My wife had eaten maize products all of her life, until one day I arrived home to hear her vomiting in the bathroom due to what we would later discover was a sudden maize allergy (also known as a corn allergy). She’d eaten some chips and dip and within an hour or so was being sick. She had stomach cramp, and a headache. We put it down to a touch or food poisoning or a bug and the next day she went off to work.
However, things began to become a bit weird a couple of days later when she ate some Doritos. Once again, the sickness returned, more severe this time, and she went straight to bed. We guessed she was probably suffering from a wheat allergy and so she bought some wheat free pasta for dinner the following evening. This would turn out to be a big mistake.
She had developed a sudden maize allergy, not a wheat allergy
Within an hour of eating wheat free pasta, my wife began to be violently sick. She was complaining of a severe headache and said the pain in her stomach was “unbearable”. I knew this was in a lot of pain, as she never complains. She didn’t even make a fuss when she gave birth to our children, and I knew something was wrong. I got her into bed, gave her some paracetamol and tried to make her feel better… but things went from bad to worse.
Swelling and hives appeared within a matter of minutes
Whilst I was sitting with my wife I noticed that she was suddenly beginning to come up with hives all over her body and they were appearing right before my eyes. Within 2 minutes she started complaining that her hands were “burning” and then her hands and face began to swell. Within 10 minutes she was complaining that her neck felt so swollen that she didn’t think she could breath properly. I’m a trained First Aider and I knew what was happening; she was having a severe allergic reaction. It was time to seek emergency medical attention.
She felt like she was going to “die”
It was now an hour into the severe symptoms and my wife was getting worse. She was in a lot of pain and said he thought she was going to die. This might sound dramatic to you, but trust me when I say she was in a bad way. Thank God for the National Heath Service! Within 30 minutes my with was being seen at the local surgery by an out of hours doctor. The doctor immediately administered a number of very strong antihistamines and monitor my wife. Thankfully, within a couple of hours the swelling had subsided and she was beginning to feel better and the GP suspected she was suffering from a maize allergy. The doctor said that left untreated, she could have stopped breathing!
The next day
The next day, she was completely drained. The shock to her system had drained her of energy and I insisted she stay in bed (despite her still trying to go to her teaching job). In hindsight she was grateful as she admitted she wouldn’t have been able to work in the state was in.
Getting a diagnoses of the corn allergy
It turns our that manufacturers of wheat free products often use corn as a substitute for wheat. We quickly realised that it was, in fact, the corn which was causing the allergy and not wheat.
The doctor took some bloods and there were sent away for analysis. 10 days later and the confirmation came – my wife had developed a sudden corn allergy in her mid 30s.
In fact, the maize allergy was so severe that the doctor was very clear: if this happens again were must call for an ambulance as the reaction will get worse each time and she could end up in anaphylaxis shock from the corn allergy causing a serious allergic reaction in her body. It could kill her.
It’s worth noting that this allergy is generally called a maize allergy in the UK, but also called a corn allergy in other parts of the world such as the USA.
Going forward, corn products are a complete no. No more Chinese takeaways, no more corn crisps, and many foods completely off the menu for the rest of her life. She now has to carry an EpiPen (a type of adrenaline auto-injector which will help her if she goes into shock again) and eating out is almost impossible as there is no regulation which says that manufacturers have to label corn in their foods.
So don’t be fooled into thinking a sudden corn allergy could be a wheat intolerance: get tested for a maize allergy – it might just save your life.