“If I eat something I am allergic to I can go into anaphylactic shock.”
Following the inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who went into cardiac arrest after eating a baguette containing sesame seeds but not labelled as such, her family are campaigning for change to food labelling laws.
Ciara Williams, who is 23, has had allergies since she was a baby.
Her mother – who also has allergies – recognised the symptoms when Ciara was given milk.
“I came out in hives but luckily a healthcare visitor was at home when it happened,” added Ciara, from Flintshire.
“When I got a bit older, I also became allergic to eggs and nuts.
“With milk it can take between five and 10 minutes before I start getting the symptoms. But with eggs it can take up to two hours, which can lull you into a false sense of security.”
Lack of understanding
In the last few years Ciara has also developed an intolerance to latex on fruit such as bananas, kiwi fruit and strawberries.
“Even if I touch a food I’m allergic to, I swell up and get hives and feel very uncomfortable,” she explained.
Fortunately the only time Ciara has experienced a serious reaction was when she was having controlled hospital tests to determine the severity of her allergies.
“I felt sick and drowsy,” she said. “My throat closed up quickly, I had severe abdominal cramps, and then became unconscious.
“When I came to, I vomited and went straight into another episode.”
Scrutinising food labels is a chore that Ciara has become used to.
“It makes you extremely wary about everything you eat and you have to watch out for any changes in the ingredients, just in case it contains something you are allergic to.”
Talking to new people about allergies can also be frustrating for her.
“It’s sometimes hard to explain to those who haven’t got allergies how important it is to know what is in food,” she explained.
“My allergies are life-threatening and it can be hard to get that message across to people.”
However, she has shown her close friends how to use an EpiPen – an adrenaline auto-injector, and she always carries two of them with her.
Dining at restaurants provides fresh challenges, and Ciara always tries to check online or phone a restaurant in advance to find out about the ingredients.
“When I’m there I pace myself by eating some food and then waiting 10 minutes before eating some more, and waiting again.”
Ciara has been involved with the Easy to Ask campaign, which aims to encourage young people not to be embarrassed to quiz restaurants about possible allergens. It also tries to raise awareness of the potential problems with food outlets.
“It can be quite stressful when I eat out,” she said. “My choices might be limited, but it doesn’t stop me from getting on with my life.”
By Andree Massiah, BBC UGC and Social News team
Source BBC News