I always thought that when my daughters reacted to milk as infants and that followed with more allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and kiwi, that we were the first of our extended family to go through this journey. While we may be the only ones with an anaphylactic response to date, traveling and talking to both sides of my family while on holidays over the last several weeks has brought other food allergies to light.
First, my 60 year old aunt just got diagnosed with peanut allergies. After several bouts of terrible stomach pains after a late night snack of peanuts, testing last month revealed a “new” allergy to peanuts. It sure makes me wonder what’s going on with our immune systems that allergies are increasing on both the front end of our life spans as well as the latter part.
Second, at our recent family reunion on my husband’s side, we met up again with my husband’s cousin who has 3 children, all allergic to milk. Upon further discussion, that cousin, her brother and my husband all feel sick when ingesting clam chowder and all of them have had reactions with swelling eyes while eating shrimp. My husband has avoided these items for years simply because they made him feel so sick as a child. However, we now know that when he has red, swollen eyes, it inevitably leads back to shrimp. None of these people have ever been formally diagnosed, they’ve just automatically avoided shellfish due to their experiences.
My cousin reminded me that her father (my maternal uncle), is also allergic to shrimp, a fact he discovered in his 30s when he order chicken balls that turned out to be shrimp, not chicken. Luckily, as a pharmacist, he understood what was going on and was able to get some antihistamines on board. This was over 30 years ago when these kinds of reactions were not the norm.
And now, our youngest has added another allergy to the list, albeit an easier one to control. While stealing a chickpea from her sister’s salad last Thursday night, she experienced itching at the back of her throat. Given that she’s allergic to peanuts, this new development isn’t exactly surprising since chickpeas are a legume. So no more hummus and chickpeas in this house.
Can you trace back any incidents in your family over the last 30 years that could be attributed to food allergies? Is it that they were always there but we either didn’t pay much attention or that those individuals didn’t like the way they felt when they ate a particular food and so instinctually avoided it? Maybe they’ve always been there but weren’t as severe as anaphylaxis or that larger amounts (rather than traces) would only cause the reaction.
For those moms who blame themselves for their child’s food allergies, maybe we can let go of that and start attaching blame a couple of generations back. Sounds good to me.