Don’t make this my last meal

This year, allergy awareness month will be during the month of May. There are many conventions and educational tools that are presented by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America during this month in regard to allergy awareness.

Here is my story on why you should educate yourself on allergies, and most importantly, life-threatening allergies.

At the beginning of 2020, I had never had an allergic reaction in 20 years. This was due to an insane amount of education, preparation, and diligence. Having a life-threatening allergy is so much more than simply “avoiding said food.”

One evening, my family and I went out to eat at the Devin’s Grill. As a preface, I had eaten there before. I told the waitress I was allergic to peanuts and nuts, which I always do. I asked if I could eat what I wanted to order, and she said that it would be safe, and so I ate it. 

When I got home, I experienced hives for the first time. Allergies are sporadic like that – you never know what kind of attack you will experience. It could be an anaphylactic attack, simple hives, or all of the above.

After that day of thankfully only getting hives, I refused to eat out at a restaurant for a month. 

At the end of that month, I told myself that I was being ridiculous. 

I went out to eat and had my first panic attack. I had never been a person with anxiety before, so this was most certainly new. After that day, I have had a panic attack at every restaurant I have been to, even ones that I have eaten at before.

A month after that, surprisingly, I had my first anaphylaxis episode. This episode happened seven hours after I ate any sort of food. I woke up at 5 in the morning and I honestly thought that I was dying.

I laid on the floor and cried out for my boyfriend to come and help me, but it was one of those nightmare moments where no sound came from my voice. He did hear my commotion and found me, and injected me with my EpiPen.

That was honestly the worst night of my life.

After that night, the panic attacks would come in a rush at random hours during the day. These panic attacks would bring hives. 

Can you imagine the irony of a panic attack bringing hives to someone who has a fear of getting hives and having an allergic attack?

That is the real killer. I would get hives while having a panic attack, and then feel as if I was going into anaphylactic shock because my throat would close during an anaphylactic episode.

 I could not breathe – the same sensation of a panic attack.

In anaphylaxis, though, your throat never opens back up. You die.

These past months, I have been able to simmer down my panicky feelings, which have made the hives completely go away, which in part, made the panic subside.

All of my allergy attacks have been a third party’s doing. It is so much more than “avoiding peanuts and nuts.”

I remember, when I was a kid, people would call me “dramatic” or “ungrateful” when I would turn down a cookie they made for me, or an invitation to go out to get Chinese, simply because I was allergic. A mean girl in high school even joked to people about feeding me a nut to “see what happens” 

How high-school can that sentence get?

But, all of that is trivial in comparison to the lotions, the hand soaps in restaurants, and the shampoos with Shea Butter in hotels.

The waiters who promise to wash their hands, but get too busy between meals and forget.

What about the airlines that serve peanuts as snacks while I am on board?

What about the loaf of bread sitting on your counter that “doesn’t have any nuts in it.” Read the label. It will, almost guaranteed, say “manufactured in a facility that also processes tree-nuts,” or “processed with peanuts.”

What about your dog that eats Blue Buffalo, and then licks my face?

Or the peanut oil used at Burger King and McDonald’s?

Or, the oven you used to bake a loaf of bread that contains nuts, and then the cookies you bake me for my 18th birthday in that same oven because you mean well?

I still have panic attacks every time I eat out somewhere new.

Those who know me, and even those who know me extremely well, will probably find this all so surprising.

Because I never talk about it, I play it off with a laugh and a “Oh, no thanks! I just ate.”

It is entirely embarrassing to admit that I am scared of food, but I am. 

Food terrifies me.

It is not me being dramatic, rude, or wanting sympathy.

I am trying to keep myself alive.

This is why people, restaurants, servers, schools, hotels, everything and everyone, have to be more informed on the dangers of food allergies.

According to the Food Allergy Research and Education, each year in the U.S., 200,000 people require emergency medical care for allergic reactions to food.” 

Anaphylaxis is a deadly occurrence. It should never be taken lightly.

Here are some great links to go to!