Disclaimer: This article (Growing Up With Oral Allergy Syndrome (Food Allergies & Seasonal Allergies)) is purely my own experience, I am not an expert or doctor, please see an expert if you have any questions or need advise.
I have been wanting to write about my experience growing up with Oral Allergy Syndrome for a long time now and since it is currently that time of year with extremely high pollen count I figured now was better then ever. Plus my head is so congested it is hard for my creative side to think of new recipes 😉
My purpose of this article is not necessarily to tell you what Oral Allergy Syndrome is you can read more about it here but to tell you my experience with it growing up. But if you are unfamiliar with what Oral Allergy Syndrome is I can give you my ‘stump speech’ that I have become very good at,
“I have Oral Allergy Syndrome, so I have really bad seasonal/outdoor allergies and some of those allergies and certain fruits and vegetables share the same types of proteins, but only when they are raw, so if the fruits and veggies are cooked, or frozen it denatures the proteins making it okay for me to eat but at the same time I do have actual allergies to some foods.”
Discovering my Allergies
My allergies did not present themselves like a severe allergy would, I never ended up in the hospital or in anaphylactic shock but I remember most of them were apparent from a young age. My allergies first presented themselves as classic seasonal allergies in elementary school. Playing outside at recess, most notably rolling down the grassy hill with my friends would leave me with hives and eyes so red and swollen I would need someone to help me to the nurses office. It was pretty clear at a young age I would be dealing with awful allergies.
Food allergies were not far to follow. My first food allergy was celery. Yes celery, celery is my worst food allergy (this always amazes people because ‘isn’t it mostly water’). I never remember being able to eat celery, close to follow was bad reactions to carrots, cantaloupe, and honeydew. Turns out these fruits and veggies were so prevalent at a young age because I am actually allergic allergic to them, they aren’t a result of Oral Allergy Syndrome although in many people’s cases they could be.
Around 9 years old is when my allergies started to really get bad and then they worsened as I hit puberty. I felt like every week there was a new fruit or vegetable that would make my throat itch like crazy. And my outdoor allergies were getting worse as well. Then discovering after playing at a friend’s house with a cat that I was allergic to cats.
Middle school became a time in my life were the list of things that I had reactions to grew, a longer list of foods I couldn’t enjoy, not being able to enjoy a sunny spring day with my friends, having to use an inhaler when I joined the track team so I could run and breathe at the same time.
By the time I had made it to high school I am pretty sure I was dubbed ‘allergy girl’. Especially when the science wing gave me a rash on my arm. Not joking practically everyday of science class in high school left me with a red rash on my hands and arms. I had a permanent pass to the nurses office so I could leave class and put anti itch lotion on it. *And here come the flashbacks to getting mocked*
So finally in high school I saw an allergist specialist. (Yes maybe a little earlier in life would have been nice but as bad as I make it sound it had been manageable.) I got the whole pins and needles test done. This is not a fun test, the nurses had to come in and stop half of the tests after 3 minutes because I was so allergic to some of the tests, grass, birch pollen, and ragweed were just a few that needed to be stopped.
After a painful test the doctor came in and told me I had a buttload (okay he didn’t say buttload) of allergies. Basically the chart they gave me was filled more with things I was allergic to then I wasn’t (not exactly new information but it was relaxing having a proper list). He then sat me down and told me I have Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) and because my trigger allergies were so severe that is way Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) was so prevalent in my life.
Being told I had Oral Allergy Syndrome and finally understanding how and why it worked changed my life. I was able to control my allergies so much better, I was able to understand what I was actually allergic to and what was a side affect of OAS.
Teasing and Bullying
I debated including this section in this article, In this day and age I feel like bullying is such a touchy subject but then I realized at times growing up my allergies were a touchy subject. “Allergy Girl”, “You should live in a bubble”, laughing and mocking my itchy skin as a walked to the nurses office were all things I dealt with all through my adolescent years. Luckily I was a pretty strong teenager, knowing my allergies was out of my control made it easy to brush most of it off.
I think the one that bothers me the most and always has is the ‘joke’ that I should just live in a bubble. Luckily I have pretty thick skin and I can just laugh it off but I will say this. The bubble joke is not funny, you are essentially telling me that I don’t deserve to live a full life, that the best way to treat me is just getting rid of me. So while it seems like an innocent joke please stop, you are not funny, I don’t want to live in a bubble. So be kind, people with allergies cannot help it, get a life. *Rant over*
My Family and I Dealing With It
I’d like to start out this section pointing out that I appreciate how my parents handled my allergies but just because it worked for us doesn’t mean it would work for everyone (especially if you have life threatening allergies).
