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Food allergies: When and how did you develop them?

I was on a different thread and the issue of food allergies came up unexpectedly. Now I'm rather curious. I know people can and do develop food allergies later in life and lose those they had as children; however, are there any warning signs? Why are you one day perfectly able to eat something and a few days later react to it? I suppose personally I'm more interested in food allergies people developed as adults, but I'm sure there are a fair number of people with questions or information about the origin of their childhood food allergies too!

In my particular instance, I found about my apparent food allergy on Chowhound! I can remember having kiwi make my mouth feel as though it had been torn to shreds right around the first or second time I tried it when I was about 10. It also left a weird, metallic taste in my mouth afterward. I liked the actual kiwi taste, but I usually ate it around my sister, who had the same reaction I did. I never realized there was anything odd about this, so I continued to eat it throughout the next 20 or so years. Now it appears that reaction is NOT how people normally feel after they eat kiwi! However, eating the fruit never caused any of the classic food allergy symptoms (like a rash, redness, breathing problems, etc.) for me, so I didn't recognize it as an allergy. To this day I have no other (known!) food allergies.

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  1. I used to eat skate fish all the time growing up -- roasted, in stews, fermented, you name it. Then one day my dad (who really needs to learn when not to be frugal) gave me a piece of roasted skate to eat. He neglected to tell me that it was in the freezer for over a year. After a few bites I spit it out because it tasted so foul. It was bitter and tasted like ammonia. Then my body got a pretty bad histamine reaction and I was rushed to the ER. All of the doctors there said I just probably developed an allergy as food allergies can come up all of a sudden with no warning and no rhyme or reason. I don't believe this was a random occurrence. I truly believe it was my body trying to protect itself from eating that foul skate because the fish would have been poisonous. After that incident, I've learned through accidental exposure that I'm hypersensitive to it and will react even if I eat food that was on a cutting board that previously had skate on it (even if it has been washed). Luckily, skate has never been one of my favorite foods and isn't super common in restaurants. Oh, the angst I would feel if I ever develop a serious allergy to potatoes!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle

      Isn't skate one of the fish that can produce histamine or histamine precursor when it goes bad? That might explain part of your problem & your reaction.

      1. re: anniemax

        Thank you so much for that information. Yes, when I googled it, I found out about scombroid fish poisoning which is a certain type of poisoning that is mistaken for an allergic reaction because of histamine. Severe cases of it will cause respiratory problems and swollen tongue (which happened to me). Interestingly enough, the skate I ate at that time was definitely bad. But all my other incidental exposures with skate were from fresh fish. So it seems that my first reaction was a case of scombroid poisoning, but subsequent encounters were allergic reactions.

    2. My husband developed an allergy to mussels a couple of years ago. Ate moules frite for dinner, was sick all night. He figured the mussels were bad, even though I ate from the same plate, and was fine. Ordered mussels again, someplace else, was sick as a dog again. After the third time.he decided that there was no reason to eat mussels again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jeanmarieok

        Sounds more like an intolerance than an allergy. The same thing happens to my mom when she eats crabs.

      2. I once over indulged in chili rellenos - they were so good I ate several orders! (Dos Amigos, Atlanta - now long gone.) That night I awoke with my belly covered in itchy strawberry sized hives. After that even a small piece of bell pepper would cause a breakout in hives.

        I avoided all fresh peppers for 7 years and then slowly reintroduced them back into my diet. Now I can eat normal, occasional amounts of all peppers without problems.

        Dried peppers such as chili powder and cayenne never were a problem during that period. Must be a component in the fresh peppers which dissipates when dried.

        13 Replies
        1. re: meatn3

          Wow, that's bizarre! I'm amazed you managed to somehow reacclimate your body to bell peppers. Perhaps there is some chemical in bell peppers that isn't present in their smaller, hotter cousins....I'm glad you are able to indulge in bell peppers now, though; I would miss them terribly.

          1. re: tonina_mdc

            Allergies last either 5 or 7 years (I forget which) and then they go away. Unfortunately you then get allergic to something else usually. Mom has major allergy problems and I can say this as a fact.

            I just got poison ivy this spring for the first time in my life, even though I used to play in fields of them as a child. Husband who used to be deadly allergic didn't get anything, even though I then realized our yard is full of it. Poor me!

            1. re: coll

              Poison ivy is evil, though I can confidently say that I have been allergic to it since I was a child, so I guess that means over 30 years now. My last bout was 2 years ago, and was by far the worst.

              I feel your pain!

