Emma Jane's Allergies

I have maintained this page for about ten years. My first allergic reaction was in 1995 to plums. The second one, a few months later, was to apple juice. In more than a decade of being aware of my food intolerances my reactions have been typical for the anaphylactic spectrum and include throwing up, extreme muscle and joint pain rendering me unable to walk or lift my head, migraines, diarrhea, contact and non-contact hives, contact and non-contact swelling (including throat and hands as appropriate). At least one reaction has resulted in partial throat closure during an anaphylatic reaction that happened hours after eating allergens. I now believe that some of the anxiety attacks I experienced as a child were directly related to the foods I was eating. I have a sharp memory of being at camp, eating an apple and then experiencing what I now know was a panic attack. Apart from the apple, I can remember no other logical trigger for the attack.

Allergies are scary and life threatening. They are not funny. They are not something an outside observer is able to evaluate, perceive or understand the full implications of.

My reactions are rarely immediate--often taking up to eight hours to manifest and starting while I'm sleeping. Contact reactions to deadly nightshades (potatoes, peppers) can happen immediately. In some ways this delayed reaction can make the reaction more dangerous because I can't necessarily taste the allergen and end up eating more of it, which worsens the reaction when it does happen. It can often take me up to a week to completely recover from a single exposure to an ingested allergen. During the recovery period I will suffer from physical reactions including non-contact hives, non-contact eczema (typically on my hands), headaches, pain due to joint swelling and diarrhea. I live most of my life with a low grade headache. You probably won't notice if I'm dealing with my allergies, or am having a "good day", today. If you ask me about my allergies, I will probably downplay their severity.

It has been ten years since having an anaphylactic reaction that required the assisted, medical attention of adrenaline (EpiPen) and injected anti-histamines. I typically control my reactions with oral anti-histamines and go to the hospital if I think the reaction may become more severe. I have started eating many of the foods that were once on my "no eat" list; however, this is entirely dependent on my mood. Allergies are an immune system response. If my immune system is weak I am more likely to react "inappropriately" to some foods.

I can safely eat: starchy white foods (wheat, rice, potatoes and pasta), citrus fruits, pineapples, bacon and ginger. But not bacon and ginger at the same time. I tried that once and it tastes worse than rubbish. I can usually tolerate trace amounts of my allergens if they have been cooked. All meats are fine (yes, I can eat fish and shellfish). Green veggies, with the exception of green peppers (capsicum), are fine (Brussel sprouts are my FAVE veggie, seriously). I carry a medic alert card in my wallet that I often give to the waiter in restaurants where the chefs are cooking foods from scratch and can accommodate my needs. The rest of the time I take an anti-histamine and make educated guesses before ordering my food.

I have started eating the following foods when they have been cooked: peanuts, pears, bananas, pecans, cashews, carrots, celery, chamomile, parsley. Please avoid nuts that are not one of pecans or cashews.

When in doubt, ask!

Allergies as of July 12, 2013

Here's the big list of things that I'm allergic to (in no particular order).The *s indicate the food has triggered a full anaphylactic reaction. No * means I have reacted adversely, but had a full anaphylatic reaction (e.g. headaches, skin rash, vomitting).

  • apples *
  • plums *
  • hazelnuts *
  • sunflower seeds *
  • avocados *
  • maple syrup * (imitation flavor is fine)
  • peaches
  • cherries
  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, etc)
  • strawberries
  • kiwi
  • paprika and cayenne pepper
  • raw celery and carrots are sometimes still a problem. please omit them from salads. in soups they're fine.
  • soy milk, tofu, miso, "protein", "lecithin", mono-diglyceride, MSG, "natural flavors", "emulsifier", okara (okra, however, is fine), tempeh and all soy products. This ends up being a very long list. Please read labels carefully on any prepared/packaged foods. If you are cooking with any of these, please do not double dip your stirring utensil. I will get sick. Ideally my food is prepped ahead of time to avoid cross-contamination.
  • raw bell peppers (red, green but hot peppers are okay), raw squash and raw potatoes (but really, who eats raw potatoes?). Peppers are all fine if included in soup, or otherwise well cooked. Hot peppers and black peppers are considered "safe." I have had contact reactions to bell peppers, squash and potatoes (rash on touching).
  • In terms of cooking oils: please do not cook with sunflower, safflower or soy oils. Canola, vegetable, peanut and olive oil are fine. Please also check bread labels for these oils.

I am a challenge to cook for and am happy to do it myself if you're feeling unsure or uncomfortable. :) If there is a chance of cross-contamination, please let me know BEFORE I start eating so I can take an oral anti-histamine. Ideally I have at least 20 minutes notice so the anti-histamine has time take effect.

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