I meant to put up the rest of the butterfly garden pictures this weekend, when hopefully I could grab a few minutes.Instead, here I am, writing about something else entirely. Allergies.

Ages ago, I brought a yogurt to school. Mango flavor, something I’d never really tried. I don’t know why not. Mangoes were readily available where I lived, and I thought I’d tried them before that day when I made my way to the quiet roof of a parking garage overlooking the campus and the city that was my new, well, if not quite home yet, underwear parking location.

I got about 3 bites into my lunch and BLAMMO, I could feel my mouth start to itch, my throat begin to tighten, and the chemical- and particulate- laden air of the city, which wasn’t the easiest to breathe for a country kid anyway, starting to get a mite harder to get enough of and a lot thicker. I stopped eating. I threw away my lunch. I had never had a food allergy before, but thankfully I’d heard enough about them to take a guess at what was happening. I was completely alone, 8 stories in the air. I was still breathing, and short of calling 911, I had no idea where to go or what to do. It was the only food I’d brought for the day, and it was going to be a LONG day. I was more disappointed about that then any other ramifications, and pretty soon I felt back to my normal grungy, hungry self. That’s where it ended, although I flagged it as a possible allergy each time I was asked at a doctor’s office. Since it was only happened once and wasn’t medically confirmed, though, a possible allergy (to mango flavor?) was all that was ever noted. No one mentioned allergy tests or what to do in case it happened again.

This weekend, I was at a potluck and scooped some fruit salad onto my plate. It looked amazing. A massive bowl of strawberries, bananas, plums, grapes… when I began eating, though, I knew in an instant that there was something different, and that something different was wrong. I made my weaving way over to the woman who had made the salad and asked. Yep, there was mango in there, hidden among the other harmless (to me!) fruit.

It was a worse reaction than the last time and it lasted much longer, but thanks to a bunch of friends who carried allergy meds with them and the fact that my church is positively loaded with med students, respiratory therapists, nurses, and just super-nice and hyper- aware folks, I’m fine. I spent the rest of the day sleeping on someone’s floor with them checking my breathing (something I was completely unaware of until that evening), and that was all. Not even a hospital bill.

Obviously my story had a very happy ending! It’s joined the millions of similar ones out there in the world. We keep telling these stories, I figure, so that someone will hear, and each time someone hears it might be that someone is saved.

This time around, I’ve learned a bit more. Epi-pens are in the center of a nasty debate in the United States right now (and a lot of hilarious cartoons as well). They’re first-line for most people with an anaphylactic reaction, although in my case the effect on my heart is going to probably be pretty catastrophic too. (Easier to correct than not breathing, or so one of the med students joked.) Although 24 hour allergy pills are everywhere, liquid Benadryl or the 4 hour allergy tabs are going to start working faster. It’s debatable how much use they’ll be for anaphylaxis, but for other allergic reactions they’ll usually help. Some people carry an antacid like Pepcid AC or steroids with them when traveling as well. Every country has a different emergency number. Where I am, it’s 911. This time around, I also knew that the student health office had an on-call physician I could dial for advice after-hours, without even having to hunt up ordinary non-emergency numbers for urgent cares or hospitals. Be aware of your emergency resources before the emergency happens. Ultimately, though, the first and last line of defense is me. So from now on, I’m going to do my best to check what’s in a fruit salad, salsa, drink, or tarte before just devouring it. I’m glad that I’ve survived the getting of the experience long enough to learn something from the experience.

Stay safe out there, everyone.


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