Self Defense: The ultimate weapon vs food allergies (Guest blog from Ari Savitsky)

Self Defense: The ultimate weapon vs food allergies

As a lifelong allergy sufferer it seems like I’ve been carrying an epipen around since I was two years old. As a college student I realize I’ve been quite fortunate in that throughout all my lower school years I never had a serious reaction. Not that there wasn’t my share of very close calls, like the care package that my uncle sent to camp which accidentally contained all the wrong items. But in terms of the trauma of a full blown reaction, I’ve been thankfully spared.

The reason for that success is of course some element of luck, but it is also due to the vigilant oversight of my parents and the way in which they would make sure I was in a safe environment. Sending in proper snacks, letting our friends know in advance of my allergy and meeting with my teachers  to be sure they knew were just some of the ways they tried to make sure I was protected. It wasn’t until this year though that I realized the greatest weapon they gave me in my daily defense against a serious reaction was ,in fact, myself.

I was spending a gap year abroad and as I said before, I always had an epipen on me ever since I was two. I felt safe but somehow I was coming up short and kept having allergy issues.  Three or four times during that first month I had some type of reaction. That feeling of a tight throat, itchy skin and/or puffy eyes created a real sense of uncertainty for me that I would be able to navigate this properly. I had done everything right , I thought. At the pizza store, after asking the required questions, I started to eat only to feel that tightness in my throat which made me know something was wrong.  At the sushi restaurant with my friends , I asked about my allergy and when they weren’t sure about the knives they used, I wisely ordered a sprite. Yet somehow, I was still having a reaction, even though I was never an “airborne” allergy person. So after seeing a few doctors we realized that the issue was cross contamination. It wasn’t the pizza but rather the tray I touched and then rubbed my eyes with. At the sushi place, it was the table that I touched and then put to my skin that caused my trouble not the air itself. With that knowledge I was now able to reassess my environment and have a great year going forward, although it did require some extra effort.

Going through all this made me realize that aside from years of protecting me, it was the way my parents educated and encouraged me that me self sufficient. It was the way they would tell me that a certain food was good or bad and then show me the keywords to look for so that I could be prepared in case of a mistake. It was the way they encouraged me to ask any waiter, teacher or parent if a particular item was ok just so I learnt how to advocate for myself and feel confident in doing so without fear or shame of being looked at. It was the time they didn’t get mad when I accidentally injected myself in my finger with the epipen at a young age because they knew I was just making  sure I could take care of myself if need be. In the end it will be what you teach your kids to do for themselves that will stay with them and protect them long after they’ve left home.

If you’re on this site, you’re already on the right track. Keep at it and best of luck !!


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