I’ve talked about life with allergies a lot on this blog and social media. As it’s Allergy Week here in the UK, I thought I’d share a bit more about my story.
Like a lot of people with allergies my journey starts in childhood. I was an incredibly fussy eater, I’m not sure how my parents managed, but my Mum is a skilled cook and always managed to get me to eat something. With hindsight I now wonder if my food allergies were already affecting what I instinctively ate.
Eggs were something I would happily eat in any form until I developed my first allergy. I already had childhood eczema and Mum recalls the eggs causing flare ups and tummy problems. But this was the late 1970s and allergies weren’t a widely recognised problem, and so Mum managed my diet and eczema flare ups herself, without medical help.
I outgrew the egg allergy but eczema flare ups still occur if I don’t look after myself. I have always had sensitive skin and many mainstream products cause stinging and urticaria. I know I need to avoid products with methylisothiazolinone (MI) and synthetic fragrances. I’m allergic to something that causes my eyes to swell, but even with 7 years in the cosmetics industry, I struggle to identify all the cosmetic ingredients that are my triggers. It’s a minefield I’m sure many allergy sufferers will recognise and why I firmly believe in natural skincare. True, you can be allergic to natural ingredients too but with typically shorter ingredients lists and simpler ingredients it is easier to identify the source of the problem.
I suffer with IBS but it wasn’t until a move North and a sympathetic GP that I was taken seriously and referred. After following an an exclusion diet, I was diagnosed with non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), it’s nearly 20 years ago now. I can actually tolerate small amounts of gluten, spelt and oats occasionally but cannot eat any wheat at all.
Hayfever has also long been a problem for me. I first suffered in my GSCE exam year, convenient timing! The symptoms are worst for me in early spring, something I have come to understand indicates birch pollen allergy. I know because I now also have oral pollen allergy syndrome (OPS), a close relative of hayfever which causes swelling in my mouth if I eat certain raw fruits and veg. It’s a nuisance but of all my allergies it’s probably the easiest to manage.
Finally, two years ago I developed a nut allergy. My immunologist believes that my immune system isn’t working properly and my antibodies (IgE) are a little out of control. He thinks the nut allergy is rare cross over from the OPS. Two anaphylactic episodes tell me this allergy isn’t one to mess with!
That’s my journey so far and I am also having contact allergy patch testing to try and get to the bottom of it all. It may sound worse than it feels on a daily basis. It’s funny, I was pondering getting my hair dyed recently and Mum was concerned about potential reactions. It hadn’t occurred to me, I don’t identify as ‘an allergic person’, it’s only one part of who I am. It just means I’m an expert at reading cosmetic and food labels and great at making a nuisance of myself with asking questions about ingredients in both products.
It also means I really understand what other allergy sufferers go through and is the reason behind me making Myroo the UK’s first totally free from skincare brand.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my allergy journey, I’d love to hear your stories.