Saturday, June 04, 2011
On one side there is reactivity. The severity of a reaction can be as simple as making you miserable, or as life threatening to land you in the ER.
On the other side, there is sensitivity. One whiff of your allergen from 6 miles away might set you off, or you might just simply be able to pick off the offending food from your plate.
These two measurements of allergenicity (is that a word? probably not).. These two measurements of your allergy do not have a single thing to do with one another.
You can go into anaphylactic shock with every reaction, but still only react with direct contact. Another person can simply not feel well with each reaction, and have that reaction if someone even walks in the room with the offending item.
This is where people get confused, and this confusion can sometimes cause people to proclaim things to be totally safe when they're not, or misrepresent themselves. Often this is not done with evil intentions, but with well meaning people trying to share their experiences and help others out.
Whether you tested a 1 or a 4 for your allergen, whether or not it lands you in the ER, does not make you sensitive. An allergy's sensitivity is about just how little contact or exposure is required to make you react at all in any sense.
In sensitivity, there are also two main gauges of sensitivity. Internal and External.
Internal sensitivity is when the allergen is ingested. This includes eye contact and breathing it in, as these both allow the allergen to get "inside" the body with possible absorption by the mucus membranes.
External sensitivity is direct skin contact. Keep in mind, even those without much external sensitivity may find themselves reacting to contact if their skin is broken, or if the corny substance is wet, or if they're in the shower, as wet or broken skin allows the body to more readily absorb the allergen through the skin weakening it's protective barrier.
Someone who is internally sensitive is not always necessarily externally contact sensitive. Those who are externally sensitive may not always be internally as sensitive.
This allows for a lot of confusion when grading products for reliability of corn-free status.
Even at my most sensitive, I could still pick up a corn chip with my fingers or touch a corn cob (I didn't because of my fear of accidentally getting residue of it in my mouth.) without much of a reaction or without a reaction at all. Others would break out into a full body rash on contact with a corn chip, but be able to eat some contaminated products that would leave me sick as a dog for days.
So just to clarify.. The severity of your reaction while horrid does not make your reactions more valid for testing the presence of an allergen, it's your sensitivity (how much it takes to set you off) that is a much better test of the presence of an allergen.
So when you're out there on boards and forums, do a lot of reading and pay attention to what products people are using. Find the person who best fits your own sensitivity level, and join forces.
The best way to get through this allergy is with someone else who also can help you weed out problem products and make safe recommendations.
Don't trust anyone just because they sound right, or are saying what you want to hear. Sometimes the thing that sounds the most unbelievable with this allergy, is the one you should rely on.
In truth, question everything.