Last spring I wrote several blog-posts providing the details of the discovery that I was allergic to barley and how this allergy changed my diet. (for more see Why I am barley-free: part 1, Why I am barley-free: Part 2). If you have explored my blog enough you would know that I am also allergic to tree-nuts though I have never really shared how I discovered I was allergic to tree-nuts or how this allergy affect my life. Well here I go:
Unlike my barley allergy which mainly affects my skin (though it may tear up my intestines a little too) my tree-nut allergy is much more deadly and I have had it my whole life. When I was two years old I was at the San Diego zoo with my whole family: cousins and all. Sometime during our visit I was given half a macadamia nut to try. Still new to harder foods, my family was attentive to see how I would handle it. When they noticed I did not seem to be breathing well they thought I had choked on it. But fortunately my firefighter uncle recognized the signs: my throat was closing up due to an allergic reaction. We rushed to the hospital. My mom not knowing how bad I was tried to sign us in to wait, but once the medical staff saw my face they rushed us in. With my anxious family unsure what to do, I was taken in and given shots of benadryl. The swelling went down and I recovered.
After that my parents were cautious of foods with tree-nuts; keeping any far from my reach and being careful when baking with them in the house. Many times there were baked goods made in two versions nut-free and with nuts. By the time I was in elementary school I knew what to watch for: homemade desserts, certain candy bars and the like. I learned quickly to always ask, to read labels, and not assume something was tree-nut free.
I always carried benadryl on me, just in case something happened, there were few instances at school were a treat for the class or special event meant unfamiliar dishes with unknown ingredients that I thought were safe. But after a bite I could tell my mouth would start itching, then my chest would get tight, my eyes well with tears, my nose would run and then I would get what almost looked like scratch marks around my face. Now this did not happen everytime. It really all had to do with how much I ingested before realizing the harm. For the most part I would only get a itchy mouth, take some benadryl and I’d be set.
Now before I go any further let me make this clear, I am not so allergic to tree-nuts that if I touch one and get the oil on me I go into shock, in order to go into any form of shock I would have to ingest a large amount (and I mean a huge amount) of nuts and not know it. I also am not allergic to peanuts which are technically a legume or peanut butter. That is a different allergy all together. I love my pay days, apples and peanut butter, and the occasional reeses or reeses pieces. So no issues there.
I as I already stated, had learned to expect tree-nuts in desserts mainly but as I got older I learned they can be found in unusual dishes as well. At a holiday meal, again with the whole family, I decided to try a family member’s chili, after a few bites and recognizing the familiar crunch, I mentioned I thought there were nuts in the dish. This was not stated on the menu. My family was skeptic but when we asked the waiter sure enough there were cashews. A little benadryl and again I was fine.
In high school for a friends birthday party we went to a restaurant that sells huge warm cookies in small pizza dishes. I ate half of one that was oatmeal raisin. It tasted great, until the very end, when my stomach started to cramp up. I asked to look at the menu: the whole thing had macadamia nuts in it. How would I know that? The crunchy texture I took to be only crispy oats. I was taken home quickly and fed plenty of benaryl. My parents had me stay awake in front of the TV and monitored my breathing etc. I broke out into hives, and could barely breath between the tight throat and running nose. My eyes were swollen and watering. I had a hard time, unlike other instances staying calm. But like previous experiences the medicine did it’s magic and I was fine.
These are some of my early life experiences with my tree-nut allergy. In all of these encounters I have never discovered what any of the individual nuts taste like. Name it: pecan, walnut, cashew, pistachio, hazelnut, macadamia, almond, I do not know what any of them taste like -to me no matter how delicious you say a dish is if it has nuts in them all I taste in a itchy tongue.
So that is the start to my story of why I am tree-nut free my experiences with my tree-nut allergy are different as an adult as I have traveled to other countries and discovered more foods and languages. But more on that to come.