Prowl writer shares challenges, benefits of living with food allergies


Photo courtesy: Linda Kolpitcke

Young Kayla Kolpitcke drinks a strawberry smoothie at the Park County Fair. For many years, it was the only thing she was able to drink or eat at fair because of her allergies.

No milk, no eggs, no chicken, no turkey, no tree nuts or peanuts and no seeds. And wen I was younger, strawberries, corn, soy, carrots and beef were also on that list.

Growing up inflicted by allergies, I quickly learned how to avoid certain foods and what to do if I couldn’t avoid them. My whole family knows the drill; drink a bunch of water and take Benadryl. If that doesn’t solve the problem and I can feel myself going into anaphylactic shock, we grab the EpiPen and stab my leg with it, hold for three seconds, then pack up and go to the hospital.

Now, I’m not going to complain and say allergies are horrible and how much I hate them. They aren’t always fun, but I’ve come to a sort of love-hate relationship with them.

When people find out about all my allergies, the most common response I hear is, “How are you alive?” Now this is asked a bit sarcastically because I am standing in front of them, clearly alive and healthy. I usually just laugh and shrug my shoulders. When you hear the list of my allergies it seems like a lot, but it could be a lot worse.

At this point in my life, I’m past the worst part. I’m used to my allergies and to avoiding them. The worst part of dealing with them was when I was little and didn’t fully understand why the other kids, including my twin brother Ryan, were getting to eat all these amazing treats and have regular lunches.

Elementary school parties were always a little upsetting because even though many of the parents tried to bring food I could eat, I usually only could have one thing while everyone else could have everything. There was one or two times other kids commented on how I ate the same thing for lunch every day. They weren’t making fun of me exactly, but it still stung a little. I mean, obviously I didn’t choose to be allergic to everything little kids dream of eating, yet here I am.

Now that I understand why I can’t eat the food I’m allergic to, I can handle most of them. I can get over not being able to eat snacks in class or having to bring my own lunch to school everyday. My allergies and I have made peace with each other … for the most part.

The hardest part now is simply finding enough nutrients. With as many sports as I play, I need a lot of protein and nutritious food to keep my body going. When I play seven hockey games in three days, I need a way to refuel my body. The go-to drink of most hockey players, chocolate milk, doesn’t work for me. The quick snacks of a pack of nuts or chicken sandwiches don’t work. I end up with some ham and crackers, which doesn’t do a lot to help me.

I love fruit and actually most vegetables too, so I don’t mind eating them all the time. I consider this very helpful, especially for sports.”

Another difficult part is eating out. In restaurants, before I order anything, I either have to ask for an allergy menu, or start interrogating the waiter about what is in the food. Most of the time, they are helpful and go ask the cook all my questions, but every once in a while, there is an impatient waiter who doesn’t listen. I usually end up sending the meal back to the kitchens at least once so they can fix it. And for the record, picking the cheese off a burger after it has melted all over it doesn’t make it safe for me to eat. That just makes the waiter look stupid and you can be sure whoever I’m eating with is going to join me in making fun of the lack of brain cells they possess.

Also, I have a pretty good idea of what ingredients are in what foods. So if a waiter tells me there’s no eggs in the meatballs (what’s holding them together if not eggs) or there’s no milk in my salad (which has cheese right on top of it), I may or may not start throwing punches.

They may suck, but allergies do have some good aspects. For one, I have very little problem eating healthy. Being allergic to milk and eggs means I can’t eat most desserts people usually eat. I am less tempted by junk food in a gas station or a bunch of cake after a party. I love fruit and actually most vegetables too, so I don’t mind eating them all the time. I consider this very helpful, especially for sports. It keeps me in shape and able to do my best. Another thing is I always have a good conversation starter. During pretty much every team dinner I have (and I have a lot of team dinners between all my sports), the topic comes up if only for a minute or two.

With my allergies, there is one thing that really bugs me. When people say they’re allergic to something just because they don’t like it, it’s a very quick way to make me dislike you. I’m not going to lie, I’ll probably never fully believe anything you say again. And I will definitely roll my eyes and passive aggressively call you out when you do claim you have an “allergy to tomatoes” and then I see you eating fries with ketchup everyday or enjoying tomato soup from the school lunches.

This may be a bit harsh but if you were forced by threat of death to live without some foods and you see someone using allergies as an excuse to avoid a food, they slightly dislike the texture of, you’d get mad too.