Using the ‘tastes like chicken’ approach to clarify fuzzy symptoms

When all else fails, compare hard-to-describe feelings with something you know

Danita LaShelle Jones avatar

by Danita LaShelle Jones |

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“Maybe chicken just tastes like everything else,” a person at our table responded. And as dramatic as it sounds, the entire table got quiet.

In college, I had the privilege of making it into the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the 16-voice student group considered ambassadors for Fisk University. The school-sanctioned travel was one of the most incredible parts of being in the group. Because most of us were self-proclaimed foodies, however, we were less excited about the trips and more excited about the food we encountered.

During this particular event, when everyone had polished off a delicious four-course meal punctuated with quail, I said what everyone was thinking.

“Isn’t it weird how all the fancy stuff ends up tasting like chicken?” Everyone laughed, but then my friend jarred us with his mind-boggling statement above and threw the table into reflective silence. Whether it was the way the chef prepared the dish or our palates, we often compared a lot of entrees with chicken.

Of course, most people do the same thing. While some scientific theories try to explain why that’s the case, I’m willing to bet that we default to “everything tastes like chicken” because most of us have tasted it. Therefore, when describing a rare dish to someone who’s never eaten it, we gravitate toward something they might be familiar with.

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When she recognizes her HAE symptoms, it feels like a win

Identifying symptoms by comparison

Oddly, this sort of comparison also works when getting a young hereditary angioedema (HAE) patient to recognize their early symptoms.

When our oldest daughter, whom we lovingly refer to as Ladybug, was diagnosed with hereditary angioedema in 2021, we had the most challenging time helping her identify her symptoms. Is it a stomach virus or a gastrointestinal flare? Are her feet swelling, or does she need new shoes? Is she in anaphylaxis because of an allergic reaction, or is it a laryngeal flare? We felt like we were spinning our wheels, and each time, it landed her in the hospital.

One day, after writing a column and coming across an article on this site, I had an epiphany. If Ladybug’s emergency medication worked better at the first sign of her symptoms, we needed to get her to recognize her prodromes, or warning signs.

“What do your hands feel like?” I asked Ladybug one day when she was feverishly running her fingers over her thumbs. I’d noticed this behavior a few times before.

“Prickly, I guess,” she answered, frustrated. “Or kind of itchy or numb? I’m not sure.”

Prickly, itchy, and numb. I racked my brain to think of something I’d experienced that included these feelings.

“Does it feel like your hands are asleep?” I asked.

Her eyes lit up at my question, followed by a resounding and relieved yes. Sure enough, a few hours later, her hands swelled. We’d finally had our recognized prodrome.

Is that exactly what it feels like? I’m not sure. Other HAE patients out there may think that their hands falling asleep is the furthest thing from what they’re feeling. But I found something I’ve experienced to compare it with. And if a “tastes like chicken” approach is a way to get her to recognize her symptoms sooner, I’ll take it.

Note: Angioedema News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angioedema News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to angioedema.


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