctor’s office and then answer the nurse with a dumbfounded look on my face when asked about them!
So for now, I plan to do what he suggested… Come back in for a shrimp “challenge,” which sounds like the greatest thing in the world. I’ll take in a big tray of shrimp, eat to my heart’s delight, and wait – under his watchful eye – to see what happens. We may just have a KMB party there, with a different challenge going on in each room… 😉