DETROIT – There’s been a lot of talk about adult food allergies in our newsroom this past week following our special report. I wanted to share a personal story in the hopes that it might help one of you.
As a mom, we’re familiar with food allergies in children. Moms talk about that sort of thing all the time. Shortly after I had my twin boys, I had a major allergic reaction to something I have eaten my entire life. It can happen to adults. In my case, it was just a few weeks shy of my 42nd birthday.
Someone had given me a gift basket as a present. It was full of lots of bags of delicious things from a local grocery store. I opened one of the bags of nuts and grabbed a couple of cashews. A few minutes later, my lips started to tingle.
Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it and moved on. I paid no attention to it and never really thought about it again. This was a big mistake.
A few days later, the gift basket was still in my car. I left work to drive home to pick up my kids and take them to their evening activity. I called a friend, then opened up the giant bag of cashews. I was on the phone and wasn’t thinking. I hadn’t eaten lunch, and I was starving.
I talked on the phone and scarfed down most of the bag of cashews while driving on the Lodge heading home. I remember hanging up the phone with my girlfriend saying, “I’ve got to go. Suddenly I’m not feeling so great.”
By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was drenched in sweat, and my lips had started to swell. Then, it got harder and harder to breathe.
I remember wondering if I was about to die. I opened the car door and threw up everywhere -- I’m talking projectile vomiting. It took a good 20 minutes, at least, to start to calm down and breathe easier.
It was absolutely terrifying. Benadryl started to help. I saw an allergist immediately and got several epipens to carry with me.
I started going through the process of allergy testing. It took a while, but eventually, my doctor was able to confirm I was allergic to tree nuts, and specifically cashews. Oddly enough, my doctor said cashews technically aren’t tree nuts, but they are closely related, along with pistachios, almonds, pecans and walnuts, because they are seeds of drupes? Go figure.
A few years later, after working with doctors at the allergy center at the University of Michigan, I found out some allergists believe pregnancies can trigger food allergies. In my case, that made a lot of sense.
The moral of the story: If you start to have any sort of reaction after eating something, even if it’s something you’ve been eating your whole life, get help right away. Don’t ignore the symptoms or warning signs.