Jackie Morris: Life with a Nut Allergy

Jackie Morris is a senior from Boston, Massachusetts. She is a Communication major with double minors in Interdisciplinary Writing and Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in Public Relations with a focus in wealth management. 

Jackie also has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy. She sat down with Her Campus to talk about her allergy and how it impacts her day-to-day life.

HC: How long have you been allergic to peanuts and tree nuts?

JM: They tested me for any food allergies once I was delivered because I came out extremely inflamed and red. The doctors were concerned by my skin color, so they decided to test me for a bunch of different food allergies and, sure enough, I tested positively for peanuts. My mom ate a ton of peanut butter during her pregnancy and the doctors believed that her large consumption of peanuts caused my allergy. However, back then, doctors were not as familiar with the severity of food allergies. My parents thought I would just get a rash if I came into contact with peanuts, but when I was three, my dad ate peanut butter toast before kissing me goodbye and I had a major reaction. After that, my parents realized just how allergic I was and we never had any peanut products in the house again. 

HC: How has having an allergy affected your life?

JM: It’s something I always have to think about. Most of the time, people without allergies do not understand the process allergy sufferers have to go through before eating something. I have to avoid basically all bakeries, ice cream shops, acai places, and salad places; every time I go to a restaurant, I will look up the menu beforehand and inform my waiter about my allergy. I also can only fly airlines that will not serve peanuts and create a buffer zone a row in front of and behind me (where they tell these flyers to not eat any nut products). 

Having a nut allergy is also hard because I love to eat healthy. Unfortunately, a lot of healthy restaurants or food places are not efficient with keeping nuts separate from other foods. Cross contamination is what would be most likely to cause my reaction. Even if someone eats peanuts and accidentally spits on me, I would have a reaction. Although having an allergy is definitely an inconvenience, I have had a nut allergy my entire life, so I really don’t know anything different. 

HC: What challenges do you face on campus due to your allergy?

JM: Campus is actually pretty efficient with allergies. I do not eat any of the baked goods in the Pit because they have informed me that their vendors have nuts in their facility so, in order to avoid cross contamination, I just avoid them. Sometimes in class other students will open a peanut butter bar or granola bar next to me and I’ll just ask them to put it away; having an allergy on campus is pretty manageable for the most part. 

HC: Is Wake Forest doing anything to help you and other students with severe allergies?

JM: I definitely think Wake is taking active steps for those with nut allergies such as removing peanut butter in the Pit as well as keeping nuts separated at Forest Greens; however, I do not think they are as accommodating for other allergies. I think that might have to do with the fact that nuts are easier to avoid in general, but I think Wake is definitely heading in the right direction. I hope that Wake continues to take extra steps in the future in order to protect the health of allergy sufferers. Continuing to educate staff and students on food allergies would be a great next step for Wake to take in order to protect sufferers. 

HC: Are there any developing technologies or solutions that could help alleviate your allergy? 

JM: I have heard that there are a couple of new solutions in the process of getting FDA approved. One is an epipen that gets implanted in your arm and automatically goes off if it senses nuts in your system or a reaction coming on. They’re also trying to make the allergy shot process more effective. These shots contain a tiny amount of peanut (or other allergens). Exposure to small amounts of allergen is supposed to help allergy sufferers decrease symptoms of an allergic reaction. However, this process does not work for people who are anaphylactic, like myself. I am hoping these solutions come out as soon as possible. 

HC: What do you wish other people understood about living with an allergy?

JM: Just how hard it is if you’re anaphylactic. I just don’t think people fully understand the risk of cross contamination; just because something does not directly have peanuts (or any other allergy) in it, doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.