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My Severe Allergy Changed My Life

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My Severe Allergy Changed My Life

Being diagnosed with a severe allergy in college turned my whole world upside down.

Guest Blog from Barbara of Nickely Challenged

Hey everyone! My name is Barbara Njuguna a recent college graduate and neurotically nickely challenged. This will be my 4 year being diagnosed with this allergy and 3 1/2 years trying to maintain a nickel free lifestyle. Along the way, I have researched a lot, since this allergy is fairly new.

I got diagnosed because I started developing a rash from the phone my boyfriend at the time gave me. Yes! There is nickel in phones, but most old phones have it and newer phones don’t. I had to go to an allergy specialist the only one in my area, and she said I was chronically allergic to nickel.

Soon after within a month or so, I started having blisters on my lips. I found out it was the utensils so I had to request for plastic silverware in the cafeteria at my University. This helped with the blisters in my lips but I would get infections. My first infection was an upper respiratory infection that lasted almost 2 months and the second one was mono which was a wake-up call that I needed to do something.

Unfortunately, it took me having mono for my parents to take my allergy seriously but this is neither here or there. My lymph nodes swelled like golf balls. I couldn’t eat or drink. The doctors were very shocked on how severe it was. So after, 2 weeks of pure hell, I went back to school still sick but I needed to finish the semester out. Luckily, I am good under pressure, well academically if nothing else. I got a 3.56 GPA which was a plus compared to what I was going through.

After all this, I stopped eating out. When I tell you this was a life saver, Oh! GOD! It was. By the first month, my contact dermatitis (eczema) cleared up. I also, slept a lot, almost 12 hours a day, but it was okay because my body was recuperating. So, I was stuck with making my own foods at the dorms, Oh! And keep in mind my University wouldn’t let me off the meal plan even though my health would have deteriorated. So, I was paying for a meal plan I didn’t use and paying for food that wouldn’t kill me with money I didn’t have. (Sigh) The things we do for health.

After my first year, was finished I made a commitment to be truly nickel free. I threw away my jeans, the buckles and buttons that irritated my stomach, or anything that had an exposed zipper and started with this journey. I didn’t really follow up with the doctor since it cost so much to see her even with insurance so I used this website for my nickel free diet. It will illustrate what not to eat which was helpful but not so much. I ended up researching a lot of recipes and understanding substitutes. I am now going on five years and I have learned that you just need to deal with it even if other people don’t want to.

Having a food allergy is quite hard because you force others to deal with it too. You pretty much say,

“When you cook my food, you will put my life in your hands. Do you think my life is worth it?” 

And it is really a mind boggling experience when people put things you are allergic to and don’t tell you. It makes you distrust them and the food making experience. That is why I started a blog so I could share my journey. So, I am here to pour out all the knowledge I have acquired to people who can benefit from it. I know, it is a crazy road ahead but if we can support each other then we can make it.


Nickely Challenged follows Barbara Njuguna as she manages her allergy to nickel, while offering tips and research to others that are suffering with a severe allergy of their own.

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