“Tracy Bush is a Food Allergy Consultant, Author, Blogger, Mother & Self-professed “Kitchen Geek”. Her website AllergyPhoods and media pages are a mixture of product reviews, recipes and advice mixed with a tinge of humor. Her mission- “I write, I cook and I laugh and I aim to make everyone else do the same.”
My son is 17 now but he has had food allergies all of his life. He is allergic to eggs, peanuts, uncooked dairy, watermelon and shellfish. Although I thought about sharing how we began our journey with food allergies, I decided to fast forward to raise awareness about something else. We are always told what to watch for when introducing new foods but what happens when a food you have been eating all of your life suddenly pops up as a new allergy?
Watermelon is a typical food that is shared during many holidays, picnics and family get together. My son liked watermelon and being a picky eater, I was excited that he enjoyed a fruit. A few times, I noticed that he would get a few red marks on his chin but I was told it was probably just the juice on his skin. No other symptoms emerged so I didn’t worry about it. Until Fourth of July a few years ago.
It was a hot day and the water slide was up. The kids were playing, and one of the foods I had was watermelon. We were talking at the table and I noticed that my son began to clear his throat. Then again. And again. I asked if he was ok and he said “It feels like I have a potato chip stuck in my throat.” I gave him some water. He sipped slowly but still kept trying to clear his throat. Then, he spoke. But it wasn’t his normal voice. It was as if someone had given him a little bit of helium. After he spoke, I saw his eyes change and fill with fear. I stood up and said I was getting his epinephrine. He just kept saying “No, I want my inhaler. Get my asthma inhaler.” I ran into the house and grabbed everything- the telephone, his inhaler, Benadryl and epinephrine. He used his inhaler and swallowed a dose of Benadryl. My heart was pounding but I tried to remain calm to keep him calm. After a few minutes, it subsided.
Now this is why I wanted to share this moment- I know parents are told not to use Benadryl and to go straight to epinephrine. I know that we are told if there is tightening of the throat to use epinephrine. Inside of my head, I knew. I had it in my hand, waiting. But in the moment, this was a food that he had not reacted to before. It wasn’t a new food, it was a familiar food. In the moment, I did not freeze but instead was trying to decide what would be the very best way to handle the situation. It was a moment when I was torn between what I was told I should do and what I felt I should be doing. Would I do the same thing again? No. It could have been worse. But if it happened again, I would have a clearer picture- I would already understand that an allergic reaction can happen, even with foods he has eaten. It was an odd place to be in and not know if my choice of action would be the right choice.
His doctor suggested that his reaction to the watermelon might have been due to the high pollen levels that day. He also suggested that we try giving it to him again to see if that was correct. I did know that I did not want to do that. My son and I both agreed he can live without watermelon rather than test a theory that may endanger his life.
I cannot help but wonder how many people are not informed about concomitant/synergistic foods. Does your physician or allergy specialist explain these terms to you as an added measure of safety? Concomitant reactions may not happen to everyone but for some, an allergic reaction may occur when you eat certain foods while the pollen levels are high. Synergistic foods are foods that may cause an allergic reaction when they are eaten together when they otherwise cause no reaction when they are eaten alone.
“Food can both harm and heal. Becoming knowledgeable about all aspects of food allergies can seem overwhelming but there is so much love and support within the food allergy community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and know that everyone makes mistakes. Do not use mistakes to feel guilty but instead, use it to empower yourself. Above all, remember that food allergies do not stop you from living. They simply show you a new path that you did not expect”- Tracy Bush