My first memory of allergies was at a grade-school trip to a nature park in my hometown. I was so excited about it, but it turned out I couldn't finish the trip, because I broke out in hives midway. Allergies run in my family; we have various allergens, and various reactions and severity ranging from rashes and hives, hay fever and cystic acne to as worse as anaphylaxis / anaphylactic shock. It is serious, and should be taken seriously.
As far back as I can remember, I've always had them, and they mostly show on my skin. Either I get itchy rashes and I ignore them until they disappear or I feel very uncomfortable with increasingly worsening hives all over my body and feeling the desperate need for allergy medication. In any case, my allergies always disrupt sleep, work or any activity.
My allergy bouts
I started having ridiculously consistent allergies every single day for two (2) consecutive weeks in April. So, I finally went to a dermatologist in Saudi German Hospital (SGH). Dr. Majd Eldeen Douba , who heads the Dermatology department at SGH, said that it's most likely food intolerance after I showed him photos of my hives and rashes. Yes, I take photos of my allergies when they break out so I can show them to my doctor.
He ordered a Food/Respiratory Intolerance Test (Allergen, IgG), which "a type III food allergy when the immune system produces specific IgG antibodies (immune globulins of the subclass G). These antibodies can lead to inflammatory processes. The symptoms appear up to three (3) days after the consumption of a trigger food."
The doctor's order was fortunately approved by my company's insurance the following day. Otherwise, I would have had to shell out 3,000 AED / 800 USD / 42,000 PHP. So I came back to SGH the following weekend to get my blood drawn, but I had to wait for another 10-15 days for the results to come as they had to send the vials to a big laboratory outside of SGH.
Two (2) more weeks of suffering (with one of them a 70-hour travel work week), my doctor finally called me to say that the results are in, and I needed to come back for my follow-up appointment. I was expecting a sheet of paper would be given to me, except I was given a thick folder with my lab test, the allergy program guide, and a recipe book. It was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprising.
To my dismay, I found out I'm highly allergic to coffee and 19 others!!!
The diagnoses are urticaria (hives) and pruritus (itching) due to, but not limited to, the following 20 food allergies:
1. Coffee - WTAF! This is literally the highest. <insert cry emoji here>
Vegetables & Fruits / Cereals
4. Broad beans
5. Green peas
6. Mung beans - WTH. I love munggo!
8. Savoy cabbage
9. Kiwi - I'm really glad this is my only fruit allergy. Thank. You. God.
10. Lollo rosso / red lettuce
Spices & Herbs / Seeds & Nuts
13. Black pepper - Seriously!? Everyone uses black pepper.
16. Chervil / French parsley
17. Pine nuts
18. Sesame - Huhuhu. Goodbye, tahini.
19. Camomile - Meh. Never liked it.
Inevitably, this all means:
It would be challenging to eat outside; food staff will potentially dislike/hate me when I order food with my allergy card, because I need and have one now.
I will have to cook more and bring lunch from home; although it will take time, on the plus side, it will help me save money.
I would have to give up some of my favorite things (perhaps for good) like coffee, pesto, tahini and hummus, basically any food that has black pepper, and Mediterranean and Arabic food in general.
Also, coffee memes will mean differently to me. To wit, this meme now means, "Wake up. Drink some coffee and today will punch me in the freakin' face with HIVES!" LOL
The running joke among my best friends now is "Good thing you're not allergic to salt." Har har.
Aside from the one-month medication I've listed in the photos above, I am also taking Nexium / Esomeprazole, which "is a proton-pump inhibitor which reduces stomach acid" to keep my acute gastritis at bay.
Importantly, my allergy program will be in these stages:
Elimination Phase - removing all allergens in the next 5 weeks to 3 months
Provocation Phase - After the 3rd month, I will slowly re-introduce the allergens one at a time in a 4-day rotation to see how my body reacts to them individually. I will start with the elevated ones before the highly elevated allergens.
Stabilisation Phase - "During the stabilisation phase the trigger foods identified in the provocation phase are avoided for at least one year so that the IgG antibodies can degrade and your body can recover. Then you start another provocation phase."
When I found out, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, or do both at the same time. I did laugh; I didn't cry. Whew!
It's a lot to take in at first. But I am counting my lucky stars. Overall, my mental and physical health have been at its prime. I have made a choice at the beginning of 2018 to take care of myself: mentally, physically and spiritually. This is just another opportunity to continue doing that.
Do you have any allergies? What are your allergic reactions?