I’d never suggest giving a character an allergy or health problem just for the sake of giving your character an allergy or health problem or to add to the plot. An allergy or health problem is not supposed to be an easy way to create an in-depth, well-rounded, realistic character. If done right, researched well, and written with careful thought, it could help your character to be relate-able, especially for people who have that health issue.
- In 2012, 4.1 million children were reported with food-related allergies.
- Peanuts is the number one food allergy among children followed by milk and shellfish.
- Approximately 50 million people in the US are affected by nasal allergies.
- About 15 million Americans have food allergies.
- Approximately 3 million people in the US are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
If your character has a food allergy, make him/her conscious of the ingredients in foods and drinks, especially desserts. You can even have him/her accidentally ingest what he/she is allergic to and have a reaction.
Signs of an allergic reaction:
- Hives (especially around face and neck)
- Nasal congestion
- Watery, red eyes
- Swelling of the tongue
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
- Redness of the face
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Chest tightness
TIP: Research how someone would treat a mild and severe allergic reaction to know what your character would need to do.
10 common health problems a character could have (that could impact a story):
- Chronic headaches
- Hypotension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Multiple Sclerosis (rare and would need to be mentioned more often in your story)
- Approximately 29 million people in the US have diabetes.
- 1 in 12 people suffer from asthma.
- People with chronic headaches can experience attacks once or twice a month, but 14 million people have daily headaches.
With so many of us suffering from allergies and health issues, it makes sense to consider these statistics for our characters and even include them in it. Sure, our characters can all be healthy. In. Every. Single. Book. But how many people in real life do you know who are 100% healthy?
While readers read to escape life, many like to read about characters like them, with their same problems, and going through the same things they are. With millions of people with these issues, you could potentially target and attract a lot of readers.
QUESTION: Do you have an allergy or health issue like one I listed above?