Interview: On Constant Alert

Christina McCrone from Cleveland, OH shares with us her experience with multiple food allergies. 

Austin: What type of food allergies (FA) or food sensitivities (FS) do you have?
Christina: I have a shellfish (including mussels and clams) allergy. I am also lactose intolerant, and allergic to avocado.

Austin: Did you self-diagnose your FA/FS or did you get a diagnosis from a doctor?
Christina: For the shellfish allergy, once I had a reaction, I got tested. For the lactose intolerance, I told my doctor of my stomach issues, they did nothing for me. I figured it out on my own by keeping track of what I was eating when I got sick. With the avocado, I asked my doctor if I could get tested because my mouth and throat would itch when eating, I was told there was no test for that and to stay away from it.

Austin: How does having a FA/FS affect your life?
Christina: It makes it hard. You have to constantly be on alert everywhere you go. I am legally blind, which makes it even harder. I have developed panic attacks that start when I eat away from home which makes it hard sometimes to tell if I am having a reaction. A lot of times I eat before going to an event.

Austin:When was the last time you had a food allergy reaction and how did that make you feel?
Christina: I have reactions at least once a week because I still do not have control over the lactose intolerance. It ruins whatever is going on at the time for me. 

Austin: How often do you dine out versus eat at home? For example, how many meals per week/month do you eat out?
Christina: After my shellfish allergy diagnosis about 10 years ago I quit eating out. My trust in other people for my life over eating food is gone, I am trying to slowly get out again. I have certain places I trust. Shellfish free places are my new best friend. I try to go out at least twice a month.

Austin: Do you feel nervous when you do eat out? What are your ‘go to’ dishes when you do dine out?
Christina: Yes! I try to go to shellfish free places. I am slowly trying to go to places that have it on the menu. My go to dishes are breakfast. I am shellfish safe with breakfast items I tend to get that even for dinner if I’m at a place I do not trust.

Austin: How do relatives, friends and/or servers at restaurants typically react when you bring up your allergy/sensitivity?
Christina: My family is terrible. They say I overreact but I feel that since it’s life threatening I have a right to be that way. When they have to stick an epi pen in their thigh over food then they can have a say in my reaction. I have had some wonderful servers, and then I have had some that really do not care.

Austin: What is something that would make living with FA easier that does not currently exist? Better Labeling Laws? More efficient ways to test?
Christina: I would love better labeling laws, also wish there was a better way to communicate to places like Chinese food places ect. They do not understand and I really miss that type of food.

Austin: Do you have any advice for family members of those newly diagnosed with FA?
Christina: You have no idea what it is like so be diligent. When going out to eat with that family or having them over to dinner. Let them know you checked things or ask them questions, don’t assume or figure they will handle it themselves.

Austin: Anything else you’d like to share about living with FA?
Christina: Restaurants who go out of their way to make people with allergies feel at ease should not be so hard to find in this day and age.


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