I hate sunflowers. It’s not how they look; it’s what their seeds do to me because of my allergies that I hate.
Avoiding sunflower seeds is fairly easy, but these days food manufacturers are putting sunflower oil in everything from coffee creamer to potato chips, and it’s getting harder & harder to avoid. I was at the grocery store last night and one of the items on the shopping list was chips; I was hard pressed to find anything that didn’t have sunflower oil in the ingredient list.
Sunflower oil can be found in places you would least expect it, even in prepackaged pudding cups! I bought a pack of Hunt’s SnackPack chocolate pudding cups a while back, thinking it’d be a cheap & easy snack, but got a nasty headache after eating one. Checked the ingredients, and sure enough — sunflower oil. Often the ingredient list will contain the phrase “one of the following…” and list two or three different kinds of vegetable oil; the further down the list sunflower oil shows, the better the chance that it’s ok for me to eat, but never guaranteed so I’ll still avoid that product.
Yes, I do a lot of ingredient list reading in the grocery store aisles, but I need to proceed very carefully when I don’t see the ingredient list. I can usually tell within a couple of bites whether a product has sunflower oil — or something else — in it, and I’m usually ok if I stop after a couple of bites. But when I can’t tell right away and I eat more than that, it’s only a matter of time before I can feel my eyelids get a little puffy and the headache sets in. That’s what sucks about sunflower seeds. And other food products.
I despise peanuts and peanut oil too; that’s another thing that I really have to watch out for… It used to be that I enjoyed eating all kinds of peanut products, and peanut butter was almost a staple food for me — there’s nothing like a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with a bowl of tomato soup on a cold day (better yet, grill that PBJ! Yum!) — but not any more.
I discovered my peanut allergy one year around Christmas… I stayed up late one night in Santa-mode, wrapping presents, watching TV and eating salted-in-the-shell peanuts (readily available at the grocery during the holidays.) The next day I was crabby as all get-out. I don’t recall having a headache, but I do remember that even the smallest thing just enraged me. After that I suspected the peanuts and experimented for the next few days, watching for similar symptoms; it was definitely peanuts. I don’t know how to fully explain the Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde reaction, and neither does my doctor, but it’s more than just a little scary. The littlest things will set me off and I can fly into an almost uncontrollable rage.
The last time I remember it happening was after eating a couple of Keebler chocolate chip cookies (where I didn’t read the ingredients); later that day I found myself getting incredibly worked up over stupid little things. Now that I’ve become better able to recognize the symptoms, I can catch it before it gets too bad — taking an antihistamine tablet and some ibuprofen helps immensely. But before I figured out what was going on, I was considering counseling for my anger problem, and I’m sure my wife would’ve been more than encouraging in that.
I’m ashamed to say that it’s those who are closest to me that saw the worst of this malady; I recall times when I would scream and shout at my kids for the stupidest things, punishing them harshly for things that would normally require just a word or two of reprimand. Now that the older two are nearly grown I need to sit down with them and try to explain this to them, and hope they can understand and forgive me. And I do need to ask their forgiveness, because my rages were nearly uncontrollable; the kids would see the worst in me when I knew no one else was around to witness it, and that is what shames me most.
Eating out can be a real crapshoot at time; there’s really no telling what kind of oil they use in their fryers or on their grill or in their recipes. And it’s not just what I eat either… The Ace Hardware store near home always has a batch of popcorn popped near the door of the store, and anybody can get a bag for whatever donation you drop in the cup. Great tasting stuff, that. But eating that popcorn seemed to trigger allergy symptoms for me, and I found that just visiting the store would give me a headache, even when I didn’t eat the stuff. One day while waiting at the checkout, I noticed the bottle of oil someone was using when starting a new batch — peanut oil. That explained a lot.
They have since put up a pathetic little laser-printed sign saying that peanut oil is used for their popcorn, but that doesn’t really help me much because just being in the store can cause a reaction. A while back I bought a canvas tool bag at that store, and it still has a the distinct smell of that store on it, so I make sure I don’t keep the bag too close for too long.
Sometimes it feels like there’s really no safe place for me in this regard; even at work… Sunflower seeds — or “spits” as many call them — are a popular at-work snack food for a lot of people, and a very messy one at that. The eaters pop them in the mouth, suck the salt from the outside, use their teeth to crack open the shell, then pull the slobbery shell out of their mouth & throw it away. When doing that while using a computer, that sunflower oil-infested slobber gets on the keyboard & mouse. A large part of my job involves desktop computer support, and there are a few users whose computers I dread working on because an allergic reaction is almost guaranteed. Makes me want to go in with a rag and cleaning spray. Maybe rubber gloves and respirator would help too.
Allergies really suck.
And the strange part is that some people don’t even believe that allergies are real; they think that it’s psychosomatic. There was a Neatorama post a while back about a kid who is allergic to almost everything, and one of the comments on that post just floored me… The guy basically said that people with peanut allergies are faking it. I scolded him for that and he softened his stance a little, but there really does seem to be this undercurrent of people — people with no allergy problems — who hold the opinion that because they don’t remember hearing about allergies years ago, they are a hypochondriac’s imagined malady. If only that were the case.
I’m still waiting for that miracle medical potion that can alleviate all allergic reactions, but I don’t think it’s coming any time soon. At this point the best I can hope for is the new body that is promised to us when Christ returns. Come quickly!