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  • Grace

What are allergies?

According to the Cambridge online dictionary, allergies are 'a condition that makes a person become sick or develop skin or breathing problems because they have eaten certain foods or been near certain substances'.  But allergies are more than just facts - allergies are about the bodies of people who have them? How do they feel about it? After all, people with allergies aren’t scientific wonders - they’re human!

So, first of all, what are allergies? Allergies are an immune response to your body consuming something specific, where the immune system releases histamine to start attacking the food you ate. Because it is attacking something, your body has a reaction (rashes, sniffling, itching and more). It’s like when you have a cold - your body is fighting something off which causes your nose to be sniffly and, in some cases, you have a fever.


Having allergies can also be really annoying. Every single time you go to a restaurant, you are burdened with the need to ask waiters about what dishes are safe. Or when your friend offers you a chip? Or when you see your younger brother stuffing his face with chocolate cake? These are all the everyday situations that people with allergies need to reconsider. 


So, as an allergen, how do I feel? Left out, and slightly jealous. People ask me questions like: "What happens if you eat it - will you die?", "Why can't you eat this?" and "How do you survive?". These questions bubble up within me and get a bit annoying. That’s why I think it's important that you think before saying something about someone's allergies. I, having personal experience, think it can be a slightly sensitive topic to talk about. A lot of people with allergies get used to not being able to eat certain things - or at least I have - but that jealous thought still lingers in my head every time I wish I could eat a croissant, or stuff my face with Vanilla shortcake.


So, in my opinion, should you talk to someone about their allergies? Well, firstly, don't blurt something out like: "Wait - what? You can't eat cake? Why? How do you live?" because that remark is bound to make them feel slightly uncomfortable. They may also get slightly annoyed if you keep asking about it. It's okay if you forget what they're allergic to, but don't talk about it all the time. Secondly, if you are hosting someone with allergies and want to make dinner for them, great! But, of course, ask about allergies first. If your guest tells you not to worry and that they will bring their own food, don't trouble them by saying 'it's fine, it'll be my pleasure to cook for you!', because your guest may be worried about whether the food is safe, or that it's too much trouble for you to cook for them and that it would be easier for everyone if they just brought their own food. However, if they say 'yes, that would be great!', get their food allergies and cook for them! They'll love it!


With modern technology, Immunotherapy is fortunately now an option for people with allergies to learn to 'outgrow' them. Immunotherapy is where you build up a level of tolerance to the allergen; I am doing it for wheat. First, you consume a tiny bit of the allergen, and then - after a number of weeks with no reaction at that quantity - you up your dose to consuming more of the allergen. The patient repeats this cycle until their allergy has been tackled by their now strengthened immune system, so they can eat that item freely.

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