HEALTH NEWS

What It's Like to Survive a Severe Food Allergy Attack

Written by Kristen Duncan Williams on March 3, 2017

severe food allergy attack

If you knew that one bite of a muffin containing egg as an ingredient might kill you or your child ... how might you feel?

This is the day-to-day reality for many people in the United States living with severe food allergies.

Research shows that an estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies that can be life-threatening.

Despite the increase in more allergy awareness circulating these days, there is still a misconception about the reality of life after surviving a severe allergy attack.

Simply injecting someone with an EpiPen or administering Benadryl does not remedy the aftershock of an attack.

Read more: EpiPen isn’t as easy to use as it might seem »

The aftermath

Allergic reactions vary from person to person.

In most cases, after an EpiPen or other treatment has been administered, it’s important to call 911 or local emergency services and request an ambulance, and alert medical services of the details of the allergy attack.

If the person having the attack becomes unconscious, administer CPR. It’s also crucial to head to the emergency room after a severe allergy attack even if symptoms are subsiding. There is always the potential for a follow-up allergic reaction.

And for many of the food allergy challenged it just doesn’t stop there.

“Surviving the day-to-day aftermath of a severe allergic reaction is a scary ordeal,” Roz, the mother of a severely allergic child, told Healthline. “It’s ongoing. It affects everyone in our house. Every aspect of our lives is affected by planning on how to prevent or manage a severe allergic reaction. If my son has skin contact with nut oil or sesame oil — and doesn’t even ingest it — he ends up with hives all over his body that can potentially affect his breathing. This is too much pressure for a 9-year-old.”

The physical and emotional state of surviving a severe anaphylactic allergy attack can be all-encompassing.

In a recent Healthline online survey, participants had similar comments when speaking on the subject:

“I constantly have panic attacks after,” said Jenifer Lyn Owens. “Thinking everything I eat is going to cause my throat to swell, even if I know for sure it won’t. It’s not easy to deal with.”

“I feel complete exhaustion and extreme fatigue after finishing post and steroids [adrenal fatigue],” added Julie Stein Giesegh. “It can take six weeks or more to fully recover my strength.”

“Our son is 11, and he has horrible anxiety over food,” said Megan Hunter. “Since he’s gotten older and is more aware of how he feels when he has a reaction he panics. Anytime he tried something new he worries. His reaction goes from mild to severe in no time. He usually takes a day or two to feel normal again.”

Also, many within the food allergic community share one major concern after a severe allergy attack occurs.

“You constantly worry about being exposed to the trigger again. I spent three days in the hospital because of an unknown allergy,” said Renee Baxter.

Read more: Parents want all ambulances to carry EpiPens

Taking charge of the situation

Despite these worries many families are trying to take control where they can.

Food allergic reactions are not one-time events.

“We constantly have to discuss hypothetical situations with my son so he is prepared,” Julie, the mother of a child with food allergies, told Healthline.

That training has come in handy.

“Recently, a friend at school told my son he could eat the candy that was offered and my son said, ‘No. There are no ingredients listed. I am not supposed to eat anything without asking my mom or dad,’” said Julie. “The reason he was able to say that was because just that morning we discussed a hypothetical situation like that occurring. This is part of our daily life.”

Kristen Duncan Williams is the Founder of FAKS: Families of Allergic Kids in School. FAKS is an organization devoted to spreading more food allergy awareness within school communities. For more information contact: faksbrooklyn@gmail.com

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