Marta's Declassified Nut Allergy Survival Guide

During my sophomore year of high school, a school year in which listening to Fifteen by Taylor Swift on repeat was essential to my survival, what initially started as a search to discover a possible reason for my intense ocular migraines turned into a mind-boggling diagnosis. It turned out, not only was my body mysteriously rapid fire blasting horrid pain and blinding blotches into my brain and eyes for no good reason, but it was, completely unrelated to the head problems, fantastically allergic to walnuts, pecans, and the trees they grow from. It’s also airborne, meaning I simply have to breathe to get sick.

You see, when a child without any seemingly abnormal or concerning issues suddenly has bizarre headaches, they run ALL the tests.

Vials of blood were drawn, special science dye was administered intravenously to color my insides for MRI scans, and finally 40 needles were stuck into my back for an allergy test, thus revealing my “nutty problem." What surprised everyone was that I had happily eaten walnuts my entire life, especially at Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner since a dessert called kutia is full of them. There was even a brief period of time in which everyone, including your mother and mine, refused to acknowledge it – minds were changed after seeing my hives, however. Turns out the human body can develop an allergy to anything at any time – practically nothing is off limits. If you are like me and deal with these sneaky lil’ devils, here is a helpful list I have compiled based on what I have learned thus far as a food allergy sufferer:

1.Carrying Benadryl in your backpack is an excellent, lifesaving idea. If you have an epi pen, it shouldn't’t leave your side either.  

2. Being allowed to take more than the recommended dosage because your doctor gave you the A-Okay is fantastic. You’ll sleep like a log after ingesting all that antihistamine, but at least you’ll be alive.  Plus, sometimes it’s good to nap after the stress of an allergy attack.

3. It is not rude to run out of a room to avoid a nut allergy. What is rude is me dying from your snack.

4. The fact that people are horrified by my readiness and willingness to stab myself with an epinephrine needle is incredibly amusing and hilarious.

5. Asking God to please keep you safe and not needing to use a $600 intramuscular injection anytime soon is definitely okay to pop on the prayers list.

6. Always remind classmates and coworkers of your allergens. Tape a sign to your desk. Send emails before lunch/dinner dates. Nothing is too “extra” if it can keep you safe. The people in your life hopefully adore you and would never purposely endanger you, but they have a lot on their minds and honest mistakes do happen, especially if they are new in your life.

7. Never let anyone make you feel bad about asking the waitress/ kitchen/ hostess at whatever establishment you are dining at regarding ingredients in their dishes.   

8. People who complain about your allergies and/or discredit the severity of them are awful creatures. When my arms, chest, and neck are covered in hives, I couldn't care less about your favorite traditional recipe.  

9. Entering bakeries is a little nerve racking. Successfully exiting without getting sick deserves a victory lap.

10. When people ask silly questions like “if you’re allergic to pecans, how can you eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?” and “But I see you eating Nutella all the time!”, calmly explain that pecans are not peanuts, nor are they hazelnuts, and that they should know that from science and/or cooking class.

11. When people tell you a vegan diet is the cure for all ailments and dietary restrictions, because apparently watching YouTube totally makes one more intelligent than an allergist who went to medical school, try not to scream.