By Kate Halim
When Mrs Benita Godwin decided to take her daughter and her friends out on her daughter’s birthday, she didn’t know that a health scare was lurking around.
It was a happy day for Godwin and her daughter who just turned 18. According to Godwin, she decided to take her daughter and her friends to a nice restaurant in her area to have fun just to make the day memorable.
Godwin told Saturday Sun that when they got to the restaurant and went through the menu, the girls decided to eat spaghetti and meat sauce while she opted for prawns and French fries. She said the food was delicious and they drank, took pictures, had a nice time and left.
The mother of two added that the beautiful birthday celebration was marred by what happened after they got home. She said her palms and toes started itching uncontrollably. She felt her head increasing in size and her eyes felt weird.
“I was feeling uncomfortable. My whole body was itching me. I looked in the mirror and my eyes were getting smaller. My face was swollen and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. My throat was on fire,” Godwin revealed.
She said she called her daughter to tell her what was happening to her and her daughter screamed when she saw her face. Her daughter started crying and told her to go to the hospital immediately.
According to Godwin who said she was breathing through her mouth, she went online to find out if any of the symptoms she was having was that of food allergies because she noticed that she started feeling sick after eating a giant prawn in the restaurant where she took her daughter and her friends to.
Godwin said: “Everything made sense when I searched for prawn food allergy symptoms on Google. I confirmed my fears and called my doctor. He told me to rush to the hospital immediately. At this time, I was gasping for air. It was as if my life was slipping away. I dressed up and rushed to the hospital.”
Godwin stated that immediately she got to the hospital, her blood pressure was checked and it was very high. Her face started drooling. She had a red face and hives. Her vision started fading and the itching intensified. She said that she was given two intravenous injections in quick succession as well some drugs for first aid. She was admitted and spent two days at the hospital.
Godwin said the experience scared her. She revealed that it was the second time she was suffering from a food allergy. She recalled that the first time she reacted to something she ate was as a child. She said she suffered allergies after eating fried cocoyam. However, she noted that the experience wasn’t as bad as the one she recently suffered.
Mrs. Nkoyo Essien had her first allergic reaction at the age of seven, exhibiting telltale signs of a swollen face and eyes, throat tightening and fever. Since then, Essien, a businesswoman and mother of four, has been diligently protecting her children and also educating her family about food allergies.
“I am allergic to crayfish. If I eat any food containing crayfish, I will start reacting to it immediately. My mum told me that the first time I suffered from food allergies was when I was seven. I ate rice cooked with crayfish and almost died,” Essien revealed.
She said it was the intervention of her uncle living with them who was a medical student at that time that saved her life. Essien revealed that her uncle took her to the hospital immediately after he noticed the symptoms on time.
For 25-year-old Tayo Adewale, he first learned of food allergies when he was 12. He was eating bread with peanut butter on it and that was the last thing he remembered. He said he passed out as his face started swelling and he had difficulty breathing.
Adewale revealed that a quick trip to the hospital helped him overcome the episode. But since then, he has been vigilant about educating his family and others about the dangers of food allergies.
Food allergies at a glance
Saturday Sun spoke to Dr Gabriel Omonaiye, a medical practitioner in Lagos who shed more light on this common yet dangerous health issue.
Omonaiye said that food allergy is an adverse reaction to a certain food item, due to an immune mediated reaction. It is a bit common in children (about six per cent) than in adults (four per cent or less).
According to Omonaiye, for someone with this condition, eating or swallowing a small quantity of the food can precipitate such symptoms as skin rashes, itching, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
He said that the symptoms can start within a few minutes of taking the offending food, or it may occur within two hours typically or after several hours. He added that other symptoms include sneezing and itchy, runny or blocked nose(allergic rhinitis), itchy, red, watering eyes (conjunctivitis), wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and cough. He said that the symptoms could be mild or severe or life threatening. The skin, gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular systems could be involved.
Skin may itch, develop hives and urticaria.
He said: “Some people suffering from food allergies may have swollen lips, tongue, eyes or face, a raised, red skin and hives. Some children may have eczema.
He said that there could be abdominal discomfort/upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloody stool. The patient could have cough, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, swelling of the tongue and throat leading to inability to talk or breathe properly.
Omonaiye revealed that these symptoms could manifest rapidly in anaphylaxis. The blood pressure could drop suddenly and the pulse becomes fast and thready. If urgent and adequate medical help does not come quickly, death may ensue.
Omonaiye told Saturday Sun that when it comes to being allergic to certain foods, there may be a family member who has food allergies, and an individual might have experienced a form of allergic reaction in the past. It may also be a novel occurrence, which means no family history and nil prior allergy.
He noted that the common foods that could cause allergy include eggs, milk and dairy products, peanuts, shellfish and other related items like prawns, oysters as well as soy and soy products.
Omonaiye said that some of preventive steps to take to curb suffering from food allergies include walking away from foods you are allergic to. This is because the initial reaction could be mild, but the subsequent ones could be disastrous.
He said: “If you are allergic to one food item, you will do well to see an allergist who will run you through a panel of tests to discover if you have cross allergy to some other foods.”
Omonaiye said home remedies for food allergies include the use of antihistamine, but noted that it is far better to seek urgent medical treatment. He added that the country needs an effective emergency response system to speedily respond to emergency situations like food allergies.
Omonaiye said that diagnosing food allergies could be complicated. This is because symptoms of food allergy can vary from person to person, and a single individual may not always experience the same symptoms during every reaction.