I have anaphylaxis to milk and shellfish. You may be asking yourself, "What in the world is anaphylaxis?". Anaphylaxis is a type of reaction in which after ingestion (sometimes just after inhalation) of an allergen, a person's throat will close, shutting down their airway and if left untreated can result in death. The only things the Anaphylactic community has to defend themselves with against this reaction is 1) strict avoidance of food with the allergen present, 2 ) if ingestion occurs, the EpiPen is used right away.
Side note: the EpiPen is a shot of epinephrine that will temporarily stop an anaphylactic reaction if used in time. The EpiPen only works for about 25 minutes which should give the person having the reaction enough time to get to the hospital and receive steroids to try to stop the reaction completely.
However, the sad truth is that sometimes people having this deadly reaction do not make it to the hospital alive. If the reaction is left untreated the person will go into anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is when the allergic person's airway becomes almost completely restricted, their blood pressure bottoms out, and they pass out and sometimes never wake up.
So now that you have a crash course in anaphylaxis, I'm going to tell you my story.
I've had anaphylaxis since I was born. Yep, that's right! I've spent almost 21 years with this disease and honestly, I wouldn't have wanted to grow up any other way. Let me explain, growing up with food allergies was not always fun. I had a normal childhood just like everyone else. I played basketball, softball, soccer.... pretty much all the normal sports kids play.
I had friends, I went out to the movies and the carnivals in my hometown. But one thing that wasn't normal was when it came to food. I had to be overly aware of what was going on around me. If shellfish was being steamed in a restaurant, I would have to leave. If someone was drinking milk right next to me I had to be aware of if that spat when they talked.
Even little exposures to my allergies could set off my anaphylactic reaction. Cross-contamination is a huge issue, so I cannot eat out at restaurants. When I was younger I was never really in the position to go to a lot of restaurants. But as I got older, the problem grew to be a bigger issue. I wanted to fit in with my peers, go on dates, and not seem like that weird girl that can't be taken out on a generic dinner date.
New people would come in and out of my life and not all of them would understand. A lot of people would question just how serious my allergies are and if maybe I am taking it too seriously.
Something that people need to understand now is that, yes, all allergies are serious on some level. Every person that has an allergy does not have the same reaction. Honestly, it's great that your aunt has an allergy and she can eat food that has been cross-contaminated with her allergen and be okay. It's amazing that your dad can choose when he wants to ingest his allergy and not have an anaphylactic reaction. I do not have those luxuries. If I consume or ingest my allergy in any way I will have an anaphylactic reaction. My throat will close and I will die if I do not use my EpiPen.
If you know someone who has food allergies all that I ask is that you take it as seriously as the allergic person does. Each person is different and you need to adjust how you act and what you say accordingly.
Even though it has definitely not been easy growing up with food allergies I wouldn't have traded my experiences for anything. If I did not have these allergies, I would not be who I am today. When it comes down to it, my food allergies will always be a part of who I am. Even if I desensitize and grow to not be allergic to milk and shellfish anymore I will always take the lessons I've learned with me throughout every challenge I may face in this life.
If you want to find out more about food allergies and anaphylaxis please visit https://www.foodallergy.org/home
It is a very useful and informative website.
Also if you have food allergies and need more resources you can also visit that website and look around! Even though everyone has their own set of allergies and reactions you are not alone.