DR. WALLACE: I’m not sure if I’m allergic to peanuts or nuts or some similar substance, whatever it might be, and this makes me worry a lot. I’m 17, and I can remember my mom telling me years ago that she was allergic to peanuts when she was a young girl.
Because of this, our family has never allowed anything with peanuts in our house, ever! My mom reads all food labels like she’s an attorney going over a deposition whenever she shops for groceries. She literally takes out her glasses, leans on her shopping cart and reads, spending about 10 minutes down each aisle of the store. She always wants me to go shopping with her, but lately, I’ve made up a lot of excuses as to why I can’t go to the store with her. The problem is that her shopping trips take over two hours instead of the 30 minutes it would take most people.
Anyhow, I’m still really nervous about my own likelihood of having some food allergies. How can I find out if I’m allergic or not to peanuts, garlic, fish or even certain spices? — Fearing Allergies, via email
FEARING ALLERGIES: I’ll start by stating that nuts are an easy way to boost nutrition and provide healthy protein, and no preparation is required. Nuts are the perfect snack food for most people. Your letter did not mention whether or not you’ve eaten nuts other than peanuts in your life. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed a few varieties other than peanuts.
And since you did not mention any symptoms or definite existing food allergies, it’s unlikely that you have a food allergy problem. Just because your mother has had allergy issues does not necessarily mean that you will suffer the same fate.
To give you something to consider, I’ll refer you to the typical symptoms that the Mayo Clinic points out that can indicate potential food allergies. Take a read through this list and see if you have experienced any of them. If so, visit your family doctor for a full discussion on this topic and take whatever tests he or she might recommend for you.
For some people, an allergic reaction to a particular food may be uncomfortable but not severe. For other people, an allergic food reaction can be frightening and even life threatening. Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after eating the offending food.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
• Tingling or itching in the mouth.
• Hives, itching or eczema.
• Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body.
• Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing.
• Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
• Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.
DR. WALLACE: I’m a 16-year-old boy and have an older brother and a younger sister. My brother and I are very close and are very much alike, except we have different taste in pets. He likes the usual pets, like cats and dogs, but I prefer the exotic ones like snakes, salamanders, jumbo spiders and lizards. We have a pet dog we rescued from our local animal shelter that he picked out, but soon, it’s going to be my turn to pick out a pet, and I want a snake!
They sell a variety of small snakes like garter snakes at the pet store near our house. My parents say I can get one as long as my brother can handle having one in our room. But my brother is worried our dog will eat my snake if it gets out and wanders around our room. My sister does not want a snake in the house, and my dad said since there are three of us kids, I need two “yes” votes out of three to get approval for any pet. How can I get my brother to agree with me to get a pet snake? And by the way, I did vote “yes” for his dog, but our sister also voted “yes,” so he got the dog by a 3-0 vote. Now I need a 2-1 vote to get my snake because my sister will never, ever vote “yes.” — Snake Boy, via email
SNAKE BOY: Snakes can be considered pets, even though they don’t feel affection the same way humans do. Snakes do not enjoy being held, but they can develop a tolerance for it. My advice, since you now know this, would be to promise your older brother, your sister and your parents that if you do get a snake, you will keep it in its tank.
I fully agree with your assessment that you can write off your sister’s vote completely. This means your brother is your only hope. Perhaps you can offer to walk his dog occasionally or give his dog a bath every once in a while. This situation may potentially teach you about compromise, since I suspect you will have to give up something to get something here. Think about what would make your brother happy in terms of his responsibilities with his dog, and hope that might sway his vote.