goggle-eyed_fishWhen I was around 12, my parents decided to take me to an allergy specialist. I had spent as long as I could remember dealing with eczema on my skin, spending spring times with my nose running like the Amazon in flood and regretting every encounter with cats or fresh cut grasses as my eyeballs swelled up like bad jelly moulds.

If I’m being honest I have to admit I occasionally rubbed my very itchy eyes deliberately because I knew they’d swell to a horror-movie size & I’d get to go home from school. I’d grown so used to it that I preferred having my eyes feel like I had actual grass growing in them to afternoon maths.

Yep, that is totally the Himalayas on my arm. Thanks, Photoshop.

Yep, that is totally the Himalayas on my arm. Thanks, Photoshop.

Anyway, the allergy specialist dripped a dozen or so blobs of liquid on my skin from tiny phials labelled “cat”, “dog”, “grasses”, “pollens” and the like. He then proceeded to pierce my skin through the blobs with a lancet. He told me that any of the dots of skin which swelled up meant I was allergic to that thing.

Well 5 minutes later didn’t my arm look like the Himalayas? Yes, I was apparently allergic to EVERYTHING. “Cat looks like the worst one though” the very amused specialist had said, staring wide-eyed at Cat-Everest.

And yes – cat is very much the worst one. I know a lot of my tweeps are cat lovers and good on you, but I have never been able to be in the same house as a cat without going semi-blind while sneezing uncontrollably. So it’s here that I admit I’m not fond of cats.

The visit to the allergy specialist was useful in that it taught me I had to avoid certain things: cats (easy – we had none), cut grasses (HAHA! NO MORE MOWING!!) and dust (wut??).

I discovered antihistamines, avoided cats (and mowing) and learned not to scratch anything which itched ever.

It was around this time that I began to notice that certain salads I ate made my mouth tingle & itch. I figured it was just a normal reaction to some sort of food, (maybe capsicum?) & thought nothing more of it.
For my whole life so far, though, I had experienced regular, excruciating stomach pain accompanied by regular, equally excruciating, visits to the toilet. The pain got so bad some days that I would briefly pass out & once I even remember hallucinating.

I thought this was just “my weak stomach” (as it was generally known) and got on with life.

I read about irritable bowel syndrome and I recognised my symptoms immediately in the descriptions of IBS, but I didn’t try to find a cure because though the pain was extreme, it was not constant. It came and went without warning and when it went, I was perfectly fine.

One day, sitting at work when I was 25 (yes – 25), I was eating a salad and reading something amusing on the Internet which made me snort-laugh. I choked a little bit on my salad, but coughed it out OK. But then I felt this sensation in my throat around my airway – the same tingly, itchy feeling I’d often felt in my mouth from salad.

Then my airway started to close up. I immediately sculled a bottle of water, then ran downstairs to the chemist we thankfully had in our building, bought some strong antihistamines and took
them.

My throat settled down thankfully, but I had realised something: I had just had a VERY mild anaphylactic reaction to something in my salad. My brother is allergic to nuts and so I have always known what anaphylaxis was and how it affected (and potentially killed) those with severe allergies. Mostly it was because their throat swelled up, blocking their airways and they suffocate.

When I returned to my desk and looked at my salad I saw that there was no particular ingredient missing more than any other, but I did like this salad because it had no dressing – it was SUPER plain.

I resolved to buy that same salad the following day and eat each ingredient one-at-a-time, finishing all of one before starting on the next.

Capsicum was my prime candidate, so I ate that first. I sat, waiting for a reaction, but there was nothing. No tingling, no itch. I moved on through lettuce, cucumber, tomato and finally I had only carrots left. I was a bit crestfallen because it couldn’t possibly be carrots. I mean who the hell is allergic to carrots? Plus I’d eaten carrots all my life! I used to eat them raw as a snack!

As soon as I placed the first chunk of carrot in my mouth, I felt the tingling and spat it out.
Bloody CARROTS!?!

Who the hell is allergic to carrots?

I’ve eaten carrots all my life!

ALL MY LIFE.

From that moment, I started to avoid carrots. If a food had carrot in it, I chose something else. If I was served something with surprise carrots (I have now realised that FUCKING EVERYTHING has carrots in it), I just try to remove as much as possible before eating it.

And guess what – I have had almost no stomach pain since. It has been COMPLETELY revolutionary to my life. I can eat almost anything (except carrots) and feel fine. My “weak stomach” has become an “iron gut”.

A few months after I stopped eating carrots and was feeling SO GOOD, I ate at a friends’ house where they served a pie with chicken and vegetables – LOTS of carrot (they didn’t know). To be polite I ate it. Oh boy did I regret that decision. The next two days were AWFUL.

Since then I have tried to avoid carrot in everything and I have felt so much better that it’s difficult to believe I have an allergy.

I have no idea what it is about carrots that I’m allergic to. Other orange vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato are fine. I have tried the purple carrots and they are NOT fine.

Having been through this and learned about my own allergy, I felt it would be good to share it with the world in case someone else had a similar allergy to some food or other and my story could help them.

I hope SO much that none of you have the sort of stomach pain I went through, but if you do – try to think of something that tingles or itches your mouth, you may just find a mild allergy that changes your life.

— IEK

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