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9 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Life With Allergies and Anaphylaxis

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I, like a lot of people, sometimes wish I could go back in time. Whether it means I could have the possibility of fixing a mistake, saying goodbye to someone or just to give my younger self some advice. This article will be focusing on things I wish I’d told my younger self on first being diagnosed with allergies, and subsequently anaphylaxis.

1. “Always carry your medications and have them easily available.”

I’ve had a few occurrences where I had no medication with me and experienced anaphylaxis when out. Even though it taught me a major life lesson, it terrified me to the max and encouraged me to take my medication wherever I go – even if it’s going out for a few minutes. It can truly be the difference between being alright to experiencing life-altering or fatal consequences.

Furthermore, always ensure you carry two adrenaline pens at all times as something could go wrong.

Regarding the first dose of adrenaline: the adrenaline pen could have been damaged or misfired, etc. Current British Society of Allergies and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) guidelines state that two adrenaline auto-injectors have only to be supplied to people who are obese, live in a rural location and/or have previous reactions classed as life-threatening. The #AlwaysCarryTwo campaign are trying to get the BSACI to change their guidelines and have set up a petition, which has reached over 50,000 signatures!

2. “Double and triple check food items you pick up to eat in shops – even if it’s something you have been previously alright with as things could have changed. It’s quite common for brands to change their manufacturing process or their factory.”

It only takes one bite of something to cause anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). Changes can include: adding a “may contain” warning or adding the specific allergen into the food.

3. “Administering an adrenaline pen sounds terrifying, but on administering it’s not as scary or daunting.”

During my first reaction I was in tears as I didn’t want to give it. I was scared it was going to hurt as I absolutely hated needles. On administering it, I realized that it definitely wasn’t as painful as anticipated and it stopped my reaction from developing any further. My leg carried a dull ache with it for a few days, however I am thankful I administered it. What can be helpful is getting a trainer auto-injector which allows you to practice with a device with no needle which looks identical to the real thing. More information on how to use adrenaline auto-injectors and where to source a trainer pen can be found here.

4. “Having allergies doesn’t mean you have to miss out.”

When I was first diagnosed it was very disheartening to constantly pick up things and find that they were “may contain.” Some of my much loved treats were now out of the question for me to consume. I was often led to feel left out when it came to parties and events where the food couldn’t be guaranteed as safe for me. With time I’ve discovered many safe options that I’ve come to love and taste absolutely delicious. Many supermarkets now have “free from” sections where they have foods that are free from specific allergens, however please note that these items still need to be throughly checked as being in the “free from” section doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be free from the specific allergen you are avoiding.

5. “Don’t be ashamed about your allergies and anaphylaxis. They’re nothing to be embarrassed about and you shouldn’t feel the need to hide them away and keep them very hush hush.”

People may not understand allergies and anaphylaxis, but by explaining the conditions, people tend to become a great deal more understanding.

6. “Your allergies do not define you.”

You have allergies, but they are not the person you are. There’s much more to you as a person than a series of allergies and a list of conditions. In that respect, you should be more you and not your allergies and anaphylaxis.

7. “Don’t beat yourself up if you have an anaphylactic reaction.”

Too many times after experiencing a severe allergic reaction, I’ve felt complete anger and upset at myself. I tend to ask myself many questions including:

“Why wasn’t I more careful?”

“Why didn’t I realize this wasn’t safe?”

In many ways, in situations such as this, I’ve often felt that I don’t have the right to be upset about reacting as somehow I should have been more careful. It’s taken me quite a long time to realize that I’m only human – sometimes I make mistakes when reading things or sometimes there’s no explanation as to why I reacted. The product doesn’t contain my allergens and there’s no may contain warning either.

8. “Things seem really daunting now, but with time it becomes easier.”

When I was first diagnosed I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. Allergies and anaphylaxis had thrown me into this complete new world and I felt like I was drowning trying to keep on top of everything. I never thought things would get easier, but I am happy to report that for me, with time, my allergies and anaphylaxis have become easier to live with. Don’t get me wrong – they are still scary and sometimes I do feel terrified. However, things like checking labels is now second nature to me and I’m very aware of things I know definitely to avoid, and things that are more likely to be safe.

9. “It’s OK to feel like things are too much.”

I’ve a very bad habit of beating myself up if I feel like I am struggling. Even to this day, nearly eight years after my first severe allergic reaction, I need reminding of this. I often feel like I’m not allowed to feel like I’m struggling with everything, but it’s OK to feel like you don’t want to deal with everything that’s going on, and that you wish things were easier. You’re only human.

Originally published: May 16, 2018
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