Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Life Without...

I discovered tonight, that I might have to live the rest of my life without guacamole. I’m not sure I can do it. Avocados might be the one food I’ll risk an allergic reaction for.

It started out innocently enough. A couple of years ago, I noticed my tongue getting itchy when I would eat baby carrots. (You know, trying to be healthy.) I started washing the carrots really well, thinking it was something that was on them. My tongue was still itchy. I started buying *gasp* regular carrots and peeling, washing, and cutting them myself. It still did not help. Then I noticed the same thing happening when I ate cantaloupe.

I did some Googling and discovered I was not losing my mind. What I was actually experiencing was a reaction to my regular allergies. A cross-reaction. The next time I went to my doctor, I mentioned it to her, the Wikipedia information printed out in my purse. She knew before I even pulled it out, though. “Oh yes, Oral Allergy Syndrome. Your allergies are maturing.” Maturing? What the heck? I don’t want mature allergies. I want to eat carrots and cantaloupe.

I the past couple of years, I haven’t had as many “regular” allergy symptoms…just these new food problems that have suddenly popped up. I’ve tried everything to control my allergies. At one point in my life, I was on two daily medications, an inhaler, nose spray, and eye drops. With no relief. So I stopped everything cold turkey and just dealt with the symptoms as they popped up. My doctor told me that medication wouldn’t stop the reactions I was having, but it might make them less severe. I didn’t think an itchy tongue was that severe, but she warned me of hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis, which I’ve experienced before and would really like to avoid. She told me that raw foods would cause the worst reactions, but cooked foods may cause gastrointestinal problems…which I am also not fond of. We decided it would probably be best for me to just avoid the foods altogether. On my way out the door, she stopped me. “Be careful with strawberries.” Check.

Since there was nothing I could really do with this new diagnosis of “maturing allergies,” I avoided carrots and cantaloupe. When I had similar reactions to kiwi, bananas, blueberries, and melon, I avoided them, too. I forget every once in a while. I order a salad and don’t notice that they used a bag salad mix with shredded carrots in it. Once, I ordered a strawberry margarita and had sucked more than half of it down before I started feeling funny and swelling up. A couple of Benedryl helped, but I was pretty embarrassed.

The reactions got worse. A sliver of a carrot might have me breaking out in hives. I kissed Little Sister once after she ate strawberries and my lips swelled up like someone had punched me in the face. I ate a banana that almost choked me because my throat started closing.

I keep finding more and more things that I can’t eat. The list scares the heck out of me…I don’t know what I’ll do if I wake up one day and find I can’t eat apples. Or oranges, peppers, or peaches.

I went to an allergist this year who tested me for 64 environmental and food allergies. I am allergic to…pretty much everything. Trees, grass, pollen, cats, dogs, horses, dust, mold…everything. As far as food goes…I am only officially allergic to bananas and hazelnut. (I can’t remember if they tested me for avocados, but I will ask at my next appointment.) The doctor confirmed that my reactions are due to Oral Allergy Syndrome. He wants me to do allergy shots, which I declined, due to a near-death experience 8 years ago. (That’s a story for another night, though.) He put me on 3 allergy medications, hoping they will make my reactions less severe.

I am still waiting, but not have had much exposure to anything I’m allergic to since I saw the allergist. I recently thought I had a small reaction to watermelon, which was new, but I haven’t had more to confirm it was a problem. Tonight, I specifically requested an avocado for my salad, which also included tomato, orange pepper, green pepper, cucumbers, and black olives—all things I’ve eaten recently with no reaction. I’ve had slight reactions to guacamole in the past, but ignored it…Tonight, though, I wasted 4 points on half an avocado that made me itch.

And so the list grows…

Honeydew melon

The internet is full of people who are familiar with OAS. My life, however is not. To everyone I know, I’m just weird, allergic to bizarre things, and a pain in the ass to cook for or eat out with because I have to ask a million questions and often pick through my food to make sure there’s nothing hiding in there. I scour ingredients lists, looking for hidden things that might cause a reaction. Carrots hiding away in Italian salad dressing or pureed into tomato soup. Blueberries masquerading in my cherry yogurt. (This happened more than once. I’ll never buy that store’s brand again.)

I hate being so high maintenance.

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