Should I be this scared of my allergy?

I am 16 and have had a peanut allergy ever since I was 1. I have accidentally eaten peanuts multiple times. And once on purpose at the allergist as a test. She said my allergy has always been between a level 0 and level 2. Even to this day, my prick test shows it as a mild allergy. She said when the allergy is at a level 14, that's when people should start being concerned. She's the #1 allergist in the whole state of Pennsylvania. So she knows what she's talking about.

I've never gone into anaphylaxis. Just itchy nose, I think my mom said I had an upset stomach or I was vomitting or something. And itchy/tingling mouth or tongue or something. I don't know, I can't remember.
It's been like 10 years.

But anyways I've always acted as if I didn't have a peanut allergy and it was just a little un-notable thing in my life. I ate other nuts, I had never ever asked restaurants about allergy information, ate at places like Asian restaurants, Dairy Queen, etc., never cared if a product said may contain peanuts, and I just lived my life, you know? My family even eats peanut butter all the time in the house. NEVER had a problem living my laugh that way. The only time I had a reaction was when I had an actually peanut or more (like a bite of peanut butter).

But then I came across this website online and I found how CRAZYYY cautious all of you are. Like "NEVER TAKE CHANCES THAT'S OUR FAMILY POLICY" or "just because the reaction has always been mild doesn't mean it will stay that way.." or "You should avoid ALL NUTS" something crazy like that.

And I'm not gonna lie, it scares the crap out of me. Here I am wondering if I should be more cautious even though I have never gone into anaphylaxis and never thought twice about eating somewhere new, or at an ice cream shoppe. I mean maybe I'd ask if I went to a bakery but that's a rare occasion.

My allergist said that the allergy doesn't always get worse. I brought it up and she said that wasn't true. And like I said, she knows what she's talking about. I think she said it probably won't become worse.

But yeah after being on this website I'm like scared to eat at restaurants, even the ones I know and love that you guys for some reason deem "unsafe". Should I give up my careless lifestyle even though its worked for me for so long for this anxiety-ridden one? Because there always is that chance.

I mean I'm even scared to go on my annual vacation this year with my huge family because we go out to eat at new places every night. I obviously have no say in where we eat and my allergy is irrelevant to them because it's mild as of now. And I can't just not eat and then eat at home, I mean, we're on vacation. If I bring up my allergy at all they'll be like, 'it's mild, you're being paranoid' and that's true and I should just calm the eff down.

But I want to know YOUR opinion on this. Should I just calm the heck down and continue leaving an allergy-off-the-mind lifestyle? Or should I be extremely careful?

By Melba R. McDaris on Mon, 06-23-14, 04:12

It is good that you, at age 16, and having PA, are trying to educate yourself in order to become independent in your decisions for keeping yourself safe throughout life. In a few short years, you will be away from your family, at college or working, and will need to be an independent thinker in so many ways. By the way, colleges are getting more and more onboard re PA, and even have special counselors, etc. in their cafeterias, in order to help students stay safe. Being allergic to peanuts is a bummer, but then so is having any other medical problem causing a "bump in the road" of life, so to speak. Only your doctor can tell you the severity of your allergy, but in my mind, being allergic to peanuts to any extent is a very serious thing, not one to be dealt with in a devil-may-care way. Perhaps you are not really allergic, since you stated that you have accidentally tasted peanuts many times in life with no problem. But, if you have the allergy, as my little grandson did, and ate two peanut butter M&Ms, and immediately went into anaplhyactic shock, requiring me to inject him with the Epipen on his third birthday--well, you would gladly give up exposure to peanuts and accept the "crazyness" of being careful, in order to live a happy, normal life. The emphasis here is "to live." This is a serious medical problem, and one that is growing. So, as you seem to be doing, read, read, read, and don't think this is just "silly and crazy and something that might cause you to have to make some adjustments in life." Because, you will. As it turns out, the greatest number (but not all) of deaths from PA occur in young people like yourself, due to a somewhat cavalier approach to the problem. We all care, and hope you and your family make sure, from your doctor, exactly how severe your allergy actually is, and if this is only a pediatrician or general practitioner, you need to, instead, consult a specialist for this--an allergist physician. Good luck, and don't think any of this is being overly cautious. Rather, Google "Natalie Giorgi" and read two or three of the accounts of her death last August, and you will see the concern we have for our children is real. However, with a good attitude and the willingness to question food contents. ALWAYS read labels before taking a tiny bite of a food. We actually call the manufacturers often and ask the Consumer Relations person to assure us that there is NO CROSS-CONTAMINATION of the food we are inquiring about, i.e., that it was not made on the same line (using same vats, conveyor belts, etc.) as foods containing nuts. Yes, it is a pain in the backside to have to be so alert and do so much investigation, but hey, isn't it great that to do so means you will likely live a long and very good life? Good luck, and talk to your parents and to your allergist and just stay alert. Go online and check out FARE, a wonderful support organization. Also Google "Safe Food List for Peanut Allergy" and get on a mailing list to receive monthly updates. And remember, so many others have it worse, and at least you can pretty well, with some effort remain a happy camper (even if it changes your lifestyle to be more cautious). It's hard at first, but you can do it, and soon, you will KNOW how to handle the allergy--but beware of all Asian restaurants, where peanuts are hidden is so many sauces!
Good luck, and keep investigating and stay happy--and safe! We care about you...

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By jenlil on Sun, 06-22-14, 18:48

There is component testing now that is a blood test that can give u a better idea how severe the allergy is.

