There are people who know exactly what their allergies are, and there are people like me, worrying each day about when their next allergy attack will be. Luckily, for both kinds of people there is a cure out there.
I was recently diagnosed with two random — and confusing — forms of allergies: oral allergy syndrome (OAS) and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). For those of us who are not healthcare professions, the two conditions can be defined as:
OAS: A food-related allergic reaction confined only to one’s eyes, ears or mouth.
For me when it comes to OAS, I feel weird and uncomfortable in my ears and throat when I eat some raw fruits and vegetables, like bananas or carrots.
EoE: An allergy condition involving reactions due to an inflamed esophagus, usually resulting in symptoms like a tight chest, issues swallowing, vomiting, getting food stuck and more. The reaction is due to either nature food allergies.
EoE is my most severe reaction and occurs whenever I’ve had an abundance of foods that are homogenous to my environmental allergies. Homogenous means that my outdoor allergies (like to pine trees) have a similar biological make-up to some foods, causing me to experience a reaction when injected. The photo below showcases a visual explanation of this experience.
This results in my esophagus becoming inflamed and signaling to my body that it needs to expand and contract, which results in feeling like I can’t breathe or swallow. Long story short… not a fun time.
I feel fortunate that I am not allergic to most foods; my food allergies are limited to mild reactions to soy and sesame seeds. However, my severe outdoor allergies have led to serious issues with eating out and have prohibited me from enjoying nutritious foods.
After my diagnosis I felt discouraged –– like I’d never be able to enjoy foods like sushi or fresh veggies ever again. Until I discovered there is a somewhat cure for food and environmental allergies.
What are Allergy Shots?
It varies from person to person, but allergy shots are a series of injections administered by professionals to relieve allergy reactions or even alleviate allergies in general. They can be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly; depending on your rigor levels. The shots go on for 2-5 years, but once that time period is over you don’t need to keep taking them.
If you are an out-of-state student like me, don’t worry about the frequency of shots. You have to get the shots at the same place since the serum tends not to travel well. However, if you need to go more than 7-10 days after your previous shot, you will have to resort to a lower dose as you continue.
How They Work?
Each shot contains your allergens, just enough to stimulate your immune system but not enough to cause a full-blown reaction. Over time, the allergen doses increase, causing your body to develop a tolerance to the allergens resulting in little reactions or none at all.
Are They For You?
Unfortunately, allergy shots are not a cure for everyone. Many allergy shot users who have success with the injections have environmental allergies, are on medications that react with allergy medication, are allergic to insect stings or have indoor allergies to things like mold.
The best way to know if allergy shots are for you is to consult with your doctor or allergy professional.
Currently, there are no allergy shots for food, but there is another form of immunotherapy available that might help.
For me, allergy shots have been a saving grace. I’ve had no reactions in the past few months since starting allergy shots, and the process of getting them each week has been painless. I simply march down to University Health Services — where my allergy serum is — get my shot, do homework for 30 minutes (you have to wait in the lobby after each shot to ensure a severe reaction doesn’t happen) and then go about my day.
Allergies are disheartening to those who have them. It can feel like you are limited to certain activities or dishes simply because of how you are wired. Allergy shots give newfound hope to those with environmental allergies and syndromes associated with them so we can all have the chance to go about life worry-free.