If you can believe it, until last August, I hadn’t been to the allergist or tested for food allergies in almost 25 years! Why has it taken me so long to get tested again? The first reason I would give you is I have been moving around a lot and have finally settled in Berlin. So now I can take the time to find an allergist who I feel comfortable with.
But then I dig a little deeper, and honestly, I never thought I would outgrow or not be allergic to things I was told were allergies as a kid. Going to get allergy tested seemed like a lot of work for what I thought was nothing. Or maybe, actually probably because I have a terrible memory from the first and only time I was tested for food allergies.
My First Food Allergy Test
Here’s the low down, at four years old I got a skin prick test. It was awful. I reacted to a lot and can still remember begging the doctor not to test me for peanuts. I didn’t want to be itchy anymore. This is one of my most explicit memories as a child and has undoubtedly dictated my apprehension towards seeing an allergist.
The doctor told my parents my allergies, and we avoided those foods. It was as simple as that back in the 90s. Options like OIT and a general allergy awareness was not around when I was growing up. After the diagnosis, my parents did the best they could to make sure I was safe and not missing out on life (I think they did a super job).
As I got older, my birch pollen allergy started to present itself as Oral Allergy Syndrome, and my peanut allergy began to effect cross-reactive foods like peas and soy. It seemed like I was getting more allergies. I stopped eating foods that are cross-reactive to my allergens and avoided new trendy foods like chia or quinoa afraid that I would react to them. It seemed simple enough, and I was ok living without these foods.
That was until I became more active in learning about food allergies and met people who outgrew allergens, had undergone challenges as an adult or were falsely diagnosed. As I discovered during my allergy testing process a skin prick is not an allergy test, it shows you are sensitised to a particular food, and some allergens may not test positive (for me this was the case with peas – a false negative). After learning all this, I was determined to see if I was avoiding certain foods for no reason.
Now that I am in Berlin and have the opportunity to go to the Comprehensive Allergy Center Charité, I thought why not see if anything has changed in the last 25 years. I mean how amazing would it be if I could add a few foods to my diet. Or what if I wasn’t allergic anymore and turned out to be a food allergy blogger fraud!
The Food Allergy Testing Process in Germany
Navigating the allergy testing process in Germany was not easy, and involved a lot of little steps. My ultimate goal was to get to the Allergy Center Charité to *fingers crossed* be able to do an oral challenge. The first thing I had to do was see a dermatologist. I went straight to him and told him my plan – Charité & Oral Challenge. He did an IgE blood test and was able to confirm my allergies (I’m not an allergy blogger fraud after all). With his recommendation, I was able to book an appointment at the Charité.
Two months later, as I sat across from the doctor at the Charité, I explained my story and what I wanted: to see if I could eat anything that I had on my allergy list. The doctor I saw that I was serious since I came with my recent IgE blood test, a list of my allergens, foods I wanted to challenge, and a whole lot of questions. I also helped that I was just at the Food Allergy Blogger Conference equipped with new allergy knowledge.
It was surprising to him that I had never tried most of the foods on my allergy list, and that was surprising to me too! Why on Earth would I try something I was told is an allergen? Well, it all goes back to a skin prick test not being an accurate allergy test. At that appointment, I learnt the only precise way to know it is an allergy is by reacting.
A side note, stand your ground at these appointments they can start feeling intimidating and make you second guess yourself.
Lucky for me the doctor felt an oral challenge was something I should do to find if I could add any foods to my diet. He explained that the next step would be a prick test and then they could determine if an oral challenge was possible. I booked a prick test and was on my way to possibly adding new food to my diet!
My Allergy Testing Journey
I will be documenting my whole journey in three more posts about the skin prick, the oral challenge, and the next steps after an oral challenge. If there is anything, you are interested in knowing, leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: This blog post is my story and not intended as medical advice. I will do my best to give accurate information about a food allergy testing and treatments. Please talk to your doctor to learn more about the right path for you.
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!