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Can You Still Develop a Food Allergy?

On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I ended up in the ER. The staff there was lovely, but believe me, you do not want to have a major health emergency in a place you don’t speak the language.

Synopsis: Landed. Rooms not ready. Shrimp and fish for lunch. Racing heart beat. Full body redness. Steroid shot at the resort. A little better. Cab to the ER where swollen hands and feet added to the symptoms. Two hours of an IV medication (still not sure what it was as oddly, the treatment section on my discharge paperwork was blank.) All better. Made it to dinner and enjoyed the rest of the trip.

I went to an allergist today to follow up, and much to my surprise and elation, my skin testing did not show an allergy to shellfish. Crab shack here I come! I fully expected to have to avoid crustaceans forever, and therefore the outcome is a good one for me. Other people might not be fine with not knowing the trigger, but I’ll take the uncertainty over a life without a lobster roll.

I may never know what it was, but it did make me think a lot about allergies in general.

The allergist explained most adults with a peanut allergy developed it as a child, whereas most adults with a shellfish allergy developed it as adults. Most of these adults were happily eating Sebastian without any problems until wham … problem, often really big problem! We also commiserated over the fact many “allergies” are simply not real. Any and all reaction to a food is not necessarily an allergy — we both have had the experience of a patient saying a food gives them something like a headache or a funny taste in their mouths and calling it an allergy — and people are often told when they are young to avoid a food forever, when in fact, they may never have needed to avoid it at all.

My takeaways from the whole experience:

  1. Carry Benadryl on all vacations.

  2. When in doubt, seek medical attention.

  3. If you think you have an allergy, but are not sure, see an Allergist. He or she will, often easily, be able to clear up any confusion, and you may be able to hit the raw bar again.

  4. We may soon have a cure for peanut allergies … stay tuned.

  5. Food allergies are becoming more and more common, and I cannot imagine this isn’t somehow linked to processed, preservative-laden foods.

  6. The body is a mystery, and sometimes you just have to be grateful you are healthy in the present and accept you may never have a reason for something that happened in the past.

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About Dr. Karen Latimer

I’m a family physician now struggling to take care of a bunch of kids who keep calling me Mom. When I’m not wiping butts, refereeing sibling rivalry and chauffeuring over-scheduled little people, I write a family medical blog that gives you five thoughts on all sorts of different health topics.

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