Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Living with a Peanut Allergy

Hi, my name is Felecia Payne and I am allergic to any form of nuts.

I am one of the 4% of adults who have a food allergy and one of only the .6-1% of people who are allergic to peanuts. I had my first reaction when I was eleven months old when my mom tried to feed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it ended with my face super swollen, the advice nurse telling my mom that she wasn't a good parent because "all good parents have Benadryl" and my dad getting pulled over because he was speeding to get the medicine back to me. The first reaction was just the start of one of the most influential parts of my life. Especially as a young child, a big part of my life was learning what I could and couldn't eat, touch and be around, and telling a small child that she can't have the same candy as the rest of her friends is hard. But when you puff up and look like a balloon and your throat swells so much you can't breath, it is important to know what you can and cannot eat.

The photo on the left is a picture from me in the hospital after a reaction and the one on the right is me normally. Both of these pictures are from high school, I don't remember when exactly but it was around 2009 I think.

Here are some facts about food allergies and peanut allergies:

* Children who are going to outgrow food allergies usually outgrow them by the age of four.
        A lot of times very young children will be allergic to a variety of foods; i.e. eggs, milk, peanuts, etc. but outgrow it by the time they start school. But if a child hasn't outgrown it by that time, they probably won't. For people like me who didn't out grow their allergy, it has the potential to get worse with age. This is what happened to me. Every reaction I have, is worse than the one before.

* There is no cure for peanut allergies.
          While there has been talks about a drug called TNX-901 for years that increases the amount of peanuts that would have to be eaten to trigger an attack, it does not cure it. TNX-901 has also been talked about for almost 10 years now and is still not on the market.

* If I have a reaction there are certain steps that must be taken.
          Every reaction is different and every person reacts differently to their reactions, but this is what happens to me when I have a reaction. First, I start to just feel weird. I get chills throughout my body, my ears tingle and something instinctual just kicks in so that I know something is wrong. When this happens I first take benadryl. While this won't stop a sever reaction, it can sometimes slow it down. Liquid benadryl is the best because it gets into your blood stream faster and starts to work.  If I can tell it is going to be a reaction that requires me to go to the hospital, depending on how far the reaction has progressed, I will either go straight to the hospital or use the Epi-Pen.

* Once the Epi-Pen has been injected, you must go to the hospital ASAP.
          Epi-Pens are designed to speed up your heart rate by giving you a dose of Epinephrine that counteracts the reaction. Because one of the side effects of going into a life-threatening reaction, commonly known as anaphylaxis shock, is a massive drop in blood pressure. You can go here to look at more information about Epi-Pens and anaphylaxis.

* Everyone needs to know how to work an Epi-Pen.
          It is not hard to learn how to work them, and who knows one day it might save someones life. Here are some videos that teach a little bit more about how to use an Epi-Pen.


I hope that you understand the severity of a peanut allergy and what to do if you see someone having a reaction. And please be considerate, people with allergies didn't choose to have them, they don't ask for "special treatment" just to be difficult, it is to save a life.

I would love to answer any questions you might have about peanut allergies or Epi-Pen.
Stay hungry my friends,

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