When we were kids, and we would play games like Go Fish, Ghost in the Graveyard, or Hide-and-Seek, it was of utmost importance that everyone know the rules, and that everyone shared the same interpretation of those rules. If someone disagreed, generally we referred to “house rules” or “neighborhood rules,” or in the worst-case scenario, we’d run to the nearest mom to complain that “Johnny won’t play by the rules” and have her set the poor little guy straight.
Well, when it comes to allergies and foods, it feels a bit like playing one of those games in some other kid’s neighborhood where you don’t know the rules. Or, more aptly, like you move to a different neighborhood every so often, but you don’t realize you’ve moved until you try to play by the wrong set of rules.
One day, you are able to eat a snack that has been a favorite all your life. The next day, you have an allergic reaction and learn that you have developed a food allergy to an ingredient in the snack. Or, you have an established food allergy and discover unexpectedly that you’ve developed another. Or your trusted “safe” food goes through an unexpected change in recipe, or the company decided to produce another snack on the same production line and subsequently contaminated your snack with an allergen… There are a lot of “or”‘s.
This is how food allergies feel, especially when first diagnosing and learning to avoid the allergen. It’s also how Oral Allergy Syndrome can feel. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) occurs in individuals who have seasonal or environmental allergies. When the trees, grasses and flowers bloom, some individuals develop unfortunate reactions (localized tingling and swelling in the mouth, tongue and throat) to fresh fruits and vegetables. In the past, for me, these always occurred on my lips – a big ‘ole hive, like a collagen shot to my lower left lip – when I ate things like melons, plums or fresh apples in the summertime. These can be concerning and difficult to discern when food allergies are also a part of the picture.
This year is supposed to be a terrible year for allergies, based on the headlines I’ve seen lately. When most people see blooming flowers and sunshine, they think of fresh produce, warm summer days, kids playing outside. For some people, though, along with vacations and summer fun, the blooming world also means that the rules of what to eat may be changing with OAS.
With food allergies in general, and OAS, and other medical conditions that restrict our diets, it can feel like the rules regarding food are always changing. But we adapt and we adjust to the rules as we have to, whether it’s for survival or to get along with the other kids in the neighborhood, and we do our best to have a good time even if we’d prefer the rules from our own neighborhood to those in Johnny’s neighborhood.