Oliver: ‘Food allergies changed my life’

By Adem Lewis / in , , , /

Hi, I’m Oliver and I’m allergic to eggs,
fish and shellfish. I’m developing an intolerance to soya. I’m asthmatic and I have allergies
to biological washing powder, grass pollen and cats. I’ve always been allergic to eggs and fish. My parents told me I used to be violently
ill when I had toast soldiers with egg or when I was eating fish. I used to come out
in hives. I remember my mother used to make cakes and I accidently touched an egg once
then touched my eye and half my face went quite red. So I’ve known about it pretty
much ever since I can remember. I was tested at 20, when I was in university.
And I had had quite a few severe reactions up until that point. And I thought it was
good to actually get tested and confirm that I was definitely allergic and not just intolerant
or anything else. And I had the pin prick test and it showed that I was allergic to
egg and fish and shellfish. A typical reaction would start with my lips
and my throat. I would sense that I was having a reaction and I would get tingling and then
my lips would start coming out in lumps and bumps, then I would actually shudder…it
would actually be a physical shudder that I would have. And then I would start getting
quite light headed. I would start feeling sick in my stomach and over the course of
an hour I would say, the symptoms will get worse and worse. And after about an hour I
will be violently sick in the nearest bathroom if possible and for the next two or three
hours I would be sick a number of different times, pretty much lying on the floor because
I can’t cope with the cramps, and then about four hours later I start feeling a bit more
normal and start having actual thoughts and a couple of hours after that I start actually
feeling fine, so (a reaction) takes about six hours in total.
I do find eating out very difficult. I have to be very very certain that the waiter or
waitress knows exactly what is going on and that I do have a severe allergy. But even
at the best of times when they have books and they have menus that I can actually peruse
and that I can recognise, it is still very difficult to make them understand that if
it’s a part of an ingredient, if it’s a glaze, for example, if it actually includes
a small part, that I still will have a reaction to it. So even if they think there is a small amount, even as part of a minor ingredient, they might
not necessarily tell me and I don’t necessarily know until I have the reaction. And that is
quite bad and it does happen quite regularly. A lot more regularly than you think.
I think my allergy has always been a talking point among my friends and it’s a source
of amusement every time we go out – that obviously I have to through this whole rigmarole
– but in terms of actually being able to go out and ensure that I have a broader range
of restaurants that I can go to, or pubs or anywhere that serves food, it will be very
important to know that I can get the information that I need to be able to make an informed
decision and that I can get the food that won’t actually harm me. I think the new regulations will make it easier for someone like me to go out and eat because up to this point it’s been very different, the kind of experiences that I have had. However, it’s also up to the restaurant to ensure that they make sure they use these tools that
they get so any kind of statement of ingredients that they actually use it properly as I have
had different experiences at the same restaurant that did have the book but I wasn’t aware
of it the first time. So I would say that you have to be very careful and make everyone
completely aware that you are allergic, not just maybe intolerant or it’s not going
to have a minor impact on you, it’s going to be a quite severe reaction, and I have
to be constantly asking and questioning.

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