Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: food allergies

I am reticent to write this blog, namely because a lot of the content I’ve shared lately has involved a string of injuries. I am a 40 year old woman who practices Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and it’s a contact sport. Stuff happens. I’m also the mother of a 4 year-old. Trips and falls over the hidden Matchbox car or lurking Legos happen. If fact, I’m not particularly worried about burglars. If they can make it through my living room in one piece?

Feel free to have the ten-year-old television. You earned it.

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But, despite this being embarrassing, I felt it was a vital topic to address. Recently, I blogged about empowering my little one to do things on his own. A big step? Making his OWN PBJ sandwich. Since I already know I have a zillion food allergies and intolerances, I’ve avoided eating peanuts, because I know that people with current allergies are far more likely to develop others.

I’ve been very grateful that my allergies—gluten, dairy, soy—are fairly easy to monitor. I cook most of my own food. Also, these allergies might make me miserable for a few hours or days, but getting into gluten isn’t life-threatening.

The Deadly “Peanut”

I’ve heard the “urban legends” about how dangerous peanuts in particular can be. It did seem odd that schools and airplanes were banning them and that responsible restaurants began posting warnings. I respected that because, an allergy of that magnitude? Better safe than sorry. But it’s one thing for a concept to be in our head and quite another to experience it first hand.

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For the past two weeks, I helped Spawn with his sandwiches. I never ate any of the peanut butter and would wash my hands. Then, about a week ago, I started getting these weird itchy bumps on my left ribs. I assumed a mosquito had tried to escape my cleavage and was pissed off after being smothered by the underwire in my bra.

What struck me as odd was that normal itch creams or lidocaine didn’t dent the itch. Another weird thing was that HUGE patches of skin lost all feeling.

Then a day might pass and no itchy bumps or numbness. But, each time the bumps came back, they were worse…and on the left side on my bottom ribs. The odds of catching a mosquito or lost fire ant on the same side stretched believability. Thus, I relegated this odd phenomena a heat rash or perhaps the washing machine hadn’t removed all the soap. I changed detergents and made sure to increase the rinse cycle.

Yesterday morning, I awoke and helped Spawn with his sandwich and Hubby called me for something. I skipped that vital step of scrubbing my hands and just did a half@$$ rinse. I took Spawn over to my friend Shannon’s house feeling fine. I kissed him goodbye to go to my bible study. On the way to church I began to wheeze, cough and sneeze.

Okay, I’m in Texas. Allergy Capitol of the WORLD. Pollen.

By the end of bible study I was really coughing and my side was in terrible pain. I went to the restroom to check my side in the mirror.


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Then this (above) quickly became THIS (below).

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My whole left side and part of my back were covered in massive angry hives and I couldn’t feel any of the skin around the hives. Most of my mid-section and back were completely numb. I scrubbed my hands thoroughly thinking maybe I’d left some of the peanut butter on my hands and that I’d be fine with some Benadryl.

As I was driving Shannon home, the wheezing increased, the hives spread and suddenly I was missing turns and completely disoriented and confused. My blood pressure bottomed out. I didn’t know where I was. Shannon guided me to pull over and drove me to her house where I took a megadose of Benadryl and a couple puffs of albuterol.

I was slurring my words and still very disoriented. They wanted to call an ambulance, but the Benadryl was kicking in and, though I still felt like crap, I was improving. Shannon called Hubby to come get me and take me to a hospital.

By the time he arrived, I could breathe again and the swelling had diminished, but I was loopy and talking like I’d had a stroke or a few shots of Jaegger. Since anaphylaxis is the main concern for this kind of reaction, I refused a hospital visit.

Good thinking. You took Benedryl and used an inhaler. You’re fine now. Here’s a prescription for an epi-pen and that will be $1000.

Since I was finally breathing and throat was no longer swollen, I asked Hubby to take me home (and I plan on following up with an allergist to get an epi-pen).

