Ali Martell: From Hemlines to Heels


Anaphylaxis Happens: Why I Always Carry an EpiPen

I am also always prepared, just in case

I always carry an epipen, just in case

“Can I eat at Baskin Robbins?” I ask my trusted group of allergy experts. They are moms, dads, teens, siblings, friends, and relatives. They all know; they are all connected to someone who has a severe life-threatening nut allergy. They have been where I am, and they answer my questions when I need help. They know that it can be confusing. What does "may contain traces" mean? What does "produced in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts" mean? What do I do at restaurants? How do I travel to foreign countries?

“No. Your days of walking into a store and ordering an ice cream cone are sadly over. There is way too much risk."

I sat in the allergist's office less than a year ago. I was 34 years old. I had experienced some throat swelling, some all-over itchiness, some lip tingling, some digestive upset. I assumed—how silly of me—that it was a fluke. I assumed that the allergist would ask some questions, would do some testing, would look at me like I was a little bit crazy, and would send me on my merry way. 

Instead, I walked out of my appointment in a bit of a haze. I had answered at least a thousand questions. I had asked at least a thousand of my own.

I had pages upon pages of literature about my newly-minted tree nut and peanut allergy. I had a brand-new EpiPen (an epinephrine auto-injector), complete with video instructions of what should happen in case of anaphylaxis. I had a list of nuts to avoid—almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts. I had a list of fruit to avoid—apples, cherries, peaches, pears. I had a list of animals to avoid—cats…and my dog. 

I had an arm full of itchy-as-heck welts.

I am now a statistic.


I will never eat pecan pie again.

And I will never not worry about possible allergic reactions. 

"THIS SALAD HAS NUTS IN IT," My sister-in-law shouted at me as she watched me spoon the cole slaw into my mouth. It was Father's Day, and I was enjoying my dinner. I had made sure to ask beforehand, I always do. But something got missed; a family member didn't get told. 

And then I began to feel it. Lip tingling, throat closing and swelling, sweats, chills, stomach ache, itching, panic. 

That's the thing about relying on others. It can be unpredictable.

And that's the thing about anaphylaxis. It sure can be unpredictable too. 

And this is why I always have my EpiPen on me. 

I can ask as many questions as possible. Hundreds, thousands even. And I do. 

I can avoid all the places I know are too risky. Bakeries, ice cream parlors, coffee shops. And I do. 

I can read labels to make sure the products are allergen-free. And I do. 

I can call ahead to restaurants to make sure that special measures are taken for me. And I do. And usually restaurants are very accommodating. 

I can do all of these things and then some to assure my own safety and peace of mind.

But things happen.

And I can still find myself at your family BBQ gasping for air, and scared to death. 

So I am prepared to make sure that anaphylaxis doesn't happen—but I am also prepared for the times when it does happen. I know how to use my EpiPen. I check the expiration date to make sure that it hasn't expired. I have taught my entire family how to use it, including my youngest daughter. I have four EpiPen Auto-Injectors, and know where all four are at all times—in my purse and on my person. Always. 

I work hard to always ask my allergy experts any questions I may have. But I am also always prepared, just in case. 

Severe allergies are on the rise in Canada.
We teamed up with EpiPen so you can arm yourself with information and be prepared if a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs.
You can find out more about life-threatening allergies and read stories from other parents on our A Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Kids with Severe Allergies page.