Occasionally self-retesting

A couple of times a year, Xander eats something with wheat on purpose.

What is this madness? Well, first of all, let me explain what separates allergies from other intolerances.

An allergy is when the immune system develops antibodies against something relatively harmless. When we are exposed to a pathogen (a disease causing microbe) our body's biggest defence is antibodies, which are generated by a specific kind of white blood cell. Antibodies are designed to target specific antigens, which are markers for these pathogens. That said, in order to develop these antibodies, our bodies need to be exposed to these pathogens or allergens. This is why we have vaccinations, and why fatal allergic reactions are rarely the first exposure. Allergies is when the allergen is believed by a person's body to be a pathogen and the immune system reacts to it. The things we suffer as a result are in fact our body trying to purge us of the allergen.

This is not to be mixed up with autoimmune diseases, where something prompts the body to attack itself, or other intolerances (one prominent example is lactose intolerance, which is caused by the body not producing the enzymes that break lactose into sugars).

The NHS rank allergies from a scale from 0 to 5. 0 is of course no allergic reaction, while 5 is a risk of anaphylaxis. Xander is a 2, he has antibodies against wheat, and symptoms are noticeable and unpleasant for him, but day-to-day only he is entirely aware of the symptoms and he has to relay to me when he thinks that he's had something that's been cross-contaminated.

So why then, would he eat wheat on purpose? Well, it's a test that he's still allergic.

Some people do lose their allergies, examples known to me are my brother (childhood allergy to milk, grew out of it after a couple of years) and Xander's aunt (allergic to raspberries for 20 years but is not today), Xander himself also had an allergy to eggs as a child, but now eats eggs and has no reaction to the flu vaccine, which is reared in chicken eggs. By the same token of course, people can develop allergies at any time in their lives. This is why it is very important to be aware of what our body is telling us and adapting to it, rather than fighting against it.

NOTE: I am in no way encouraging others to follow suit in this, and that goes double if your allergic reaction is potentially fatal. I merely wanted people to be aware that allergies are not necessarily for life.


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