Here is The WEIRD Part

I staggered inside and sat at the table. Though moments earlier, I’d been feeling a lot better, I suddenly began to wheeze. The peanut butter sandwich left on the table three feet away from me was causing me to react. I took more Benadryl and went to the bedroom until Hubby could decontaminate the kitchen of all the peanut butter.

Today, I’m fine (aside from a SERIOUS Benadryl hangover and really, really itchy hives).

But what kicked off the first part of the reaction? Pecking a Mommy Kiss on her kiddo (who’d just eaten a PBJ). The second phase? Touching my skin that was itchy and blowing my nose with hands that still had some peanut butter on them. The last phase? Sitting only a couple feet from a sandwich.

Ok, I am NOW a believer and can attest that this is NOT urban legend.

Why the Hate?

Something disturbed me when I was researching about this allergy. There is a terrible animosity toward those with peanut allergies. Numerous blogs dripping with venom and ranting about how their kid shouldn’t be deprived of a PBJ at school because one sissy@$$ kid has an allergy. People have found it funny to spread peanut butter inside the door handles of places that post warnings about peanuts. Flick peanuts at kids they know are allergic.

Sadly, THIS seems to be a very common sentiment:

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And what bothers me is that most of these allergies have been created due to gross irresponsibility of the food and medical community. For YEARS, doctors overprescribed antibiotics in situations where they weren’t required, thus creating a generation of people with penicillin allergies or antibiotic resistance. Doctors not poor genes created superbugs requiring Godzillacillin.

The food industry is not held to a strict standard of truth in labeling. Gluten hides under a lot of names. Europe refuses to buy American wheat. I have family members who live in Europe and eat bread all the time. They can’t eat our bread or pasta without getting ill.

There are good reasons for this explosion of food allergies.

First, I believe GMO is not as “safe” as scientists claim. And maybe I’m a jerk, but these “super smart scientists” were the same folks who claimed that hydrogenated oils were so much healthier than butter, olive oil, or coconut oil (even though ROACHES wouldn’t touch it).

Oh wow, trans fats? Oops, our bad.

Also, even if I am wrong about the GMO thing, in our modern society we eat out far more often and rely more on packaged and processed foods than ever in history. I’m old enough that I had a mom at home who cooked our meals. Eating out was a treat.

Yes, I ate PBJs, but the only time I ingested peanuts was when I was eating peanuts. Now that cookies are bought off a shelf instead of homemade? And more and more foods are all processed in the same place, on the same equipment? The general population is regularly being exposed to all the MAJOR allergens at a far higher rate. This means over time these allergens build in our systems and suddenly BOOM, we have an allergy.

In 1950, you got “gluten” in your bread. People knew they were eating wheat. People didn’t have to check the spices, soups, salad dressings, and lunch meats. In 1950, ham on your sandwich was HAM.

The Message from the Mess

Just know that when people get uptight about a food allergy, they aren’t meaning to be high-maintenance. It is a real hassle to have allergies. And to some of us is IS a matter of life or death.

I’ve been poisoned at conferences, stranded at airports for 15-20 hours with nothing to eat (I now bring supplies). I’m the “pain in the @$$” to the waiter (though I am kind and tip extra). People resent you because you can’t go to the restaurants they would prefer, or you when don’t order anything to eat, you’re then judged and treated with hostility.

I hate having allergies. Sometimes, it would be nice to just eat where I want and what I want to and not read every label like I am researching for a dissertation.

I’m very happy that discovering my peanut allergy happened as it did. I could have been on my way home with Spawn in the car when it hit full-force. Or at home alone with a 4 year old. OY! I might not be here to write this today.

Actual image of Kristen's Guardian Angel
Actual image of Kristen’s Guardian Angel

But, I’m still here. I have a newfound respect for those with the serious allergies and just want to let people know just how dangerous this allergy is. This allergy really scares me because it’s beyond my control and relies on others respecting how deadly this allergy can be.

