The FEAR of Anaphylaxis

May is Allergy Awareness Month, and in an effort to help spread food allergy and anaphylaxis awareness, I’ve decided to come face to face with my fears.

Living with food allergies is not easy, but most of the time it’s really not that bad. You figure out how to navigate around the food allergens and avoid anything unsafe. Grocery store visits get more efficient as you figure out which manufacturers have good labeling practices. Even preparing and packing meals to eat when you’re not at home becomes second nature.

Sometimes I’m even able to convince myself that food allergies have actually had a positive effect on my health and lifestyle. I know exactly what goes into my body now, and our family eats more whole foods and less processed foods.

Unfortunately, beneath all of these cosmetic “benefits” lies a profound fear, that I can’t even put into words. It keeps me up some nights… the fear that at any moment, your child could unknowingly come into contact with an invisible food protein and they could have a potentially fatal allergic reaction … the fear that for some reason or another I will not be there in time to do anything about it.

But what are the odds of a fatal reaction? I often try to calculate random stats to try and make myself feel better. The truth is, it’s really not important since every reaction is different … and truthfully the fear will always be there, because of what I’ve seen and experienced. I’ve watched my child vomit and swell until he was gasping for air and so helpless that he was unable to cry for help. Luckily, I’ve also seen the immediate effects of epinephrine, and how seconds after a shot, his symptoms were almost instantly alleviated.

For Allergy Awareness week, Allergy UK called on people to recognize the FEAR, by recognizing the symptoms of anaphylaxis.

  • Face – is their face/are their lips swollen? Have they gone pale? Are they lightheaded?
  • Eyes – is there a look of fear in their eyes? Are they red, watery and puffy?
  • Airways – are they wheezing/uncontrollably coughing? Do they have a shortness of breath? Are they unable to talk? Are they making a strange sound?
  • Rash – is there a red, raised, itchy rash anywhere on their body especially their face or neck?

The only way I can combat my fear is by being prepared. I always carry my son’s epinephrine auto-injector everywhere we go and I’m ready to use it if I recognize any signs of anaphylaxis.

What are your fears? How do you combat them?