“I bring my own food to restaurants”: meet the woman from Durban who has over 40 allergies


Shivaika Sewlal uses social media to raise awareness about the challenges people with eczema and other allergies face. (PHOTO: Provided)

She lives with dozens of allergies but she won’t let that stop her from living her life.

Shivaika Sewlal (20), originally from Durban but now living in Claremont, Cape Town, is a social media activist and influencer whose mission is to raise awareness of the challenges people with eczema and other allergies face on a daily basis. .

Shivaika, who is a computer science student at UCT, has over 40 allergies, including tree nuts, wheat, honey, cow’s milk, olives, guavas, most chocolates and candies and citric acid. It also cannot come into contact with cats, dogs, cockroaches, certain grasses and trees, bees, chlorine and mites.

Since opening her TikTok account in October of last year, Shiv, as it’s known, has over 264,000 subscribers and over 15 million views per month.

“It’s so overwhelming and amazing, I’m so grateful to you,” she tells you.


Shiv has to be careful what she eats and what products she uses. (PHOTO: Provided)

Shiv’s parents Desi and Avinash Sewlal discovered their daughter had allergies when they started giving her solid foods when they were babies. She was vomiting a lot and developing a rash all over her body.

“I was diagnosed with eczema a few weeks after I was born,” she adds. “Grass, pollen and flowers all affect me. If my windows are open and someone is cutting the grass outside, I will immediately have a push on my face just from the smell.

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Shiv needs to be careful about what she eats, the products she uses and the environment she finds herself in.

“Nuts are often present in shampoos and lotions and a lot of things that people don’t realize, like facial scrubs.

“Now I have a line of pure shampoos and pure soaps that contain no chemicals or fragrances. When it comes to food, I have found beet-based pasta, rice-based lasagna sheets, and chocolate cookies that have no eggs, no wheat, nothing – they’re made from rice and tapioca flour and that’s about it.

Dining out is also a challenge and she often cooks her own food when she goes out with her friends.

“I feel more comfortable with it because I don’t know what oil the restaurant is using and it can cause breakouts.”

Shiv's eczema

Shiv had to wear bandages because of his eczema. (PHOTO: Provided)

When she has breakouts, her face swells, she has difficulty breathing, and she develops weeping eczema which results in blisters filled with pus.

“I can also have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction and I keep an EpiPen injection with me at all times,” she says, adding that she uses a preventative antihistamine and topical steroids daily.

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Shiv, who has two sisters, Ashraya (24) and Jeevana (14), says her family have always been loving and supportive, but have often been bullied at school.

“Throughout my life I have worn bandages because of my eczema. Children at school called me contagious and shunned me.

“My condition really affected my childhood. There have been many times that I have had to be rushed home or to the hospital. I was still sick and missed school. A relative of a friend of mine once said to me, “Oh, you’re a drama queen,” Shiv recalls.

This is why Shiv decided to share his experiences online.

“I wanted to appeal to allergy sufferers and non-allergic people so that everyone could relate to and understand,” she says.


When the student has flare-ups, her face swells and she has difficulty breathing. (PHOTO: Provided)

Shiv hopes her story encourages people to embrace their condition and live life to the fullest.

“It’s about your state of mind and being positive in your life. Even if you live a limited life, you can still lead a happy and healthy life.

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