Food Is Dangerous

Gabriela Ruiz has to live with multiple life-threatening allergies.

Lauren Tang
Sophomore Gabriela Ruiz makes popcorn using items from her own home. Ruiz can’t have many pre-made foods so she often has to make her own. “There’s a lot of good food replacements that can taste just as good,” she said.

Imagine having a pizza covered in warm, melted cheese and loaded with all of your favorite toppings or a bowl of your favorite flavor of ice cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup and a perfect dollop of whipped cream on top.

Now imagine not being able to put a single bite in your mouth because if you do your throat will close up, and you’ll have to be rushed to the hospital.

Sophomore Gabriela Ruiz has to be conscious of every single thing that she puts in her mouth.

“I’m allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, beef and strawberries,” Ruiz said.

She said she has had to live with her allergies from a very early age.

“I was diagnosed with my egg and dairy allergies when I was a few months old,” Ruiz said, “and over the years my other allergies developed and were diagnosed.”

Her latest allergy was diagnosed when she was 12 years old and was an unusual and unexpected case.

“My beef allergy was unique where I had eaten beef my entire life and had no problems with it until I was about 9 or 10, and it just started to make me feel unwell. It just kept getting worse until I eventually had an anaphylactic reaction,” Ruiz said.

Anaphylaxis is an extremely rare and serious allergic reaction, and if it is left untreated, it can even be deadly.

“An anaphylactic reaction is when your allergic reaction manifests quickly and with multiple symptoms, usually one is restricted breathing, and they’re supposed to be treated with an Epi [Epinephrine] Pen and a trip to the hospital,” Ruiz said.

Unfortunately, according to Ruiz, the cause of her reactions are not limited to ingestion; some of her more severe allergies can even be airborne.

“If I’m in a room that has a lot of dairy, I can have a reaction — as opposed to if I’m in a room that has peanuts, one of my less severe allergies, I’ll be completely fine,” Ruiz said.

Another issue that Ruiz faces caused by her allergies is being able to find safe options to eat while out at restaurants.

“It’s definitely hard to eat out, but there are always places that are willing to help, especially now that more people are aware of food allergies and how severe they can be,” Ruiz said.

In addition, traveling, especially by plane, has been made rather difficult due to the many safety precautions that need to be taken.

“Traveling is really hard because you never know if where you’re going is going to have those options,” Ruiz said. “But the hardest part is flying; I have to pre-board and the seats have to be cleaned and they actually have to make an announcement on the plane that the passengers can’t be eating any nuts on board.”

Sophomore Alexa Turpen also has an allergy that, though it might not be as severe, is definitely not to be taken lightly.

“My worst allergy is to cashews, but I’m allergic to all tree nuts,” Turpen said. “Whenever I eat them my throat gets itchy and I get sick.”

Even though Turpen has to keep an eye out for any foods that might contain tree nuts, her life doesn’t revolve around learning the ingredients in the foods that she eats.

“I can’t imagine having to go through what Gabriela has to go through. My allergies aren’t to the point where they threaten my life and I only get a reaction when I eat nuts, not when I touch them or when I’m near them,” Turpen said. “It must be really hard.”

Even though living with so many severe allergies must be difficult, Ruiz has kept a positive attitude and even said she has grown used to it, even if she does get food jealousy every once in awhile.

“I had my first vegan donut a couple months ago that my uncle brought me from Los Angeles, which was super cool!” Ruiz said.