a woman with peanuts in her eyes looking concerned

Anaphylaxis: A Terrifying First Experience

I don't think I'll ever forget the first time I found out I have a peanut and macadamia allergy. This is partially because it was terrifying to experience anaphylaxis for the first time (though let's be real, it's terrifying in general)! However, it's also because it was quite embarrassing for me.

Having my first anaphylactic reaction in public

Both of the times I had an anaphylactic reaction, it happened in a very public place: at work. The first time, I had just started a part-time job working as a Barista at Dunkin' Donuts. Just as equally public and embarrassing, I was bartending at a pub the second time it happened.

Scary symptoms

When my mouth and lips started to swell up, I began to cough and feel my throat slowly closing; well, I was confused and terrified. Initially, I thought maybe I was just getting sick. After all, I had bronchitis quite often at the time, or perhaps it was an asthma attack or panic attack. I regularly dealt with all of the above, so I wasn't sure what was going on at first. Before this, I dealt with some mild food and environmental allergies. However, I had never had anaphylaxis.

Quickly after, I concluded that none of these were the culprit, although to be fair, panic and anxiety set in with a reaction like this anyway.

I couldn't breathe or talk

I kept coughing and could not breathe, sitting on the cold floor in the restroom, trying to hide. Thankfully, one of my managers called 9-1-1, and I was rushed to the emergency room.

Honestly, I don't remember much on the way to the emergency room or once I got there. The paramedics put in an IV immediately with a lot of Benadryl and epinephrine. I do know I was pretty surprised, as I'd never experienced this before.

I had to sit down and re-evaluate what I was doing at the moment once I became more lucid. After retracing my steps, I remembered I had just taken a bite of something from the nearby hotel cafeteria I worked next to. Boy, was that a hard-learned lesson to always be aware of what I am putting in my body in the future.

Not only did I scare myself, but also everyone around me

Thankfully, the doctors were able to get it under control fairly quickly with epinephrine and Benadryl. The doctors sent me home with a prescription for an EpiPen. This is something I never had to use or carry with me up until that point. Now I had yet another thing to worry and think about, on top of everything else that comes along with chronic health conditions.

Learning to manage allergies and triggers

All of this was quite a learning experience and rude awakening. It was a terrifying experience. However, I'm grateful I could find out what the trigger was to avoid it. Since then, I have had one other anaphylactic reaction from a restaurant soup (likely due to cross-contamination).

Thankfully, other than that, I've become a pro at avoiding my triggers and allergens and have not found myself in that predicament in many years. However, of course, I still carry my EpiPen everywhere. And needless to say, these days, I'm cautious about what I put into my body. I learned some major lessons during this experience--the very hard way!

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