I Discovered I Have Food Allergies and It’s Killing My Budget

Special dietary needs can get expensive.

Adult-onset food allergies are life-changing. I developed food allergies as an adult. From swollen eyes and tongue to a constricted airway and lightheadedness, my symptoms had gotten progressively worse with each exposure. After countless doctors and emergency room visits — and one clueless urgent care doctor, in particular, who refused to listen to my symptoms and instead diagnosed me with anxiety — I finally understood why my body was betraying me. What I didn’t know was how to live with it.

After my diagnosis, the aisles of the supermarket felt like a minefield. The wrong foods could send me into anaphylactic shock. I was overwhelmed and terrified of another allergic reaction. I soon realized that I needed a team who understood this new life I had to lead and would help me navigate it.

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I Wasn’t Prepared for the Costs

Although I have medical insurance, I still have to pony up the copay for the allergist and registered dietician visits, as well as meet my deductible and pay for the necessary autoinjector. A health care financing credit card has helped with those expenses but I was on my own when it came to the personal chef.  Those payments were completely out of pocket.

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However, with time, I knew these costs would be worth it. Learning to manage my food allergies would help me avoid urgent care and emergency visits, or an even costlier hospital stay. As an added bonus, having someone to work alongside me in the kitchen would help me learn new ways of cooking and introduce me to foods I had never tasted. Sadly, I would need to give up my beloved flan de queso, a Puerto Rican sweetened cream cheese flan with a caramel top, but I would learn how to make safe and tasty alternatives to some of our family favorites. In my eyes, that was well worth the expense.

They Helped Me Find My Voice

We often read about why we should start a budget, but rarely hear why we should break one. This was one of those times. The cost of my support team is killing my budget, yes, but they’re saving my life.

Related: 35 Ways to Save Hundreds on Groceries

After my initial allergy and immunology testing results, I cried. Sobbed, actually. My life would no longer be the same. I could no longer enjoy an omelet, slow-cooker caramel latte or shellfish. I could no longer go on a date without being that “difficult” partner. I could no longer just pop into a restaurant and order without thinking of food contamination. I could no longer attend functions without making sure the host could accommodate my needs. And, if they couldn’t (or worse, wouldn’t), I had one of two choices: decline or bring my own food.

My support team helped me find my voice during this frightening time. They taught me to advocate for myself. They’re also showing me how to live with food allergies. I hear so much about what I shouldn’t do that it’s great to have a team that can show me what I should do. It’s absolutely life-changing.

I’m still learning. Its only been two months since my diagnosis, but I have hope. What’s more, I haven’t had to sacrifice taste. Life just wouldn’t be the same without a chocolate chip cookie — free of allergens, of course.

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