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By Pamela S Hughes on Sun, 06-22-14, 16:34

I think it's great you are 16 and asking what so many who deal with this all the time think you should do. First of all, you need your doctor's advice, which it sounds like you already have. Consulting with your allergist and telling them everything is important to know what you need to do. Then they can let you know what meds and actions you need to take in case you have a reaction. Keep it with you, and you don't need to wonder or be scared.

My son's PA is so severe we could have lost him to it when he was three after an episode, so it sounds like yours is different than his. We have to be CRAZY cautious :) The reason we don't eat peanut butter is it could cause him a life-threatening situation. That is what is best for him. You clearly have a different situation. But even with his severity, we live an awesome life without fear and take risks that are planned and prepared. For example, after educating and meeting with our camp's awesome staff on his PA, he is at a month-long camp that serves peanut butter at every meal! You asked about going out to eat - if I were you, I would call ahead and ask if they use peanut oil. If not, go to the restaurant and tell the manager you have a PA then enjoy your meal! Go enjoy good food with your family knowing you handled it, no big deal.

So to answer your question, I think as a 16-year-old you are already taking steps to own your situation which is super important. Don't care what people think. I don't care what people think about how we operate because I know it's the right thing and we're not being dramatic about it. It's the cards we were dealt and we can live life great! Educate yourself and don't live in fear. Be prepared and go out there and live life to the fullest knowing you did the smart thing by knowing what you have and how to handle it. Have fun on your vacation!

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By thekilij on Sun, 06-22-14, 16:14

First, I understand that you are young and inexperienced in life, but you may want to reflect on how insulting your labeling is of the behavior of members on this site as being "crazy." The choices people have made about managing their or their children's allergies may be more extreme than you feel is necessary, but it does not make it crazy. There is a difference between making educated and informed decisions (albeit extreme), and being flat out paranoid and anxious.

For example, making your family eliminate nuts from their diet may be unnecessary for you, but in a case like my daughter I feel it is necessary. She has severe reactions if she comes into physical contact with her allergens. She cannot even get a kiss from her father after he has eaten peanut butter without invoking a reaction. There are others on this site who cannot even BREATH their allergen without invoking a reaction. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a health issue like this. So I would caution you against attempting to formulate one. Furthermore, I would encourage you to not use whatever works best for you as a template against which you analyze or judge the actions of others here.

As for my opinion of your management of your allergy: while I do not think your level of allergy would inspire me to have those immediately around me to avoid peanuts, etc., I think carrying on as though you have no allergy (neglecting to address your allergy with a restaurant server, for example), is a careless health behavior and typical for those in your age group. People your age are less likely to value life and health, and realize their mortality. If you are not remotely assertive about avoiding exposure, I hope you at least stay aware of possible symptoms and carry the necessary medication for treatment upon exposure.

Otherwise, I hope you figure out what works best for you.

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By PeanutAllergy.com on Fri, 06-20-14, 18:53

Question of the Week: Answered!

Every week, PeanutAllergy.com is answering one of the questions posted in our community.

Our Answer:

Dealing with a food allergy, even a minor one, can cause a lot of challenges in daily life. And while it's tempting to live as though you don't have an allergy, it's better to be safe than sorry – but that doesn't mean you need to be scared or take extreme caution.

You may appreciate this firsthand account written by a 61-year-old man with a lifelong peanut and tree nut allergy. He's got some insightful statements on how to strike a balance between being cautious and taking measures too far.

As for the family vacation, it may be helpful to read some tips on eating at restaurants. That way, you don't have to miss out on the fun while lessening the risk of a reaction. We like the idea of asking open-ended questions; you can simply ask the ingredients of a dish as if you're curious not scared. That way, you learn more about the item and can decide if it's something you're comfortable eating.

And if your family loves cooking or baking, we've got some great allergy-friendly recipes available on our website. They could make for fun alternatives to eating at a restaurant – even after the vacation ends!

Again, the key here is balance: Don't be afraid to ask questions but also don't live in fear of your allergy. We'd also recommend asking your allergist more about your current condition. Since she sees it as a mild allergy, what are some of her recommendations? Does she suggest you carry an epinephrine pen with you? The answers to these questions can help you navigate situations too.

We asked our Facebook fans for their advice, and you can read their responses here.

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By stillco on Tue, 06-17-14, 00:41

I have a child that has a peanut allergy. At first we didn't take it seriously but we do now. However accidents will happen. Yesterday my child did not eat anything to do with them but got sick and started having chest pain and had trouble breathing. We found out that the donut she ate had ingredients that where near nuts even though the facility is nut free their suppliers arnt.

When she was little she just couldn't consume peanuts. Now that she is older she can't be around them. Another example is someone on her bus oppend a jar of peanut butter and she quit breathing.This is when we found out it was bad. I will say we try to be aware of her siroundings at all times but as I said accidents still happen.

Please be careful. At first our family and friends couldn't understand it being that bad but after seeing her reactions they are all being careful now.

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By Saralinda on Sun, 06-15-14, 02:42

I am 63 years old and was diagnosed at age 6 after throwing up after eating a Reese's peanut butter cup. I haven't had a reaction since 1985 (again vomiting)but I do carry an epipen. My reactions have never been life threatening, but I am careful. Life is too precious to experiment. While I try not be over zealous, I do go out of my way to avoid peanuts because the next reaction can be anaphylaxic. Be careful, be prepared, but don't be crazy. That is my motto.

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By toryadub on Sun, 06-15-14, 00:51

By careless lifestyles I mean worry-free lifestyle. Because I am careful. But not to the point where it's on my mind whenever I go out to eat?? That's kind of insane. The quality of my life would be extremely lowered.

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