Being Prepared for the Worst when susceptible to food allergies
Quoting former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, it is best to “prepare for the worst, but hope for the best” when concerning food allergies.
As a freshman in high school, I developed a rare food allergy to all red meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.). After the allergist identified my allergy, I spent the next few years learning to safely navigate my school’s cafeteria, favorite restaurants, and family cookouts.
Although completely avoiding red meat is ideal, it is impossible to completely avoid finding yourself in a situation where you’ve accidentally eaten a cross-contaminated food. This is why you need always to be prepared for the worst.
As part of my plan for preparing for food allergies, I always carry around in my backpack/purse two items: an epinephrine pen and at least four tablets of Benadryl.
If you are facing food allergies, you should be prepared to deal with the worst, anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. According to the Mayo Clinic, anaphylaxis “causes your immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can cause you to go into shock—your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking breathing” (Mayo Clinic).
The first symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, swelling of lips and throat, or sudden vomiting or diarrhea. For food allergies that are not very severe, these symptoms may be all that arise from your immune system’s response to the food allergen. In this instance, taking an antihistamine like Benadryl will suffice in stopping the allergic reaction.
When my lips begin to swell, I notify those around me and let them know about my food allergy and how to use my EpiPen. Then, I take a Benadryl or two and wait for the swelling to subside. Knock-on-wood, this is all I need to do to stop my allergic reaction. If the reaction progresses to anaphylaxis, an injection of the steroid epinephrine is necessary. EpiPen Auto-Injectors are the most common devices for administrating epinephrine.
Injections of epinephrine require an immediate follow-up visit to the hospital.
Always prepare for food allergies by facing food allergies head-on with the right equipment and knowledge.