I Wish I’d Known This Important Fact About My Peanut Allergy
I've been allergic to peanuts my entire life, but I didn't learn this one very important fact about my allergy until a visit to the emergency room this weekend.
Since the day I grabbed a handful of peanut butter cereal as a 2 or 3-year-old, I've been trained to stay away from the common food, as I've been told it can kill me.
"Don't eat Snickers or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, always read food labels, make sure whatever you're ordering on the menu doesn't have peanuts, and never kiss a boy who's just eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," my mom would tell me.
After growing up your entire life with a peanut allergy, you get used to doing these things. Unfortunately I had a slip-up on Sunday at a Thai restaurant where, even though the menu didn't say the Spiced Roast Duck contained peanuts, it was most certainly prepared with peanuts.
Not being able to smell or taste the peanuts, I began eating the dish (it was actually very delicious). Moments later, my throat began to tighten and I immediately knew what was happening.
"I'll be right back, this has peanuts in it," I told my boyfriend, rushing to my car to pick up Benadryl from a nearby Walgreens.
I chugged half the bottle and took 3 puffs from my enhaler, but still felt like my reaction was getting worse. My skin began to itch, I couldn't breathe, and my face and neck felt like they were on fire.
Remembering back to my last allergic reaction and how I should have gone to the emergency room, I made the decision that I needed to seek immediate medical attention if I was going to make it out alive (or at lease with the least-prolonged pain possible).
I was in Denver when this happened, so being in a somewhat unfamiliar city made this a bit scarier for me. But I ended up at Presbyterian/St. Luke's hospital, where Dr. Krista Culp and the nursing staff were super caring and professional, and I couldn't have had a better experience there (minus the allergic reaction, of course).
After I was pumped with meds (including an Epipen) and given a nebulizer treatment for my breathing (see video above), Dr. Culp brought up one thing about allergic reactions that I don't ever remember being told, but should have been: that over time, repeated exposures to allergens can worsen.
Perhaps it's because I nipped this one in the bud early on, but I remember the last allergic reaction I had was much worse. It just makes me glad I caught this one in time and was able to suck it up and go to the emergency room instead of rely on Benadryl because I didn't have my Epipen with me.
Oh yea, I will definitely be getting a couple new Epipens after this, in case you were wondering.
According to medlineplus.gov, first-time exposure may produce "only a mild reaction," but once a person has been exposed to or had an allergic reaction and is "sensitized," even a very small amount of the allergen can trigger a severe reaction. Without proper treatment, anaphylaxis can possibly lead to death within 15 minutes.
Luckily I lived to tell the tale, but this story could have had a worse ending had I not sought medical treatment. Especially after 2 very severe reactions in my adult years, I realize I need to be even more careful when it comes to knowing what's being put into my body. I thought that I had been a good judge of restaurant menus and food labels, but I've been proven wrong, and it cost me my health, some money, and could have cost me my life.
If you have any kind of allergy, whether it's to peanuts, other foods, insect bites, plants, pollens, animal dander, or insect bites and stings, I encourage you to reassess your knowledge of these allergies and to develop a game plan for any given scenario just in case you encounter an allergic reaction. I knew I had to seek medical treatment, and I hope that's what you'll do, too. (Trust me, the ER will treat you no matter what - they don't want you to die, even if you don't have insurance. Figure that out later.)
Also, it really helps to have a support system in place with your allergies. It's always great to have the important people in your life there for you if or when you're going through a similarly scary situation like me. Thank you to my boyfriend, Aaron, for being by my side! <3