And Then There Was One

And in August of 2021, after twenty four years of embodying the identity of “the allergy kid,” my laundry list of food allergies narrowed itself down to just… one.


In preschool, my parents taught my teachers how to properly administer an auto injector in case of emergency. In elementary school, I sat alone at the allergy table across the lunch room from all of my “normal” friends and peers. In middle school, my history with allergies served as my introductory fun fact on the first day of each new class. In high school, I suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction that resulted in a trip to the emergency room and a trauma related disorder diagnosis from my new therapist. In graduate school, I have chosen to specialize in health psychology and aspire to dedicate my dissertation research towards food allergies and mental health. And in August of 2021, after twenty four years of embodying the identity of “the allergy kid,” my laundry list of food allergies narrowed itself down to just… one. 

After my older brother was diagnosed with food allergies in toddlerhood, I was quickly scheduled for an allergist appointment of my own. I returned from the doctors office with paperwork indicating allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fin fish, chicken, eggs, tomatoes, apples, bananas, melon, and a whole collection of environmental triggers. I suffered two anaphylactic reactions by the time I was retested at age 18, where my allergist removed fruit, chicken, and egg from my list, but tacked on chickpeas and other legumes for good measure. Due to my IgE blood test results revealing high reactivity rates, I was prescribed strict avoidance of peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and legumes – Until now.

Here + Now

Weeks before my 24th birthday, I scheduled an appointment at Chicago Family Allergy + Asthma for a standard allergist appointment. Being prone to passing out during blood draws, I had put off being retested for almost five years. Over that half decade, I had graduated college – twice, moved out of state – twice, and began my doctoral degree – thankfully only once. But little did I know, those milestones were not the only major life changes in store for me.

AllergenSkin 2002 (Age 5)IgE 2015 (Age 18)IgE 2021 (Age 24)Skin 2021 (Age 24)
Peanuts4+ > 100.00 H44.70 HNot Tested
HazelnutsNot Tested0.70 H< 0.10
Almond2+< 0.35< 0.10
Pecan2+< 0.35< 0.10
CashewNot Tested< 0.35< 0.10
Pistachio Not Tested< 0.35 < 0.10
Walnut2+ < 0.35< 0..10
Salmon3+< 0.35< 0.10
Tuna3+< 0.35< 0.10
Shrimp1+ < 0.35< 0.10
Timeline of Results | Not All Allergens Included
Skin Test ResultSkin Test InterpretationIgE ResultIgE Interpretation
Negative < 0.10Undetectable
1+ Equivocal Reaction0.10 – 0.35Very Low
2+ Mild Reaction 0.35 – 0.69Low
3+Moderate Reaction0.70 – 3.49Moderate
4+Severe Reaction3.50 – 17.4High
17.5 – 49.9Very High
50 – 100Very High
Interpretation of Results

Words cannot adequately describe my initial reaction when Dr. Katie Tanner called on that August afternoon with the news that I had tested negative to all food allergens, besides peanuts. A range of emotions flooded my mind – Confusion, excitement, guilt, disbelief, hope. The body I grudgingly thought had failed me all those years ago suddenly offered a brand new normal.

Extensive daily precaution was warranted to keep myself safe from these exact allergens. I have avoided shellfish restaurants on seaside vacations, asked friends to substitute oat milk instead of almond milk, requested chefs at Mediterranean restaurants to change their gloves to minimize cross contamination… Now all of the sudden, none of that is necessary? I am hardwired to jump over pistachio shells walking down busy city sidewalks, flinch at the sight of Nutella jars in grocery store aisles, and steer clear of the roasted almond stand at local street fairs. But now you are telling me these foods are safe!?

In the novel Far From The Tree, Andrew Solomon wrote, “Everyone has a defect, and everyone has an identity… and they are often one and the same.” To be clear – I never have considered my allergies to be a defect (Nor are yours), but they have certainly been something that has made me unique. A trait different from those of my friends. Part of my identity, as Solomon wrote. Although I had always wished for a life free from food anxiety, suddenly losing that collection of allergies felt a little like losing some of myself, too. I wore those allergies as a badge of honor, proof how how much I had overcome. Despite being warmly welcomed into this online community, I feared my passion project would be ripped from my hands as All Things Allergies became… All Things Allergy.

But refocusing my mission did not take long. Be the woman you needed as a little girl. Growing out of the majority of my allergies is a unexpected gift that I am still continuing to process, but shortening my laundry list does not change the fact that my life will continue to be shaped by this community. Let’s not forget – I am still anaphylactic to peanuts! One allergy or one hundred allergies, this is part of who I am and who I hope to become. All Things Allergies is not going anywhere.

What’s Next?

Recommended and closely monitored by Dr. Katie Tanner, the next steps of my allergy journey may be the most frightening of them all – food challenges. Because my IgE levels came back undetectable and my skin tests yielded no significant reactions, I have been given the all clear to slowly introduce tree nuts, seafood, and legumes into my diet.

Friends and family are eager to hear my opinion of previously restricted foods, but I am in no such hurry myself. Food anxiety has taken center stage in my allergy journey, and that does not magically dissipate after hearing this news. The All Things Allergies community (Which I will start lovingly referring to as The Hivey League) will be along for the ride as I muster up the courage to take my first bites of foods no longer considered to be dangerous. In an exciting new direction for my blog, All Things Allergies will highlight the intersectionality of mental health x food allergies by candidly exploring my experiences with food challenges, identity development, exposure hierarchies, and continued food anxiety. With consultation from my allergist, guidance from my therapist, and support from loved ones, this “allergy kid” will get her first taste of food freedom.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this post is for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical or professional advice. Please consult with your doctor or a licensed professional for more information.

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