It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week! This year it runs from May 13th to May 19th. The Food Allergy Research and Education website lists many events, has allergy awareness materials, and links to resources and information for everyone from teachers to kids. Last night the Empire State Building kicked off the week by lighting up bright teal. This Friday my local MLB team will be hosting a peanut-free game (with extra medics too), and special offers for families with food allergies. Check out your city online to see if there’s any special events or offers happening!
I’ve got MCAS. It’s a little different from typical food allergies in that it’s not an IgE reaction, but the end result is usually the same — an allergic reaction, up to and including anaphylaxis. I turn bright red, then break into little hives. My throat and mouth start to itch and begins to feel a little tight. My blood pressure falls quickly, usually at the point when I start to cough. I lose consciousness before I experience really serious airway problems, which I consider a mercy. Sometimes I’ll only have the first few stages and be able to stop it with a hit of good ol’ Benadryl. Sometimes it will drag out longer and I’ll have severe pain, hay fever-type symptoms, and GI issues.
Basically, food allergies stink.
I recently bought some cool zipper pulls and tabs online to let people know where my epi-pens are stored. I hadn’t thought I’d really need to let people know where they were. I’m usually aware on some level that I’m reacting, and at first my focus was more on having it close at hand but invisible to everyone else. I was working, I was teaching, and I didn’t want to look paranoid. Besides, there is a shortage of epi right now (more about that later!) and the things can be valuable. I didn’t want to let someone know which bag to grab for the best return for the risk! Then I had one or two bad reactions that happened so fast or strangely that I didn’t catch the initial warning signs. All of a sudden letting the world know where my epi-pens doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, even with an increased chance of being mugged. Now my alert zipper pulls are clipped to my Spi-belt and my backpacks. If I need to be a little anonymous for a moment, they’re easily removed or flipped so the plain black back is up.
Epi-pens are expensive. But letting the world know where the medication is that might save your life? That’s not paranoid. That’s priceless. 🙂