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I had my first allergic reaction and full anaphylactic shock in 1993 to peanuts at the age of 26. I believe I was the first patient that the Old Blackburn Royal Infirmary had dealt with. I carry an EpiPen at all times. Since then I have become allergic to more foods. Sometimes I can trace it but other times, I don’t know what set me off. Luckily, I only get itching, hives, swelling and a bit of wheeziness and antihistamines see it off. I see it as lucky because it is not the full anaphylactic shock. I find my local GP unsympathetic probably because they have little experience.
Over the years, I have had reactions to lots of foods and medicines. My peanut allergy has resulted in me being hospitalised with anaphylactic shock. I have had numerous reactions to nuts such as walnuts and cashews as well as medicines such as iron tablets, antibiotics and Neurofen. These tend to cause facial swelling and hives.
Another issue I’ve encountered is hospitals not being able to guarantee they are nut free. I have been offered food containing nuts. I was so cross. I had a gynaecological operation and the Hormone Replacement Therapy treatment I was given was made from arachis oil (the word ‘peanuts’ was stated in big letters). I had to phone hospital pharmacies across the UK to see if I could find an alternative. After the birth of my son I was given iron tablets for anaemia. I took one and was covered in hives and felt dizzy. I stopped taking them but the midwife and doctor shouted at me, telling me I needed to take them. I had to go to hospital with itching hives all over my body and was told I had an infection from breast feeding. Six hours after being discharged, I was back in hospital with the doctors looking through books to try to find an antihistamine that would be safe for me to take while breast feeding.
I have been diagnosed with idiopathic anaphylaxis as the hospital cannot figure out what my trigger is. It’s very frustrating! The plus is that I don’t have to actively avoid a food type. The negative is the massive lack of control. This lack of control is really hard to live with as they can happen anytime and anywhere – the worst one being in the middle of a Thai jungle! I’m slowly learning to deal with the mental toll this has taken on me over the years. My shocks happen fairly frequently and at the moment I’m averaging 5 a year.