ICRISAT awarded 2021 Africa Food Prize

By Aishat M. Abisola

GENERALLY fruits have great and sweet tastes apart from their health benefits that are also helpful to the immune system. Surprisingly, healthy fruits can also be harmful to our body systems. As an individual who has had extreme reactions to different types of fruits, I discovered that it is very essential for individuals to be mindful of the food intakes that could result to some reactions.

The irony of my reactions was that fruits were to help my immune system but instead, they made it hard for me to breathe. My parents discovered my reaction when I was a little child. Meanwhile, I discovered my reactions to mango when I grew up.

Mango, naturally as a fruit, has many health benefits. A few of the advantages to eating mangoes are that they have magnesium and potassium which lower blood pressure, mangiferin which studies have shown might be able to reduce inflammation of the heart, helps with digestion, helps with eye sight, helps maintain healthy hair and skin.

As odd as it is to believe, there are many people worldwide who have what is known as allergic reactions to mango. This kind of allergic reaction usually affects children, but can also occur at random times in adults. Earlier this year, I realised that I had developed this allergy after eating a few slices of mango  and drinking mango yoghurt even when I noticed that I had a reaction to it. Despite the many positives that it has to the body, mango can also harm people who are allergic to it.

In order to give a proper background to this article, I think it would be best to explain what an allergic reaction is. An allergic reaction starts when someone’s immune system becomes hypersensitive as it comes into contact with certain things such as foods, pollen, bee venom, certain medications, etc. 

An allergen is a substance that causes allergic reactions. Some reactions are mild and mostly inconvenient but others can be harmful and deadly. People with peanut and bee venom allergies, for example, need to be careful about what they eat and ensure that there are no bees in their vicinity. The pain of a bee sting along with anaphylaxis does not equate to a good time.

Some of the reactions that I have had, are a rash (contact dermatitis) around the mouth and body, blisters, difficulty in breathing, itchiness, and swelling. Reactions can last a week. At times, the reactions are delayed and can take up to seven days to appear. This is known as a “delayed hypersensitivity reaction”. 

Allergic reactions can vary from mild to severe. Mild reactions can range from itchiness to swelling to trouble breathing while a severe reaction, anaphylaxis, can affect your whole body and cause it to shut down. Anaphylaxis is rare but life-threatening. Warning signs include severe itching of the eyes and face before you lose your breath.

When I had my allergic reaction, I noticed that my mouth was itchy. I stopped eating mango and went to brush my teeth which didn’t help much. As it was evening, the nearest clinic was closed so I had to wait until morning. My reactions worsened through the night. I felt as if I had a fever and felt ill. By morning, the itchiness had stopped but the swelling hadn’t gone down.

When I went to the clinic, I told the doctor what happened and what I ate before the reactions. I also mentioned that I had had no reactions before when eating mango.

The doctor referred me to an allergist. An allergist is a doctor who specialises in allergy testing. The allergist performed a skin test and the results showed that I was allergic to mangoes, apricots and pollen. He gave me a prescription for medication and ointment to use. When I used the medication and ointment, the reactions reduced and I started to feel better before the end of the week.

If you start to have any form of reaction after eating or coming into contact with something, drop it. Book an appointment with a doctor and get yourself tested.

The type of allergic reaction that you might get when you come into contact with something is random. In my case, it was a game of chance where I ended up luckier than I expected. My body was warning that something was wrong and I decided to listen instead of thinking that the itchiness was being caused by something else.

Take the initiative to be more in tune with your body. If you don’t, make sure that you know what your body does or does not need; it is going to harm you in more ways than one. Make the first move by seeing an allergist and finding out exactly what your body needs and what can cause it harm and make it shut down. Help yourself by helping your body.

Abisola, a social commentator, wrote from Wuye District Abuja, via [email protected]

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.