I am a pretty strong person, mentally and physically and I love life. That feeling when you try something new maybe its axe throwing or open water swimming is just amazing.
I am also anaphylactic.
Its not something I particularly shout about, its almost embarrassing sometimes. It feels like such a ridiculous thing to be like:
“So yeah did you know a peanut can kill me” or
“Hey waiter … can I just check that the salad has no nuts or nut oil on it?”
Its a salad right? Yes….but we live in an amazingly adventurous culinary society full of different tastes and kitchens are not just full of potatoes and baked beans anymore…theres things like chicken satay, Thai soup, snickers brownies and well basically theres just a lot more nuts around!
My allergy has got progressively worse since I was a child and now just a trace in my food from something as silly as badly washed cutlery or a hands that touched a peanut derivative that then go on, unwashed, to prepare my food a…can set my reaction off.
Anaphylaxis is not just to nuts...there are 14 major allergens I am lucky for me its only nuts (well to be precise Peanuts and Brazil nuts 🙂 )
What is an anaphylactic reaction? It was a question I kind of struggled with for years. I was never really sure how to explain how a peanut could kill me, I didn’t really know. I was diagnosed as being allergic when I was two so I never really learn’t how they made me sick, I just knew they made me sick.
Basically the immune system recognises a ‘threat’, and fights it, but in doing so, stops the body from carrying out the necessary procedures to keep the person alive. Everyone’s reaction is slightly different. I typically know within a few moments. It starts with a strange sensation at the very back of my throat followed immediately by a kind of deep terror in my mind.
I am practical and tend to try to tick every other option of first…was it a chilli? did the food just scratch my throat in some way? I desperately try to logically come up with another reason for why my throat is swelling, although deep inside I kind of know what has happened – and will now happen in a series of physical reactions as the substance works its way through my body.
For anyone watching someone who has just eaten something they are anaphylactic to the reaction wont seem big initially, just a bit of swelling on the lips maybe their face and neck is going slightly red – it is internal and it escalates rapidly if not treated fast enough. Sometimes there are delayed reactions – I have always been lucky to react immediately.
After the initial throat sensation your heart starts racing, you can feel it like a hammer in your chest as it tries to maintain the blood pressure in your body. There is a funny noise that you make as you try to breathe through your slowly closing upper airways. You get confused, slow and begin not to notice as much of the things around you as before, then you begin to stop caring that your not noticing what is happening around you. Effectively you are suffocating.
Then, if left untreated, there is respiratory collapse followed by circulatory collapse. Fast treatment has enabled my body to never need to get to these stages. I never want to let a reaction get that far – its harder to bounce back from.
Always trust your gut. (Please excuse the pun…!) Yesterday the chef told me there were no nuts in my food…both before I had ordered it, and after I had run to find him once I had begun to feel the sensation in my throat.
You know yourself better than anyone else…and when it all boils down to it – you are the only one responsible for your health and, effectively your survival.
I hate responsibility, and lived in a sort of denial for, well about 30years. I would still eat food that said ‘may contain traces’ and I didn’t always carried my adrenaline around with me just because I would forget, or it was too big to fit in my bag with all the other ‘essentials’…lipstick, hairbrush, wallet.
Carry it with you. If your not anaphylactic and your friend/family member is – tell them to carry it with them – insist. Yes it is cumbersome but every minute counts in a reaction.
We are blest to be part of an amazing society in which we just need to dial three numbers and help comes and you know you no longer have to fight alone. Yesterday the paramedics, ambulance crew and nurses and doctors at West Middlesex University Hospital were amazing – I could not have got more support and better treatment.
If you begin to feel a reaction – don’t wait to call for back-up, I needed three adrenalines yesterday, nebuliser and steroids before I began to improve…(did I say that I absolutely hate needles?!! 😀 )
There are a few simple steps that can make the lives of anyone with Anaphylaxis less dangerous…
- Always ask about what is in your food – if your unsure or get a bad feeling about it, don’t risk it
- If your doctor has prescribed you an adrenaline – keep it on you wherever you go and have another nearby in an office or home.
- If your asthmatic like me, always keep your ventolin on you too…(see it as a great excuse to go out and buy a new – bigger bag 😀 ) .
- Tell your friends, colleagues and people around you…at the very least you might be educating them and one day – it could save yours or someone else’s life.
- Wear a Medic Alert bracelet or neckless…all your medical details and treatment needs are on there as well as emergency contact details – just in case.
There is loads of support out there from groups such as the Anaphylaxis Campaign– if you have questions, your unsure about anything drop them a line. I haven’t for years but when I was young I went to an event where there were other kids like me. I felt a little more ‘normal’ and it made me less embarrassed to always ask about nuts before I ordered food.
There are many more worse things out there, at least with Anaphylaxis is all just about avoidance. But sometimes avoidance doesn’t work – so just for those times I hope this helps someone – someone’s kids, friends, colleagues.