I know I have bad allergies and I know I have anaphylaxis. I know I have a strange condition called Idiopathic Angiodema. To some extent I know what I’m allergic to. I didn’t, however, know I was properly allergic to peanuts, walnuts and brazil nuts until that damn skin test yesterday.
Yesterday I had to go to the hospital for a skin prick test. For those of you who don’t know what a skin prick test entails or have never been through one I’m happy to tell you all about it.
I had my skin test at the allergy clinic. Here the doctor goes through a list of common allergens and ticks off what they want you tested for. In my case I was tested for pollen, tree pollen, weed pollen, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts and pistachios. They’ll also put a negative and positive test on you. This is all done on your inner arm. The negative and positive tests are put on your arm as control tests. Everyone will have a reaction to the positive one.
I hear you asking how do they know what they’ve tested you for? They write on you in pen. Then they put a little drop of the solution with the allergen in it next to the correct letter. e.g. the walnut solution went next to the W. After they put the drop on your arm in the correct place they stab you with a lancet. Honestly this part doesn’t hurt. You feel a tiny stab for every allergen you’re being tested for. That’s the easy part.
You then have to hope you’re not actually allergic to anything you’re being tested for. If you’re unfortunate to have a skin reaction then you get told not to itch it. I had a reaction to 5 out of 9 things and it felt like my arm was on fire. Or been eaten by ants. It doesn’t hurt really it’s just DAMN UNCOMFORTABLE. 15 minutes later a nurse comes back to measure the “reaction.” It all gets very technical because they measure the weal and the flare (the red bit) with a ruler… Pressed against your itchy skin. The bigger the weal the more they can tell if you’re allergic.
They give you a guide about a “nut free diet” where you realise all the foods you usually eat and your favourite foods are in there. You mourn the loss of toffee nut lattes and sob when you realise coconuts are classed as nuts in this case.
You also throw a fit over the fact that a nut allergy ruins all chances of you joining the military or feeling safe enough to be a journalist in a conflict zone. Being allergic to flowers is easy, just stay away from them. Many foods in the Middle East contain nuts. Hell many foods here do. At least our medical services aren’t too bad so I know I won’t die.
It’s like feeling trapped. You can only go certain places. You have to ask 100 questions at every restaurant you go to. You sometimes feel that down over it all you just chance it anyway. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S IN THAT LOVELY LOOKING CAKE, and the people behind the counter usually aren’t that sure either. I was comfortable with my allergies before. They were things I could stay away from and nuts were something that were not a dead certainty to cause me harm. Now it’s a strange new nut free zone. And honestly I hate it.