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Life With Anaphylaxis: Severe Food Allergies

Updated on June 24, 2018
Ashley Marie Rile profile image

Ashley is a 2016 graduate of NVTHS. With a passion for writing, Ashley currently blog's about a variety of different topics.

Both epinephrine injections that I carry on me at all times.
Both epinephrine injections that I carry on me at all times. | Source

More than 50 million Americans have an allergy of some sort. According to the CDC (Center's for Disease Control and Prevention) an estimated 4 to 6 percent of children, and 4 percent of adults are affected with food allergies.

Although food allergies are more common and visible in babies and younger children, they can appear at any given age. It's even possible to develop an allergy to foods that you have eaten before for years, even if you've never had any problems with them in the past.

What Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies are very serious and can be a potentially life-threatening condition for some people. Affecting an estimated 15 million Americans, roughly every 3 minutes, an allergic reaction to food sends someone to the Emergency Room.

Many people mistake food intolerances as food allergies. While both are extremely uncomfortable, a food intolerance is less serious and unlike food allergies, intolerances do not involve the immune system.


Common Food Allergies

While any food is able to cause an allergic reaction, these are the eight most common types of foods that account for 90% of all allergic reactions:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree-nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Wheat

What Causes Food Allergies?

There is no cure or known reasoning behind the cause of food allergies. However, research suggests that food allergies develop from a mixture of environmental and genetic factors. It is more likely for a person to develop a food allergy if a close family member has one. People are also at a greater risk of developing a food allergy if they have other allergic reactions-conditions such as eczema, asthma, or even hay-fever.


Food allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a certain food, substance, or bacteria and your body immediately identifies it as a danger, and goes into a protective mode.

Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to even severe. Just because one reaction causes a couple of problems, doesn't mean that all of your reactions will be similar. For example: If a food allergy causes a mild reaction on one occasion, that doesn't mean that it won't cause a more severe reaction at a different time.

Food Allergy Symptoms:

  • Swelling in the face
  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Numbness in the mouth
  • Swelling of the tounge, lips, or throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea or vommiting
  • Dizziness

The most severe allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis- a life-threatening, whole-body reaction, that can affect your breathing, heart rate, and cause an immense drop in your blood pressure. Anaphylaxis can happen within minuites of exposure to a food allergy and can even be fatal. Anaphylaxis must be treated properly with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).


Anaphalaxis Symptoms

Anaphylaxis symptoms are very different, occur suddenly, and can progress quickly. It is extremely important for people to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of anaphylaxis before it's too late. Early warning signs can be fairly mild and could consist of a runny nose, rash, or an overall "odd feeling." These symptoms can lead to more serious symptoms which include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Scratchy voice
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling
  • Shock
  • Hives
  • Abdominal pain
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Nausea or vommiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood preassure
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Feeling of "doom"


Symptoms of food allergies can vary person to person which makes the diagnosing process very complicated for medical professionals. In order to pinpoint what allergy it is that you may have, you need to consult with an Allergist first. There are a couple of different methods that Allergists use in order to determine your allergy.

First an allergist will sit down with you and ask you many different questions starting with your personal health and family history of allergic reactions. From there they may issue a blood sample, or skin test and interpret the results of both to make an official diagnosis.

If your test results come back positive for a severe food allergy and your Doctor prescribes you an epipen, in case of an emergency and you need to use it, always remember that 911 needs to be called immediately afterwards. Epinephrine is adrenaline and a common side affect of epipen use is an increased heart-rate. First responders will be able to keep a close eye on your heart-rate, breathing, and pulse on the way to the emergency room.

An example of how your epinephrine pen should be positioned before injecting.
An example of how your epinephrine pen should be positioned before injecting. | Source

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Life with Anaphylaxis

Living with Anaphylaxis is extremely overwhelming and can be stressful at times. You live in constant fear of not knowing when or where you will have another reaction. You have to remember to carefully read every ingredient on every food label that you come in contact with. You have to carry your epinephrine injections with you everywhere you go. You have to inform every Restaraunt that you go to about your food allergy. You have to make sure that you are around people that you trust in case of an emergency. You have to explain and demonstrate to immediate family members and friends how to administer your epinephrine incase you can't during an episode. You feel isolated at times feeling as if family, friends, or other's don't truly understand the severity of your condition. It's not easy to be relaxed while living with the threat of a potentially deadly condition which is why it's so important to be tested for allergies if you haven't been tested already.

On June 7th, I had a very sudden and severe allergic reaction to a fruit that I have eaten for years. I ended up in the Emergency Room because my heart-rate started to increase drastically and I was having difficulty breathing. The Doctor's diagnosed me with Anaphylaxis and in the past two weeks, I have experienced two life-threatening reactions and it was the most terrifying experiences that I've ever gone through in my life. If I could go back in time and change one thing, it would have been being tested for allergies. Although allergies can develop during any point in your life, it's better to be safe than sorry, because some things in life are just unpredictable. For people like myself that have Anaphylaxis, there is no cure for it and it is a condition that you will have for the rest of your life.

© 2018 Ashley Riley


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