My allergies and how they suck

I’ve alluded before to my many food allergies, but haven’t yet enumerated them. Part of this stems from the sheer length of the list. And part of this comes from a kind of shame or guilt at causing ‘unnecessary’ inconvenience to others. More about that later.

The list, to date, includes such diverse elements as:

  • cucumber (yes, I know) and watermelon
  • shrimp (possibly all shellfish, but the hypothesis remains understandably untested)
  • corn (in everything, ever)
  • walnuts and pecans
  • sunflower (seeds, oil, lecithin, so all ‘health’ foods)
  • ragweed (and all that that implies, like chamomile)
  • echinacea
  • lettuce (seriously)
  • and Benadryl (fml)

Not only is it a huge downer to be limited in what you can eat, but you’ve got to read every single label of every packaged food you ever eat. And you can’t do it just once. Food companies change ingredients all the time, so it’s worth checking the list each and every time to ensure an ostensibly pleasant eating experience doesn’t end with a visit to the emergency room.

And then there’s eating out. You have to ask about everything, which in my case makes me sound like a nutter, because who the hell is allergic to cucumber?! Then, there’s the dread of asking for a change, or a substitution. I hate being the focus of a fuss, and there’s nothing fussier than dealing with allergies. There are a great many times when it’s not a big deal; I say ‘allergy’, they say ‘righty-ho!’, and all is good. Even better (kind of) are the times when they hear ‘allergy’ and take things very seriously, to the point of coming back to the table and recommending a change to the order because one or more items can’t be made safe enough.

The worst, though, is eating out at a place that refuses to take an allergy seriously. That would be worryingly irritating on its own, but their reasoning is a failure. They’re of the opinion that because there are people who will claim an allergy ‘just because’ they dislike something, they can’t possibly believe anyone who claims an allergy. My counter-argument would be to ask them which is the greater inconvenience: leaving the mustard out of a salad dressing, or having to defend against a criminal charge of negligence causing bodily harm?

Finally, I’ll touch on the question of epinephrine. I don’t have an EpiPen (or non-trademarked competitor product), nor have I ever had one. Some might consider that risky, bordering on reckless. This comes mostly from people who don’t have allergies, so they might think (as so many do) that once you jam that 3-inch needle into your leg, the allergic reaction just goes away. What I learned in first aid is that the dose of epinephrine is (hopefully) enough to keep your airways open until the ambulance arrives. And when they get there, the EMTs are going to give you more epinephrine, along with industrial-strength anti-histamine, to keep you alive long enough to reach the hospital. The rest is kind of a waiting game; a combination of medication and time until your system processes all the allergen out of it.

One dose of epinephrine costs about $100, and lasts about a year. And that certainly seems like a bargain for something that could potentially save your life. I just don’t think the combination of my allergies and my eating behaviours warrant the time and expense involved in getting one. I feel like my exposure to risk is manageable, and if I’m going somewhere especially risky, I make sure to take an anti-histamine beforehand. It’s a bit like trying to mitigate the risk of crossing the street – even if you do everything right, you could still be mown down by a distracted moron. There’s no prescription that can fix stupid.

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