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First comes food allergy, then comes ... airborne allergy. Seriously?

First comes food allergy, then comes ... airborne allergy. Seriously?
Something seemingly random and out-of-the-blue occurred to me a few weeks ago that has rocked my world.

I've waited this long to tell you all about it because -- well, in the interest of "let me focus on seeking out information before I let my emotions get the best of me" -- I wanted to discuss it with my allergist first.

Now that I've focused on facts, sought out information and hashed this out with my allergist, I can say something that terrifies me to my core: I have now experienced my first airborne reaction to a food allergen.

My allergy to peanut is no longer just a "read labels and don't ingest any" food allergy, it has now expanded to include "be aware, be very aware of your surroundings" food allergy.

I'm still having a difficult time typing out that I have an airborne allergy now. Admittedly, it's a heck of a lot easier to type it than to speak it. I'm still working practicing verbalizing this phenomenon out loud.

Anybody else out there have airborne reactions to food?

I now feel your pain.

I now understand your hypervigilance.

I now sympathize.

I now get it.

I mean I, really, really, get it now.


So here's what happened ... back in late June, I had a kick-ass party to celebrate my birthday. [did you miss my post on how to successfully manage food allergies while hosting a potluck event? check it out here I had family come in from three different states and friends from practically all aspects of my life (wine friends, yoga buddies, food allergy friends, scrapbook friends, work friends, you name it, they were all there). Everyone got along, there was some dancing, a little more drinking, a boat-load of laughs and lots of amazing food; all of this took place at a local picnic pavilion.

After the festivities wrapped up and all my friends headed home, my family and I headed to my house to relax and have the "post-party wrap up." My brother decided he wanted some Five Guys so off he went to pick up some burgers and fries for himself, his wife and our dad. My mom and I decided we would munch on leftovers from the party.

For those of you not familiar with Five Guys ... they make some amazing burgers and fries. I know this to be a fact because I've had my fair share number of burgers and fries from them. Of course, that was all BPA, Before Peanut Allergy. Five Guys not only offer peanuts in bulk containers to their customers but they also make everything using 100% peanut oil. So, once Peanut Allergy came along, I had to say good bye to Five Guys. Trust me, it was a terrible break-up. Lots of bitter feelings on both sides.

So my brother came home with a Five Guys-signature greasy brown paper bag, full of three burgers and one order of fries. All of us crowded around the table for our post-party "snack" and my brother wound up sitting next to me.

His fries smelled great! So, not knowing any better, I picked up his plate of fries at one point and gave them a good whiff. Oh, man, did they smell amazing! I knew I couldn't eat them, but I figured there would be no harm in smelling them. Little did I know. Oh, and that greasy brown paper bag? It was sitting on the table in front of me and my brother.

A few minutes into our "snack" my nose started running. Actually, that's not entirely accurate ... my nose started pouring! Seriously. It was as though my nose had a faucet and someone turned the faucet open all.the.way.

And silly, ignorance-is-bliss me doesn't think anything of it. And lazy me doesn't even get tissues, I just try to sniffle it all up. [ok, gross, I know, but ... I'm keeping it real!]

My mom doesn't have much tolerance for sniffling so she asks me at one point if I'm OK. After all these years, I know that's mom speak for "you better get yourself a tissue because you're starting to irritate me."

I do one better and go to the bathroom. I happened to look at myself in the mirror ... what was staring back at me was some really, really old lady with swollen eyes, bags down to her mouth and a face covered in a reddish rash.

Oh, crap.

Once I got passed the whole "this is YOU, not an old lady", I realized I was having a reaction to something. At that point, I went into automatic pilot - I did not focus on trying to figure out the cause - I just focused only on getting the reaction under control.

So off I went to find Benadryl. Thankfully I knew exactly where to find it so I didn't waste any time and I promptly swallowed two.

I then sat back down at the table and inside my head I'm telling myself "You're going to be OK. This is a reaction. Remain calm and wait for the Benadryl to kick in. You got this." As I waited for the Benadryl to kick in, my nose continued to run so I did the only "adult" thing I could think of -- I grabbed some paper napkins off the table and blew my nose. I kept this up for a few minutes ... until I ran out of napkins.

And I was not feeling any better. In fact, I thought I may have been feeling even slightly worse so I started to think about epinephrine.

And then it hit me ... I had been blowing my nose using the napkins that had been in the Five Guys greasy brown bag.

Oh, holy crap.

So with that, I left the table, found tissues in another room and continued to blow my nose. I'd say within two minutes, I was starting to feel better. Yeah! Let's hear it for Benadryl. :-)  I was totally ready to use my Auvi-Q, but thankfully it didn't come to that.

After a little while, I took a shower, put on fresh clothes and was feeling my normal self again. My eyes were still puffy; they needed almost 24 hrs to return to normal.

I then had a chat with the family about what happened and the consensus was that it must have been the Five Guys food/bag since that was really the only "new" thing introduced into my home when the reaction occurred.

Last week, I sat down with my allergist and explained everything to her. We had (as always) a great conversation; this time around it focused on the difficulty of confirming an airborne allergy and, ultimately, she agreed with my family's consensus.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this and process it all ... I hope sharing my story with all of you will help me "own" this new dimension of food allergies for me.

Do you have any tips/suggestions as to how I and others can safely manage an airborne food allergy? Please feel free to share in the comments below or via Twitter (I'm @DofAnaPhylaxis). Many thanks!

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