I am really the only one in my family to suffer from bad allergies, my dad gets some seasonal allergies, my mom can’t be around cats, but my brother & sister have been graced with having none. So yes sometimes things had to revolve around my allergies but we definitely never let it stop us from anything.
My parents let me take control of my own allergies from a young age. They let me decide if I wanted to play outside or not and deal with the allergies and they let me continue to try to eat different fruits and veggies even if sometimes they would cause a reaction. They never once said no, they let me control my life and my allergies, and I could not be more grateful.
Yes sometimes I was left out but that was okay, I had allergies. The older I have gotten the more it bothers me when people bend over backwards to accommodate my allergies, I am okay knowing I can’t have certain things, I am used to it. Because my parents let me control my own allergies and life I learned to accommodate myself. I know to come prepared with allergy medicine or with my own food I know I can eat.
For our family the hands off approach worked best, I learned for myself, I wasn’t dependent on other people. Just because I have allergies doesn’t mean I have to be treated like I live in a bubble *cough cough*.
How I Want To Be Treated – My Advise to Friends and Family of OAS
First and foremost try to not treat us like wierdos. I know that sounds weird but you’d be amazed at the reactions I get when I explain my allergies to people, like almost any medical condition we are normal people who just want to be treated normal.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when other people make a bigger deal about my allergies then I do. I recommend playing off how the person with OAS is acting, for some reason if they are making it a deal there is most likely a reason, if people are more nonchalant about it then let them control their allergies themselves.
Another big pet peeve is people telling me I can’t eat things. Oh really? I can’t eat it, want to bet? Instead of telling me what I can and cannot eat kindly point out the ingredients or let me know that there might be allergens in the food. Ask me if it’s okay for me to eat don’t tell me.
I am not trying to make anyone feel bad about trying to care about me, I appreciate people watching out for me but overreacting and telling me what to do is treating me like a weirdo.
Growing up and ‘out’ of my Allergies
Everyone always told me that my type of allergies I would outgrow and I not for one second believed any of them. And into adulthood not much changed, in college I still got the bubble girl joke. With a widening of my world I got the chance to meet many others with OAS and other allergies. I quickly learned that OAS is an instant connection between two people. I met other people who also would also eat an apple well knowing that their throats and ears would be crazy itchy for the next 30 minutes but they didn’t care because they wanted that apple. As I imagine with any condition it’s nice for other people to understand.
Into my mid-20’s nothing much changed with my allergies and then I got pregnant. My son Archie made me incredibly sick during pregnancy so in all honesty I didn’t eat a lot/different foods. Once he was born and I was feeling normal again and had an appetite I started to notice some differences. It was the smells of certain things that made me question a shift in my allergies. Certain smells that used to bother me (for example celery, even the smell of celery used to make me itchy) didn’t seem to bother me as much. So I started small, things that occasionally bothered me didn’t, we rolled around to springtime and while yes I still had allergies they weren’t as bad as they had been in past years. In all honesty I have not been back to see an allergist although it’s on my long list of things to do so I have no idea if I am just growing out of them (or at least they’ve gotten better) because I am getting older or because my pregnancy shifted something. I am now able to for the most part enjoy an apple or strawberries without itching in my throat and ears, which in my opinion is amazing.
So even though I am still dealing with allergies (recently my husband asked for a honeydew melon when he saw it in the grocery ad and just cutting it up caused my hands to break out in hives) they have become a tad better and more manageable in my adult life. The worst of it was in my teen years and I am very glad that portion of my life is behind me. The only allergies I really worry about now is the ones I can see developing in my son, feeling bad he might have to deal with the same experiences.
Oral Allergy Syndrome sucks. It’s a sucky and annoying thing to have to deal with, it can ruin your day or week but I say thanks every night that for a large majority of people suffering from it like myself it’s not deadly. Dealing with it during adolescence was tough but it becomes more manageable overtime. As a food blogger I don’t let it dictate what I can and cannot do, If you are a close follower of the blog you will notice I have not mentioned my food allergies once, and while their are many successful allergy food bloggers I make it a point to not let it define me, and this is my personal choice.
To my fellow OAS and allergy sufferers hang in there, do what you can to make it manageable and most importantly don’t let anyone tell you to live in a bubble.
Peace & Love
Lauren, The Schmidty Wife