A Shakespeare quote that has always resonated with me is, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” and that’s how I view this week’s blog post (and myself)!! Although this post is short, I feel it holds a lot of weight. I hope that this image, and the fact that there aren’t a lot of details on the cause of food allergies and that there is no cure for food allergies, helps to raise awareness of how much more research needs to be done. While we have come a long way since I was first diagnosed with my food allergy in 1990, there’s still a lot unknown.
The information below is essentially a compilation of details I’ve found online surrounding the below image. From what I’ve gathered, the below visual was created by Julie Brown, MD. However, I haven’t found much else about her!
It shows, to scale, the amount of peanut residue that can cause a deadly episode of anaphylaxis. Unfortunately, and this is changing as food allergies are becoming more prevalent, but I often I witness a response to my own food allergy being considered as a “picky” eater or “overly cautious” and/or “too high maintenance”. In my opinion, this photo proves this not the case, it is not a choice, and it has nothing to do with being picky. It truly only takes a minuscule amount of peanut to send me into anaphylactic shock. In fact, this study is showing an amount of peanut that can cause anaphylaxis but I know personally my peanut allergy is off the charts, and it would take much less. Since everyone is different when it comes to their food allergy, no food allergy is the same, this is something to keep in mind if you’re thinking “I can eat that much of my allergen safely” or the opposite, “I would die if I had even half of that much of my allergens residue”.
There may be picky eaters out there who have food allergies, and that’s completely valid, but I personally don’t consider myself to be picky, I’m actually a very adventurous eater. My peanut allergy does put a damper on the adventurous side of me that enjoys eating out and trying new foods, but I can experiment with fresh produce a lot of the time in a safe way, since my food allergy is only to peanuts. Before I eat or ingest anything, or even put new products on my skin or use non-food products around the house, investigating has to be done at the forefront. Meaning, my life and especially my eating can’t be on a whim or on impulsive, but I’m here to tell you that it can still be fun and exciting! This diagram shows what I often have had trouble of putting into words for people without food allergies- the problem is how tiny the amount of a peanut particle can set off a serious reaction.
As you can see below, it doesn’t take much to cause a full-force reaction, so remember, this is what those in the food allergy community are up against every day. In fact, people with peanut allergies have died from as little as 1 mg of peanut protein, as shown here:
Like I discussed in my post on going into anaphylaxis from diluted intradermal prick testing, I know I can have a severe reaction from way less than 1mg of peanuts, which is what is shown here. So to me while this image feels important, it goes to show it isn’t fully accurate and food allergies can’t be generalized. I do appreciate that it gives visual context to food allergies, though.
I don’t know the exact amount of my allergen used in my testing, I wish I did, upon typing this I now want to take my very confusing and cryptic paperwork from my visit and see if I can have it deciphered my a professional, but when I research online how far down allergens are diluted for Intradermal testing, it’s an extremely low amount, some sites say allergens can be diluted down to a 5 million fold for highly reactive people. I hope this shows that when I’m out and about living my everyday life, if I begin having a reaction, it’s impossible to pinpoint after the fact how much of my allergen got ingested, or if it even got ingested fully or was just on my lip, or something like that. Trying to figure out the cause of a reaction is just as impossible, since we can’t see trace amounts with the naked eye.
This 1mg visual image is also included in my PowerPoint presentation on food allergy awareness to give people not-allergic a lens into the life of someone with a food allergy disability. The content and statistics I share on my blog and in the PowerPoint presentation can help non-allergic folks know how to serve as an ally to those with allergies, and help others to become all-around more educated on food allergies.