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April 24, 2013

Anaphylaxis: Not Something to Joke About

It's been a while since I posted anything. In fact, I put off a couple of posts since it didn't flow like I wanted to. This is a subject I've wanted to deal with for some time. The subject is also personal. If you noticed the open page on my blog, I have two videos posted towards the top of the page on each margin. If you keep reading this article, I would ask you watch the Trace Adkins video, located on the top left column on this blog. If you watch both videos, all the better but the Adkins/Doctors video will help make more sense of this (especially if you don't have a loved one or friend with food allergies). The subject I am going to touch on is anaphylaxis and food allergies. You will see from my story how quickly things can change with these two subjects.

Before I go on with my story, I think I need to give a definition and the symptoms of anaphylaxis. I think the Mayo Clinic did a nice job with this:
"Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you're allergic to, such as a peanut or the venom from a bee sting.

The flood of chemicals released by your immune system during anaphylaxis can cause you to go into shock; your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking normal breathing. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting. Common triggers of anaphylaxis include certain foods, some medications, insect venom and latex." (1)

"Skin reactions, including hives along with itching, and flushed or pale skin (almost always present with anaphylaxis).feeling of warmth, the sensation of a lump in your throat, constriction of the airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathingweak and rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness or fainting

I was about 7 years old and up to that point, I never had any form of food related allergic action. That all changed one spring day. I was never a big fish fan and never really had to eat it before. For whatever reason, it was a special meal (what I can't recall) and my Mom cooked the meal that could have killed me. The main course was red snapper, a shell fish. I took a one or two bites and something didn't feel right. You may notice that under the symptoms, some of them are bold and italicized. Those are the symptoms I had that day and what happened over the next hour changed my life forever. I did start to itch my arm though it wasn't that pronounced. Almost minutes later, I began to vomit but as it happened, I didn't know why. I had no clue what was happening. At that point, the worst was yet to come. Just after that, I felt like my tongue was swelling. My folks and I went for a ride. About 5 minutes into that ride, I felt like my chest and throat were closing on me. I felt that way because that was exactly what happened. It was almost like I was choking, even though I wasn't (due to anything I did). My face also began to swell to the point where my eyes were nearly shut. My parents looked and to this day, I will never forget the look of horror on their faces. We went straight to the emergency room and the Doctor knew exactly what happened to me. I got a shot and almost as fast as I got it, the symptoms went away. This happened in about 30-40 minute time frame. Any longer and I might not be typing this today.

This was not my first bout either although the handful I had were no where near as bad as the story I just share. There was the time I had some shrimp at a family friends house. My folks didn't realize I ate a few (I had maybe two). I had not reaction at that point but when they knew what I did, I had to take an  antihistamine tablet immediately (if symptoms don't begin, it will prevent reaction).  I can recall I was around 10, my grandparents had some catfish sitting in sink full of water. I somehow knocked a fork into that sink and some water got onto my forearm. Within about 10 minutes, my forearm was swollen, broken out into a rash from my wrist to elbow. Oh, then there are some Asian restaurants that say "oh, we didn't handle the beef with seafood" story (note: Asian restaurants are the places I've had the biggest problems but many are probably the most vigilant as it relates to this subject). If seafood is cooked in my parent's home, either the windows need to be opened or I have to be out of the house.

Maybe that experience is why I used Trace Adkins promotional video he did for the Doctors. He and his wife had that same experience with their youngest daughter. She and I are allergic to different things (in her case, it's dairy) but the results were also the same. As my parents, the Adkins took immediate action even though they had not idea what was happening. Straight to the ER. It doesn't just happen with kids either. It was brought to my attention that my cousin, who is a little older than I am, also developed an allergy to seafood a few years back. During a recent visit to my local health club, a guy had gone into anaphylactic shock not long before I got there. As guys told me what happened, I knew that's exactly what it was although I didn't ask what he had.

I guess I decided to write this for a few reasons. One is to share my story. When I go out to eat and there's even a hint of cross-contamination, I do one of two things. I make them aware of it and watch what they do to solve it. When in doubt, I don't. This is also a first hand account of what its like living with a food allergy. Right now, I don't carry an epipen although that may change soon. I will also consider getting a medical bracelet that will show my condition. I would encourage you with children to get the bracelet if you haven't already. It's not so bad. Since my allergy was found when I was young, there aren't foods I miss. Add the reaction factor to it and that makes it all the easier. My family and most of my closest friends know I have this allergy and they know how to handle it. The thing about dealing with food allergies is caution and vigilance. if you see the potential for a reaction, take the steps to make sure it doesn't happen. It's not as hard as it may seem.  If you have any questions, refer back 3 paragraphs and read it again. That will remind you how serious it is. It also shows how fast things can go south. Time is the enemy of anaphylaxis. I would also encourage you to check out FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) at  I hope my story will help someone else. Hopefully, you may recall what I shared here down the road. More importantly, you'll know what to do should this happen around you.

1 & 2. Mayo Clinic Internet site: