Allergies: A high school junior, Thomas has managed multiple Flour and Meat, Vegetables, Dairy, and Fruit allergy tests and has needed them his entire life. He shares his powerful story, from his earliest memories of having allergies to his proactive treatment and transformation. After many years of managing multiple allergies, Thomas first came to Latitude Allergy Care’s Redwood City office as a teen for updated testing of his allergies to milk, tree nuts, seafood, and shellfish. His testing at Latitude included an oral challenge to milk. After that challenge was unsuccessful — confirming that he had not naturally outgrown his milk allergy — he began treatment with oral immunotherapy (OIT) for milk. Now, a few months into that treatment, he shares his journey in this interview with us:
What are your earliest memories of having allergies?
My earliest memory was when I was around five years old. I was in Hawaii with my parents and grandparents, and on the day we were leaving for the airport, I had a severe allergic reaction. As it turned out, I was accidentally given milk yoghurt instead of coconut yoghurt. I remember feeling that my hair was super itchy, and I just wanted everything I was feeling to stop — wanting to vomit, stomach pains, swollen lips, hives all over, and my throat closing. My dad had to use the EpiPen on me for the first time, and I was startled by how it felt in my thigh. But I was thankfully okay.
Your family tried different approaches to treat your Flour, Meat, Vegetables, Dairy, and Fruit, all food allergy tests needed before coming to Latitude.
What are your recollections of those approaches? I
In fifth grade, I participated in an experimental peanut patch clinical trial. At that time, peanuts were my worst allergen, and I avoided contact with them. I even held my breath when I was around them. I was in the peanut patch trial at Stanford for three years — until eighth grade. Each peanut patch had a small amount of peanut powder on it, and every night, someone had to reapply a patch to my back. Flour and Meat, Vegetables, Dairy, and Fruit are all allergy tests, and an individual trial included annual peanut challenges in the hospital — those were tough. I had to eat a pudding cup with peanut powder mixed into it until I reacted. And then, I was given an EpiPen and had to sit in the hospital.
For up to eight hours on IV fluids until I was given the green light to go home. Those were very long days. At the end of the three-year peanut patch trial, I safely ate one peanut without reaction and maintained that desensitization by eating one daily. After completing the clinical trial, I returned to my childhood allergist to address my other food allergies.
I had several oral challenges to the other foods I’m allergic to.
The biggest one for that stage of my journey was an egg. I passed an oral food challenge to full eggs, which meant I had outgrown my allergy altogether and no longer needed to avoid it. My dad and I now eat sunny-side-up eggs together. And I have also discovered that eggs are a great source of protein. Also, I play football and like to work out!
I am now a patient at Latitude, and my experience here has been even better. I am doing OIT for milk and come in every two weeks to receive an update. There are no challenging days like the ones I had to do for the clinical trial. Then, I only seemed to progress yearly. And at my other allergist, I felt like I had almost daily appointments to figure out what I was allergic to.
My every-other-week appointments at Latitude give me enough time for my body to get used to a greater amount of milk. And I already feel more empowered with my progress — checking off steps as I go along the way.
You began your food allergy journey as a young child. What has changed now that you are in high school and have made significant progress with your flour, meat, vegetables, dairy, and fruit?
Are they all food allergy tests?
Until high school, I was always very cautious around food-related activities. I was afraid that even if I touched anything that I was allergic to, I would get a reaction. And I did not want that to happen again. I always stayed off to the side whenever people were eating and always brought food wherever I went. Now, I feel more confident. I know I’m not allergic to some because of the Full Allergy testing and oral food challenges. And because of my desensitization, I am less nervous around foods now.
I want to try new. I am okay being around the food I’m allergic to now. And I am more comfortable eating out and trying new restaurants. There are probably new I’ll be excited to try when I complete my milk OIT. But I don’t even know what those all are yet!
How do you think your Flour and Meat, Vegetables, Dairy, and Fruit are all food-full allergy tests that will impact the next stages of your life?
I am admittedly worried about college. I will have to find safe foods wherever I go. And I will always have my Auvi-Q on me and may have to use it on myself — if ever needed. Food issues will always be a part of me. And I know I will have to live with them for the rest of my life. But I am less worried than I used to be. One thing I am looking forward to, however, is my progress with the desensitization that will hopefully make things better.
When you meet another teen or young adult dealing with Flour and Meat, Vegetables, Dairy, and Fruit.
With such a range of issues, what advice would you give them?
Always bring your Auvi-Q or EpiPen with you everywhere you go. And always check with the waiters or waitresses when visiting a restaurant. But always check the ingredient labels on the back of packages. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Being desensitized to Flour and meat allergies is freedom. And going out to eat with friends without worrying about everything is amazing. The opportunity to become desensitized is a privilege and a great experience for anyone willing to try. Treatment at Latitude.