Yuan's Wheat Allergy (Q&A)

Read about how Yuan Zhuang has navigated his wheat allergy throughout life


Compiled by Lydia Frost, Outreach Committee Co-Chair

2/11/20242 min read

Yuan Zhuang, Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Class of 2024

Q: How and when did you find out you had an allergy?

A: “I don’t remember my first allergic reaction, but my parents recall it happening when I was a toddler. My parents fed me my first piece of bread, made from wheat flour. Almost immediately, they noticed I was in extreme distress, as I developed hives all over my body and had difficulty breathing. I was rushed to the hospital where I was soon diagnosed with wheat allergy after further testing.”

Q: What’s the biggest allergic reaction you’ve had?

“When I was in middle school, I went on vacation to New York with my brother. We went to a restaurant selling soba noodles. The chef and waiter told me that the soba noodles were made from buckwheat, not wheat, so I should be fine. However, they mixed up my order with another, and I ended up with an order with noodles made from wheat flour. What made things even worse was I didn’t have an Epipen with me. Soon after I finished the bowl of wheat noodles, I went into anaphylactic shock, and an ambulance was called.”

Q: How has your allergy shaped who you are today?

A: “I have an immense amount of sympathy for people with dietary restrictions.”

Q: How has your allergy affected your daily life (what precautions do you take)?

“My parents have had to work around my allergy throughout my upbringing, being cautious not to cross-contaminate allergens between food containers or utensils. I tended to eat a lot less as a kid because my dietary choices felt limited. I typically avoid eating out if I don’t have to, and whenever I do, I usually have to communicate my allergies to the waiter. Going out with friends is always a challenge when food is involved since my dietary restrictions occasionally confine my friends from choosing certain restaurants if there isn’t anything proper for me to eat there. I also have to carry an epinephrine auto-injector everywhere.”

Q: Have you thought about or tried desensitization?

A: “Desensitization therapy has been something my parents and I have discussed, though I don’t think I will try it since I am too scared.”