“An allergy is an adverse reaction that the body has to a particular food or substance in the environment” NHS
The awareness of allergens has increased drastically over the years. Back in the eighties my doctor didn’t have quite a clear understanding of the effects of food allergies, especially mine. I am severely allergic to sesame seeds. I knew soon after eating anything containing sesame seeds or oil I would experience a dangerous allergic reaction. But neither my Doctor or I were completely clear. After much debating he agreed to let me see a specialist at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Hopefully this would help figure out exactly what was going on and be able to put a label on what causes these allergic reactions and if they could be prevented in any way.
On arrival to the hospital I was asked a series of questions about my condition, but straight away they were doubtful that it could be food related. They explained it would take up to four hours for a reaction to kick in, unlike my reaction, which only took up to 5-10 minutes to kick in after consuming oil or sesame seeds. The Doctor suggested I spend a week at St. Thomas Hospital to undergo more tests on my condition.
Prepped and prepared I arrived at the hospital armed with foods containing the suspected culprit to my reactions. Placed under supervision I consumed a variety of foods containing sesame seeds, sat back and waited for the reaction to kick in. As usual this did not take long at all. The Doctors and specialists observed the reaction and watched it progress after an hour. After the tests were complete I was informed that there was nothing that can be done and I simply have to wait until the reaction wore off, which often took over an hour. I would simply have to avoid anything containing any trace of sesame or suffer one of these severe allergic reactions
Like most allergic reactions they unravel in a series of events:
Step one – Accidental consumption of sesame
Step two – After 5-10 minutes, the reaction begins with tingling and itching in the palm of my hands, behind my ears, and my lips feel puffy.
Step three – After 10-20 minutes, all of step two increase drastically. Then my eyes begin to get extremely itchy as well as my feet, toes, and scalp.
Step four – After 20-30 minutes my whole body begins to get itchy. My heart rate becomes very high, my breathing laboured, my face feels contorted, my body becomes extremely hot and red, sometimes leading to passing out.
Step five – These responses last about an hour. To calm the reaction I find it best to lay down on the bed with little clothing on to calm down the reaction.
Step six – After about 1-2 hours, the reaction abates and the allergy wears off.
The one that Hit a little harder
One of my worst attacks was back in 2013 while I was away on the Greek island of Mykonos. My wife and I were at dinner in one of the top restaurants. On arrival, I immediately made the chef aware of my allergen to try and avoid any attacks. My salad arrived and I began to eat without any worry as the chef had already been made aware of the allergen to avoid. However unknown to me, the vegetable oil used to dress the salad had run out so as an alternative the chef used sesame oil. The reaction began almost immediately. I found myself on the restaurant floor where I was made to stay for a long time until the allergy wore off. I was made aware that I was in danger of not breathing by a Doctor who was present in the restaurant at the time. He assisted me through the attack, I was extremely lucky that a Doctor was present or I would have been dashed off to the hospital.
The task of making people aware of my allergen can at times be extremely difficult. Every restaurant I attend the chefs have to be made aware of it and this can even restrict the dishes available to me. Over the past 35 years, I have suffered over 200 attacks, not as many in the last 10 years as I have become more aware on the matter and everyone around me has also become super-aware of my condition. This has had a considerable adverse effect on my life, I am always cautious of what I am eating and never take chance. I can never have Sushi, Chinese, Thai or even Indian as they are not 100% safe. I tend to stick to the safest restaurants for me to avoid a run in with sesame but even then sometimes I become unstuck and suffer an attack. The attacks I suffer can vary from being Particularly uncomfortable to life-threatening. When travelling abroad I tend to avoid eating on the flight unless I am absolutely sure it is safe, which is usually pasta, but no sauce, no spice and no pudding.
Statistics show every year in the UK alone the number of allergy sufferers increase by 5%, half of this are predominantly children. Restaurant owners and chefs never take in how serious the matter is and are always bemused or at a loss over what to say and do about it. They need to be more aware of the severity of the matter and do something about it in their restaurants. Not only will this help them but it will maybe even go to the lengths of saving people’s lives. Some restaurants have even advised me not to eat in their restaurant as they can not provide a guarantee that there isn’t any cross contamination. If this situation can be avoided in anyway the dining experience can go back to how it was once perceived. The ability to go out for a nice meal where you can sit back relax, enjoy your meal while it’s cooked by amazing chefs.
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