It isn’t a joke or us wanting attention…though Hubby did do the dishes and clean the house :D. If you have allergies, I totally feel for you. But maybe this trend will make the food industries start being more responsible and the same peanut allergies they created can be eliminated (FYI—peanut allergies have risen almost 20% since 1997).

I also found this COOL site for those with allergies. It also has a section for parents. Since little ones don’t have the same vocabulary as an adult, they have a list of common things a small child might try to tell an adult when they are having a reaction.

What are your thoughts?

Yes, I am a delicate flower. Sigh. Do you struggle with allergies? Do you find people are flippant or even rude in regards to your allergies? Have you ever had a scary experience with an allergy? Are you a parent of kids with food allergies? What are your experiences? Suggestions? Tips?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

View from my room...
View from my room…

Last weekend I taught at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado. Amazing conference with fantastic presenters (highly recommend) and though it was memorable and magical…I thought it would KILL me.

It Didn’t Begin Well…

I am NOT a fan of early morning flights. Even though I had everything packed and ready to go, I wake up WHEN?

3:00 a.m.

…and CANNOT get back to sleep.

So I get up, do some work and have plenty of time to get to the airport. I figure, “Eh *waves hand* I’m not presenting today, so I will just go to bed early.”

I finally get to Gunnison, Colorado, my ride picks me and the other presenters up. She’s already scouted out a restaurant that had gluten-free and dairy-free food. YAY, ME!

The Assassin-wich

Whenever I go to different regions, I make it a point to try what’s local. I ordered the Trout BLT with the GF bun. I made it a point to dramatically tell my waiter how horrifically allergic I am to dairy and gluten.

“Oh, yes, yes, I checked. The coleslaw is fine for you to eat.”

It wasn’t.

The Assassin-wich
The Assassin-wich

Soon after lunch I felt like hell, but assumed it had more to do with being up since three that morning and traveling all day than anything else. Maybe it was because I was such a high altitude and it was altitude sickness.

Helping is Hurting

Soon after lunch, we go to the Ladies’ Room and the editor from Harper Collins picks the stall with no toilet paper. After I made her listen to my pitch….


No, I grab some paper and bend down to hand it to her and WHAM! There was a stupid, weird, makes-no-sense extension of the counter and I whacked my forehead HARD.

Yes, I am klutzy, but give me a break, I was sleep-deprived, at high altitude, and had just been poisoned (though at this point I didn’t know it). Wasn’t on my game.

So, by dinner time I am feeling pretty bad, but I washed my face, redid my makeup and went down. The only thing gluten and dairy-free is the steamed zucchini. Yay. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I talked and had people laughing and once it was over?

I crawled back to my condo and held to my promise and go to be early. 10:30 (that’s early for a conference)…

….only to awaken at midnight violently ill.

Zucchini of DOOM

I was sick all…night…long. I knew it! That zucchini had butter. Never trust a squishy veggie!

It’s Never Been So Hard to Put On Makeup

I was shaking so badly from being sick for (by that time) 7 hours and sleep deprived that I’m a little surprised my makeup didn’t turn out more like this…

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Blah Blah Photos Blah
Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Blah Blah Photos Blah

So 8:00 a.m., I walk down the mountain (in dress shoes), carrying my computer bag. At breakfast, I wolf down some bacon because it was the only thing I could trust. I start chugging water, because I am dehydrated and…?

STILL sick.

I keep having to chat and smile and then sweetly and politely excuse myself so I can run to the closest bathroom…and thank GOD I carried makeup and a toothbrush. I attend every session I can because 1) I want to support other speakers, 2) I am eager to learn and 3) there was NO WAY I was going to make it UP the mountain to my room without, um, dying.

I tell one of the Crested Butte writers that I’ve had terrible Zucchini Poisoning, but that I will be fine. Just triple-check the future meals, please. They feel terribly guilty, but I assure them that Hey, I have food allergies and it happens.

