I’ve noticed a strange occurence lately, and this has only started happening over the last couple of months. I love coffee and meeting in coffee shops, and since working for myself I often go, just on my own, to be amongst people and check through written work for errors, somewhere away from the phones and other distractions.
Well, recently I’ve noticed that I’ve started to get a mild asthma attack when I go into coffee shops. I didn’t think much of it at first, a quick puff on the inhaler and I’ve been OK, but leaving the coffee shop brings instant relief.
At first I thought it could be cross contamination with milk or cream into my black coffee or herbal tea, but since my suspicians first arose I’ve been watching like a hawk, and making sure I let staff know so they make sure they’re careful. I have seen people stirring mugs of coffee with the same spoon as from a milky one before – this would be enough to give me a mild reaction in the past. A mild reaction being asthma and mild swelling of the lips and mouth.
I know my dairy allergy is dose related so I usually only get a mild reaction to a trace amount e.g. asthma, stomach cramps and maybe a nasty red rash on my cheeks. However, lately I’m wondering whether I’m becoming even more sensitive.
Could it be that I’m reacting to the oblivious latte and hot chocolate slurpers on the neighbouring tables? Does frothing up and heating the milk make it more allergenic? Has anyone else with a dairy allergy experienced this phenomenon when in the proximity of steaming milk?
I finally put two and two together when I was washing out an empty milk carton for the recycling; (my husband does drink milk so we still have it in the fridge) when I removed the lid to submerge it in the hot soapy suds I got a whiff of rancid milk. Not nice at any time, but on this occasion I immediately had quite a bad asthma attack, my lips began to sell up and had to leave the room and sit down. A minor panic which all ended well but this made me think ,”It’s the milk vapour that’s doing this. I’ve become super sensitive to milk!”
It seems to be the steaming of the milk that effects me, or getting a whiff right up the nostrils; I appear to be fine if the drink is made in the traditional English way with cold milk added.
Tips for avoiding milk allergy in cafes
So what am I do to? Here are some tips
- Don’t sit near the coffee machines – Choose a seat far from the coffee and milk making machines. Sit upstairs if you can. Sit near the door.
- Mask – Perhaps a should wear a mask when in such establishments? I don’t think this will work as you can’t drink the coffee if you are wearing a mask.
- Sit outside – this is more acceptable now after Covid, and cafes often have blankets on offer. In summer it’s even easier and is much the safer option.
- Stick to takeout – Enjoy the fresh made coffee but drink it outside in the park or on the move.
- Choose plant milks – If you do ask for alternative milk for your coffee remain vigilant, watch staff and always check, because once it’s poured you can’t really tell. Check the procedure is safe and no cross contamination can take place.
I’ve always been aware that some people have such severe allergies that they can’t even be in a room with others consuming the allergen but this has never happened to me before. Has anyone experienced the same thing? What should I do? Stop exposing myself to dairy in coffee shops? or keep going but for shorter visits? Can I perhaps desentise myself? This is probably unlikely since I get anaphylaxis from dairy if I consume even a small amount, always by mistake and when I’ve not been careful enough when ordering food. My attacks are also usually exacerbated by exercise so this is a new advancement for me.
I’d love to hear from others with an allergy to the smell or just being in proximity to their allergen. How do you cope with it? Does my house now need to be a milk free zone? Perhaps my husband can have his own fridge in the garage where he can have his breakfast and cup of tea – I’m sure he’d love that! So far it hasn’t happened with just one other milky drink in the room, but is it just a matter of time? or am I just panicking about nothing?