I wanted to take a moment and mention Food Allergy Awareness Week is this week (May 8 – May 14, 2016) and that Food Allergy Action Month is this month. The theme this year is “React with Respect”, focusing mainly on how serious food allergies (and intolerances) are, information on allergies in general and information on what to do if you or someone near you has a reaction. There are several stories posted about real life anaphylaxis reactions that I highly recommend everyone read.
To honor that, I thought I’d share an allergy story my own. While this blog is dedicated mainly to lactose intolerance, I do have allergies to celery and a number of fruits. When I eat any of these products, my throat starts to close. I’ve been lucky in that I know not to panic and to always carry my epi pen. I’ve stupidly gotten away with popping two benadryl as soon as I’ve felt my throat start to tighten and managed to breath (however barely) calmly enough that I was okay until the benadryl kicked in. As I said: stupid. I do not recommend this. It’s very stupid, and I should use the epi pen instead of waiting. My mind is just so focused on the breathing that if it’s working I don’t make the mental switch to change what I’m doing and use the epi pen. Again: do not do this. Use the epi pen and go to the ER, emergency center, patient first, etc.
My most recent reaction was May 3, 2016. Yes, just about a week ago. We went out to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday to a restaurant that assured us that I could be accommodated. Everything seemed like it started so well. My waitress was very understanding, and it was quite obvious she was truly checking on the ingredients. My meal came out without the sauce (since the sauce apparently had celery in it). A tad irritating that I wasn’t told because I would have ordered something else, but overall grateful that they were truly checking all my food. The waitress went to the kitchen to see if there was any sort of sauce/broth I could have.
Someone, cannot remember nor care to remember who, suggested that I eat some rice while I waited. I took a bite, thought that it was slightly mushy, chewed, crunched into something as I started to swallow and promptly spit the food into the napkin. Something wasn’t right. I took two benadryl and the first went down much easier than the second. My throat was already partially closed. The waitress came flying out of kitchen (or I suppose she came flying out of the kitchen…I wasn’t paying that much attention at the time). The chef had used stock with celery in it. Now, I’ve had stock where celery was at one point an ingredient but has ceased existing to the point where it was really no longer celery. I just know that when I bit into the rice, something with the texture of celery was there. And there was confirmed celery in that broth. Both by the chef and my throat as it started to close before the waitress even knew there was a problem.
The manager and waitress were asking what I needed, but I couldn’t talk. I gestured at the cup of ice water, and they got me a second one. I could still barely breath so I continued to focus on breaths, sips of water and the fact that I held my epi pen in my hand. I even went to the bathroom (with my mother-in-law…don’t be alone if you can help it) with the full intent on using it. Which at that point I should have. We got me tea so I could slowly breath some of the steam in the hope of loosening my throat. My throat didn’t start to loosen completely until around 9:00 pm. I put the rice into my mouth around 7:45 pm. I knew there was a problem around 7:46 pm.
I was lucky. I was lucky that I know my body so well that I knew to take the benadryl right away. I was lucky that a little under an hour prior I took zyrtec for unrelated reasons so I already had allergy meds in my system. I was lucky that my waitress was so on top of things that she questioned the kitchen enough that the problem was discovered, even if it was too late by that point. I was lucky that my method of taking benadryl and holding off on the epi pen didn’t back fire. I am very, very lucky.
For those of you without allergies: all allergies should be taken seriously, no matter how “weird” or “inconvenient” they may seem. We’re living with them. We don’t mean to inconvenience you. We don’t mean to make you feel awkward. It’s not a fad. I know at least for me, the allergies only are getting worse. They’re not going away. It’s part of our lives. Often a huge part. If you can’t accommodate us for some reason, just tell us upfront. Either we will work something out (such as bring a meal if it’s a family function at a relative’s house) or we’ll go elsewhere. It’s not always easy, but it’s harder if we’re not honest with each other. If you have questions or don’t understand something, ask. Never shy away from asking. We appreciate all your effort and questions. Because they lead to understanding and us feeling less like a burden.
For those of you, like me, with allergies: don’t be embarrassed to ask for someone to check a label. Don’t be ashamed to double check everything anyway. Don’t be silent when you are ordering food or going somewhere where there is food because you don’t want to draw attention. Be respectful but be firm. This is our life. We’re not a burden. We’re not being difficult on purpose. Most of all: be grateful for those that are trying to understand because even if they’re not quite there yet, they’re making the effort.
Thank you to all those who have supported me with my allergies. Thank you to all those who support allergy research. And my specific regards to those who are living with serious allergies no matter to what. God Bless.