In the meantime, I go to the hotel store and buy two large bottles of Gatorade and a packet of electrolytes and vitamins that are supposed to help with altitude sickness), and it only cost me a mere $17. Hotels *rolls eyes*

I chug all of it because it is now 11 a.m. and….I am STILL getting sick. I present in 2 hours.

Bonding with teen writers, LOL....
Bonding with teen writers to take my mind off…wanting to DIE.

Safe Zone

I excuse myself early because I am sure the Zucchini of Doom is what poisoned me. So, I go back to that restaurant from the previous day, because “they were careful and knew how important it was to not contaminate food.”

I go to order the same thing, but the waitress stops me. “The coleslaw has dairy, and so does that dressing for your salad.”


I get sick if something with dairy brushes like zephyr near my food. I ate a half a cup of coleslaw and a half a dairy-infested salad.

How was I still ALIVE?

Sarah makes sure I get a meal I can eat without dying and I tip her 40%. Then I ask to speak to the manager and politely explain that dead patrons make lousy return customers. Then I excuse myself…

Because, yes, I am STILL SICK. By this point? 12 hours.

Um, We Thought You Weren’t Coming

So I put on my game face and head to the main lunch. I’m not eating but I can still be there to do my job. I have a table with my name and people who want to talk to me…and it’s full.

We thought you weren’t coming. They said you were sick.

I found it funny that it was my designated table and I was the only one without a seat. But they scooch me in and soon I have everyone talking and laughing. Outside Kristen is funny and helpful. Inside Kristen wants to use the 10% off the ski-lift coupon so she can throw herself off the top of Crested Butte.

The Crested Butte writers felt better because I told them it was the restaurant and not the Zucchini of Doom that poisoned me. That seemed to make them relax. I can see how trying to kill your speakers could look bad.

Game, ON!

I was blessed that an hour before I presented I stopped getting sick. With GF, dairy-free food in my stomach and enough Gatorade to supply a lacrosse team, I was good to go and gave it my best. I presented for a little over an hour and no one would have known I was sick.

SCORE! *fist pump*

The Reward

I struggle back up the mountain to my condo. I needed time to rest and regroup. That evening, I was rewarded for my diligence. I had THE BEST GF, Diary-Free Pizza ON THE PLANET at a place called, The Secret Stash. It was so good, I bought another one to bring back to the condo with me. $60 worth of pizza, I didn’t care. I needed safe food.

Angels sing!
Angels sing!

The French Tried to Kill Me, but FAILED

Of course, the next night we go to a French food restaurant. I go through all the Please, please please NO gluten or dairy and I get THIS…


Ah, but I am smarter now. I spot the deadly mashed potatoes lurking beneath my pork loin.


The rest of the conference went great, even though I was seriously puny and had knot on my head (this explains so much, right?). I am a bit sad I got so sick because I was too weak to do any of the hiking or fun stuff we had coupons for. But, I did get to help and serve a lot of writers and that’s what I love most anyway.

The Lesson

Why do I tell this story? First of all because it’s kind of tragic-funny. I am a person who honors my commitments to the point of lunacy, but…

Mostly I want you guys to know I pale in comparison to what other writers are willing to do for their craft. I’ve known writers who kept writing even though they were facing a double-mastectomy or going through chemo. One writer kept writing even as she cared for her husband who was undergoing chemo for brain cancer.

I’m friends with a big name author who kept writing even after three deaths in one year (two were this writers’ parents). Life will still be here. We get sick, we face hardship but we need to press on and, more importantly? LAUGH. Keep a sense of humor. Everything passes, but the writing will remain and often the thing we love (writing) can help us get through tough times. If I didn’t LOVE serving writers so much, I NEVER could have maintained my game face.


So what about you guys? Do you have food allergies and faced down the Assassin-wich? Did you learn to press on even when life threw you a hardball…in the FACE?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!