For some people, P.E. on a particularly warm day can cause a nasty outbreak of hives. This is because they are allergic to their own sweat. Although this diagnosis seems unfathomable, thousands of uncommon allergies continue to shock the medical world. When someone hears the term “allergic,” they often think of the inability to eat a certain food like a nut, but there is a much wider spectrum of what individuals can be allergic to.
Senior Karena Zhang lives with her allergy to cats. “Basically I’m allergic to cats, but our family recently got a cat,” she explains.
Her allergy is relatively harmless and more of a lifelong reminder than a health-threatening allergy, so she can live with her cat with limited negative effects. “Years … after our family decided to adopt a cat … I no longer seemed to have any serious reaction. I pretty much just made sure to thoroughly wash my hands every time I touched her and it seemed my allergy pretty much died off,” Zhang says.
However, when Zhang first discovered she was allergic, this was not the case. The reaction was a lot worse. “When I was younger I petted someone else’s cat and later, I rubbed my eyes and they became swollen. I had to go to the [emergency room],” Zhang recalls.
Like in Zhang’s case, the initial discovery of the allergen may be quite startling. Many times it happens at a young age and can be dangerous if the severity of the new allergy is unknown. In other instances, the allergy may develop over time, becoming so strong that the smallest exposure to the allergen can send someone to the hospital.
Freshman Nour Alaoui’s nut allergy is a more serious case. There are several measures she must go through before trying a new food. “I usually have to read the label and check if it has nuts or anything that I’m allergic to first, and then I will try [the food] if I’m suspicious that it has nuts in it, even if the label may not say that, I will try it and see how I will feel right after. I can usually feel the affect minutes after eating something I’m allergic to,” says Alaoui.
When living with allergies, there is a huge variety of ways to handle dangerous unknown ingredients that are completely necessary. Especially when at school, students have to be precautious before eating anything processed that is made outside of their households. Some are even not allowed to eat any school food to ensure their safety.
“If I buy a new processed food I have never tried before, my mom makes me first try it in the safety of my home before school just in case anything goes wrong, she will be there to help me,” Alaoui says.
When dealing with allergies, there is rarely a perfect cure. Scientists have found that it costs on average $24.8 billion for food allergy treatment and care just in the United States, proving just how significantly big this worldwide problem is. Many people take allergy shots to help prevent their reactions from getting worse, and few grow out of their allergies as they age.
For some students, allergies play a constant role in their school experience. From eating lunch around unknown foods to learning in class, being aware of their surroundings is essential. For some, like Zhang, the allergies are mild and don’t require the same amount of precaution as more dangerous allergies like Alaoui’s. Just like anything, an allergy is merely a roadblock which some students must face.