Allergic Reactions--Stories and Photos
Although the following images and stories may be seen as scary or graphic [note that photos are family-friendly only], they are the true experiences of people going through allergic reactions. Although each person will vary completely in the type of reaction s/he experiences, sharing this is being done in an effort to show people without food allergies just how serious and frightening a reaction can be. All words are in reference to reactions, thus they should not be read in an embarassing or shocking manner, but in an educational one.
If you would like to share a typical scenario or images of your reaction, please send an e-mail. If possible, please write in first person, present-tense. This helps with setting the mood and sense of emergency we all feel when faced with a reaction. Children can participate: ask your child how s/he feels when experiencing a reaction. Of course, images/photos must be family-friendly. Stories may be edited for content and/or clarity.
Jack's mom Maja submitted this photo of him experiencing a reaction (rash). He was exposed to his allergen through breastfeeding; his reaction is more severe through direct contact.
I eat or drink something that I am allergic to. 5-15 minutes later my stomach
hurts so bad. If I ate something with soy or nuts, it feels like someone is
stabbing me constantly with a knife in the stomach.
After 15 minutes I will get my first diarrhea attack. If I don't RUN to the
restroom I will relieve myself right there. This is very embarrassing. Then
for the next two hours I will have several more of these sudden diarrhea
attacks. (Nuts cause diarrhea attacks for 24 hours.) There is a lot of pain
with each diarrhea attack. Also the stuff BURNS as it comes out and that area
hurts for the rest of the day.
Because I have a secondary illness, where diarrhea is a TRIGGER, I paralyze soon
after an attack of diarrhea. Unfortunately, this can mean that I am paralyzed
when I NEXT need to get to the restroom. Thankfully if I am suffering from full
bodied paralysis, even my bowels are paralyzed. So I just sit there in extreme
pain until I can slowly crawl (on hands and knees) to the bathroom.
To prevent this additional problem, I try to grab a book (as I am running the
first time) to read while I just stay on the toilet for the next two hours.
This has caused problems with my jobs in the past, since I spent so much time in
The stomach cramps stay for 16-24 hours after eating food that I am
The next day, I have a HIGH chance of suffering from 24 hour full body
paralysis. That means that I can barely move for 24 hours. I can't tell you
how much that stinks. If I am lucky my brain doesn't turn to mush as well, so I
can call into work and tell them I am sick (again). I leave the phone next to
me at night just in case this exact circumstance happens.
[Miriam Becker (Canton, MI)]
Rohan is two years old and is severely allergic to
dairy, to the extent that even touching milk can cause
rashes. When someone touches him with "dairy hands,"
within a couple of minutes his skin starts turning red
and itchy. Very soon his skin starts swelling, and
burns so badly that he doesn't even scratch it!
The picture at left is of the time
before we found out about his touch-of-dairy reaction
and gave him a bath with milk to improve his skin. The
picture was taken around the time his skin was getting
back to normal.
The photo at right is when we fed him soy milk for a
month. We didn't know that he is allergic to soy, too, but
his eczema kept getting worse. He would stay up all
night crying and scratching. And just like his face,
his body had a lot of spots of bleeding eczema.
[From Rohan's mother, Binu]
It begins with gas or bile, which is burping up a very foul-tasting bile into my throat. I get a glass full of water because I can hardly swallow. My body temperature drops to around 96.0. My mouth is getting dry, and from my lower abdomen up into my throat the nausea has started to come out like a wave that keeps on moving. I know an allergic reaction is on the way. Mentally I go through my day trying to find out what I did wrong; but I can't. My mind is reeling, and all that goes through my head are the first four or five words and tune of a song, over and over. I try to switch this reeling mind-action off, but to no avail. Unfortunately, the song my mind chooses to focus on is usually one I find incredibly annoying.
This incessant song replay helps the nausea kick in to even higher gear. I grab the bowl I keep in my room for such purposes. After this, if I feel well enough I may try to take my temperature; if I'm having an allergic reaction it will be around 96.0 and I may feel chills or start shaking (the technical term for a low temperature is "hypothermia"). I head to bed, hoping a good night's rest will help and that I can sleep through the reaction. I dig a fist or pillow into my stomach and roll over onto it, hoping to deaden the pain that is getting more and more intense. Generally (if tired enough) I will fall asleep for an hour, only to be awakened by a need to visit the bathroom immediately with severe diarrhea, or a need to vomit, or both at the same time. I hurry to the bathroom, still unable to quiet my reeling mind from its replaying of music in "broken record" mode.
I wonder if I am going to die, because the pain is so intense. My eyes and nose water without me even crying; my body can't take the pain and this is its way of release. But if the pain gets too intense I may pass out; this increases my tension but I am too busy trying to remain calm to worry about something else.
The rest of the evening is spent trying to sleep with my fist or pillow in my stomach, and trips to the bathroom and/or sitting up in bed to throw up. I attempt to stay hydrated by drinking water. The next day I am incredibly exhausted by both the lack of sleep and the reaction itself. Although recovering, I still have intense stomach pain and fatigue that will last one or more days, and eczema that never seems to go away [see photo at right]. [Melissa]
Photos from Cindy of her son's reactions, illustrating hives