              1. re: Cachetes

                I lived 55 years without knowing what it even looked like!

              2. re: coll

                <Allergies last either 5 or 7 years (I forget which) and then they go away.>
                Actually, the body has a kind of 7 year cycle, at which time allergies can appear or disappear as your body chemistry (or something) adjusts itself.
                As a baby I was allergic to dairy. When I grew into a toddler it went away, perhaps my larger body could handle it better. In college, my dairy allergy reappeared and I still have it 20 years later. This allergy was found because I felt sick all the time - dairy is so common in our diets that I was ingesting it constantly!
                I developed a mild nut allergy as a kid, which has grown MUCH worse over the years, in spite of minimal exposure. I have also developed a mild fruit allergy, with no warning signs.
                I have a very good friend who had no previous allergy problems, but as an adult suddenly developed a legume allergy - imagine no soy, or peanut products! As an added pain, he can't have coconut either (and he's Filipino - gave his mother fits!)

                1. re: coll

                  Allergies lasting 5 or 7 years?

                  I've had my egg and fish allergies my entire life. This makes no sense to me. My allergist, as well as other specialists, say that if you don't outgrow your allergy as a kid, you pretty much have it for life.

                  1. re: focioncroci

                    some of my allergies I have had all my life as well. Some - perhaps more intolerance than an "actual" allergy, came on later in life.

                    1. re: focioncroci

                      My Mom, and now I, developed all our allergies after 40. For what it's worth.

                      1. re: coll

                        I have a SIL that developed several allergies in her 40s. She is allergic to soy (but not soy lecithan or soy oil), tree nuts (peanuts are fine), and melons. I had heard her say she was allergic to watermelon so I asked about honeydew and other melons and she is allergic to all of them. Apparently she will break out in hives that last for 6 months or more.

                    2. re: coll

                      Not true for food allergies. I developed a shellfish (bi-valbes--not shrimp) allergy--hives, insomnia, some intestinal distress and throat swelling the next morning. The allergists said this will most likely NEVER go away. As a matter of fact it is possible when getting them at middle age it can just explode. I now carry an EPI pen. NOT something to fool around with. And my husband had terrible headaches a few years ago that turned out to be a yeast overload (candida) and allergy to soy and peanuts!

                      1. re: coll

                        I wish allergies went away after 5 - 7 years. I have a child with a tree nut allergy (not peanuts). I asked the dr if it might go away and he said that type of allergy is usually not outgrown.

                        I have allergies to raw fruit. I avoid many types. I'm not going to take a chance to see if I am still allergic and I would not encourage anyone else to try it either.

                        1. re: Disneyfreak

                          I read about a study this past week or so that links nut allergies (may have been peanuts though) to a specific gene. That would explain why people don't outgrow it.

                      2. re: tonina_mdc

                        generally possible with most TREE allergens. generally not advisable with food because, um, they tend to be more severe.

                    3. I grew up eating PB&J's with the rest of my buddies. Around age 20 I developedd severe anaphylaxis to peanuts tree nuts and a few other non food items. You'd be surpsised how much is fried in peanut oil. Also, Asian restaurants are often difficult to navigate.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: enbell

                        That's horrid. I'll bet you give Thai places in particular a wide berth. It must be hard to tell what to avoid and what is safe - it seems like everything is labeled as possibly containing peanuts or having been produced in a plant and on machinery that could contain peanut matter.

                        1. re: tonina_mdc

                          I thought that peanut oil didn't cause allergies, only peanuts themselves?

                          1. re: jeanmarieok

                            I didn't know, so I checked. Here's some info from the National Peanut Board:

                            "Does peanut oil elicit an allergic reaction?
                            If refined peanut oil is used properly and is not reused after cooking peanuts, it seems to be safe for most people with peanut allergy; crude oil, however, represents a risk. Cold pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil is NOT safe for peanut allergic individuals."

                            So I guess it depends on what is used and how it is used.

                            1. re: tonina_mdc

                              Yes, and often restaurants use the cheaper version which isn't refined.

                        2. re: enbell

                          Yeah i would. Check soaps. Olives,peanuts,eggs and coconuts hide in everything i know tjis from yrs of label reading and reading allergy sights etc so peanuts and eggs stick in head and sis is allergic to coconut. These are in most products check make up to.

                        3. Shellfish allergy developed in my 20s. I noticed one day that after an evening of eating mussels, I woke up with a rash on my face and in my mouth. Each time I ate them or scallops, etc after that, the rash especially in my mouth would be a bit worse. Don't touch any of it anymore.