“You can’t let your allergy get in the way of your life.” I hear that a lot. Sort of like, it would suck if you die, of course, but being overly cautious can ‘inhibit’ you.
Rather than defending my position based on an ‘it could kill me’, where people look at you funny I started explaining the major inconvenience that would be caused for myself and everyone I was with if I took an unnecessary risk. This was actually more effective in diffusing the skepticism over the avoidance protocol. Quite simply:
- All allergies start the same with a burning sensation in my mouth. For this reason I also don’t eat spicy food. Once the burning starts I have no idea how bad the reaction could be. In general, if you are anaphylatic, the recommendation is ‘better safe than sorry’.
- This causes me anxiety which coincidentally also has some similar symptoms to anaphylaxis
- If I use the epi-pen we have to call 911 and that would suck for everyone, and I have to go to the hospital and that’s a 2 hour observation if they admit you.
- If it’s a real reaction I will be wiped out for the next 3 days but I’m supposed to do xx tomorrow and missing that would suck. Then I’d have to be on prednisone for 2 weeks with all the associated side effects.
- Or I could die, now that’s unlikely, since the hospital is 5 minutes away… but still a real possibility.
Let me tell you what really inhibits me.
- Going out for a social dinner, having a reaction, and spoiling it for EVERYONE. Guess who becomes the social outcast?
- You could fly all day anywhere in the world for a series of arranged business meetings that have been scheduled weeks in advance. Try to explain how your carelessness made you miss the meetings. (Never happened to me).
- You are on vacation for time with friends and family. Having a reaction will make you miss precious time that can never be recovered.
This is a cute little graphic that really sums it up. On the left is me if I’m not 100% confident that I will have safe food between now and when I can get back to my safe bubble. Could be an afternoon, a weekend or a 2 week business trip in Asia.
So, in a nutshell here’s the most concise reply I give without having to got into detail:
“I am here to do XXX. Having an allergic reaction right now would prevent that, so I’m not taking any chances.”
That’s it. No debate, no discussion. Stand strong for your health and safety!
Scorecard (29 year summary)
As best I can remember:
- Two near death experiences (my backstory)
- Three major tree nut reactions, not life threatening, but I at the time I didn’t know for sure, In hindsight I was gambling with my life, but didn’t realize it.
- Three ‘false alarms’, allergen unknown, where I went to the hospital, but by the time I arrived it had passed (did not use epi, that was before the treatment protocol changed)
- One peanut oil –> to hospital, no epi, no anaphylaxis (Boise)
- One peanut oil –> to hospital, used epi (new protocol), no anaphylaxis (Boise (you’d think I had learned??))
- One ER trip for suspected peanut ingestion, turned out to be anxiety and apparently not peanut, since no ana. (Ice scream shop)
- Probably several dozen anxiety attacks (roughly 3 per year) that were serious enough to interrupt my work or social plans to the extent it might as well have been a real, non-lethal allergic reaction.
- Hundreds of episodes of anxiety simply for not following my self-imposed avoidance protocols. These were mostly caused by not advocating for myself and eating something that I didn’t feel 100% safe about, but in my defense it was different back then. And food labeling wasn’t all that wonderful either.
This list does not include any reactions that occurred before my college experience, Again, as far as I know those all ended with violent vomiting. Thank God for that.
You can read the whole thing for free if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited. Here’s the book:
© MICHAEL G SPORER AND LIVING WITH PEANUT ANAPHYLAXIS, 2015