Allergy/Asthma Information Association

How comfortable are you in dealing with your allergies or asthma?

by Erika Ladouceur, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC

When you are invited to a friend’s house do you...

Have you shown other people (friends or family) how your epinephrine injection works? Do you read labels, on occasion?

Having allergies does not make you any more different than anyone else. When you are a teenager you may feel uncomfortable, shy and simply afraid to discuss your allergies or asthma with your friends because it would mean that you have something they don’t have. Some may feel a lower self-esteem. I have learned that this is the last emotion anyone should experience when in the company of their friends. There is absolutely no point in hiding the truth, when it can mean life or death. We don’t always get a second chance at fixing the way we react in these crucial moments. It may happen only once, but that one time might be the most serious one and there is no time to be wasted. Your friends will not laugh at you if you’re not feeling great and think you are having an allergic reaction. They should realize that an adult should be informed, whether it be at work, at school or elsewhere.

I’m not a specialist, a doctor, nurse or other qualified person when it comes to dealing with anaphylaxis or asthma. Therefore, I can only speak from experience having asthma and a severe allergy to peanuts as well as numerous other allergies. I have learned numerous things throughout the past couple of years. Of everything, the most important thing I have gained from my allergies and asthma is maturity. We teenagers can sometimes try to hide certain things from friends and occasionally our own family because we think it shows a weakness or we simply don’t think it is relevant. However, if there’s one thing I have to say, it is that the worst possible thing to do is feel self-conscious and intimidated or shy. It can be a life or death situation. The most important lessons we often learn in life are often ones we learn from experience. Often times these are evident when we did not react to the situation in the proper manner or when we were afraid of the truth and accepting it.

Like others, I learned my lesson the worst way, having hidden from my parents when I was young, neither my parents nor myself realizing that I had ingested peanut butter in a power bar! I was young and assumptions had proved themselves a bad technique. I had hidden from my parents, being ill for a good 20 minutes continually telling my parents I was fine... Well, soon enough, my parents realized something was seriously wrong as I began to gasp for air, my lungs suddenly tightening. Everything worked out OK and I had immediately learned how important it is to be more aware of what is going on around you. There is no doubt that my story is nothing in comparison to many others you might have had or heard of, however to me, it is the one I will never forget, because it is the one that taught me the most valuable lesson.

I must say, it is unbelievable the number of people who are misinformed about anaphylaxis and asthma or have simply never heard of it. In elementary and high school, I always had people asking me, “What do you eat?”. I had always found this funny because people would assume there were only a couple of things I could eat. Instead I would tell them what I couldn’t eat. Now don’t get me wrong on this idea, because there are several people with numerous allergies and it is not this obvious.

When I look at everything that has happened until now, the funniest thing I recall that had to do with my allergies, was in elementary school. We were a small school of about 90 students of which included pre-kindergarten... I was the only person with this allergy and they decided to make a peanut butter table! The catch was that occasionally, all my friends would end up there since we were only about 10 to a class! Every time I see friends from elementary school, that is one of the first things they bring up and it always makes us laugh!

from Allergy & Asthma News, Issue 1 2007

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