Everyone is welcome here! Whether you have allergies, sensitivities, hypersensitivities, or intolerances, this blog is for you. While the primary focus is for allergies, I have all of the above and welcome anyone to my blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What Does Anaphylaxis Feel Like?

Lexii asked me a good question the other day. She asked "What does it feel like to go into Anaphylaxis?" We both know the symptoms of anaphylaxis because I have anaphylactic reactions to a few things. I never thought about it though. Someone who has never experienced before won't know what it feels like. 

So, here is my story of what anaphylaxis feels like. I'll give you two versions. One for turkey/pork and one for peanuts.

Going into Anaphylaxis with Turkey or Pork

If I had to pick a food that I had to eat and go into anaphylaxis, I would pick turkey or pork. It's not a painful as peanuts but it is just as scary.

If I touch turkey or eat pork, I go into anaphylaxis. Here is what it is like.

I can't breathe!
One day I was at my friends house and she made turkey. Her daughter was eating it and accidentally touched me. About 10 minutes later, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I started coughing violently. I could exhale in the form of barking coughs but I feel like I can't inhale. When I do, it sounds like air is screaming into my throat and my lungs feel like they could explode.

I get dizzy
With enough coughing and heaving for air, I start to get dizzy and feel like I could pass out. At this point, I try to sit down so that if I fall I don't hurt myself.

My chest hurts!
It is probably partly from the anaphylaxis closing my airways and partly from coughing and choking so hard... but my chest feels like someone has tried to break my sternum.

I get the sensation of burning and my face swells
After about a minute or two more, I feel like my skin is on fire. It's like someone poured acid on my face! My lips and tongue begin to swell.

I haven't made it past this point with these two. But that is very mild compared to peanuts.

Going into anaphylaxis with peanuts

About a month ago, I was driving home from Kalispell when I stopped at a gas station on the way and grabbed a bag of cashews. My line of thinking was "I am in a hurry! It's cashews. How many ingredients can it possibly have?" One too many is the answer to that. I flipped the bag over and saw "cottonseed oil" and didn't read any further. I missed the part where it said "AND/OR PEANUT OIL" and that was a HUGE mistake on my part.

I didn't feel right. I felt "off".
The first thing I noticed that should have been a red flag, even if a tiny one, was that I didn't feel right. I couldn't place my finger on it. I just didn't feel right.

The abdominal pain starts!
...and by abdominal pain, I mean that what started out as mild discomfort quickly turned into horrible retching pains that made me double over and start crying. I was doing the Lamaze breathing they teach you for childbirth. My gut felt like it was being twisted in two and eaten from the inside.

At first I thought I just had horrible gas or something but I quickly knew that wasn't the case and then...

The diarrhea starts 
Not to gross anyone out, but the next thing after the horrible abdominal pain was the massive urge to poop. I wasn't anywhere near a bathroom place so I told my son that we were stopping at the closest gas station because I REALLY had to go. 

Then the next moment, my bowels decided they weren't waiting and I pooped myself. Right there in the car. I was mortified. I was so embarrassed and I couldn't stop it no matter how hard I tried. So I changed plans and decided to go straight home.

This next part is gross and descriptive, if you are squeamish  you may want to skip it and go to the next part.

Flaming Cacti in my Crotch
As I was driving along and my bowels were trying to eject me from the car with force and pressure I hadn't felt before, I was trying to figure out what to do. I was driving my brother's car and now it stank like someone had poured rancid, viral infested poop in there with us. We drove with the windows down to help with the smell. 

Then I started crying because the crap that was forcing it's way out me was burning like someone had stuck a billion flaming cacti in my crotch and pounded them in with a mallet. It was burning quite intensely but I thought it was just... I don't know... I ate cayenne on something or something to that effect. I really wasn't putting two and two together and just told myself I must be getting a bug of some sort.

Orange Poop, a bowling ball, a grappling hook, and jelly!
When I finally got home, I wrapped myself in a blanket and headed straight to the bathroom! I immediately stripped off my clothes and tried to wash myself up as I sat on the toilet.

Wait... this part isn't any better than the last part. It's going to be gross too.

On that note, I noticed that my poop looked like it had a hint of orange. I thought that was odd but kept cleaning. The whole time my intestines were evacuating every inch of it into the toilet. The second it stopped and I thought I was done, more would come out. 

It got to a point where it felt like I had a bowling ball stuck in lower bowels that was trying to come out. It was like I was giving birth out my butt. I couldn't think of a nicer way to say that. 

I pulled my hamper over in front of me and laid my head on it. I was having trouble breathing from pooping so much and the pain was knocking the wind out of me... so I thought. Hold that thought for a second.

As I was doubled over on my hamper, it felt like an army of tiny small had taken grappling hooks and were now dragging them down every inch of my intestines. I could tell you the path of my intestinal tract now. And then it felt like I had straight, full on, watery diarrhea but it felt... weird. I looked in the bowl and saw a pile of what looked like snot, jelly, and brown mucus. It was sitting there piled in the bottom of the bowl and was still jiggling away like I had crapped out a jelly fish. 

I thought to myself "Did I just poop out my intestinal lining?" Yes. Yes I did.

Oh the pain! Oh the rash! Oh the... crap, this is an allergy!
So, I am in pain, my crotch is on fire, and I noticed I had a rash starting on my legs. My skin felt hot too. I managed to get off the toilet long enough to grab Benadryl and had to go right back. I figured the Benadryl would kick in and I would be fine. No.

Sometime between this and sitting on the toilet again, I double checked the ingredients. It was PEANUT OIL! I felt like a dolt.

As I went to wipe myself, it felt like I had taken sandpaper and razor blades and wiped myself. The intense pain of just touching my nether regions made me wince. I inhaled deeply trying to handle the pain like a big girl. 

When I inhaled, I am sure some ninja ran in and shoved habanero peppers in my nostrils. So I opened my mouth to try some mouth breathing instead... nope... habanero burn there too. My eyes even watered from the pain of the burning.

In fact, I wasn't crying, but my eyes had turned on the faucets and Niagara Falls was pouring down my face. I managed to gently dab myself clean but even doing that felt unbearable. I eventually broke down and cried on my hamper top.

When Benadryl Doesn't Work
After a half hour of waiting for the Benadryl to kick in, I felt like I was dying. Not the melodramatic "Oh. my. God! I felt like I was dying!" No, I mean, "Honest to God, I am sure I am dying right now, PLEASE take me to the ER!"

My friend drove me to the ER and I was taken back immediately. I was surprised actually. They aren't the greatest ER sometimes. I was expecting a wait or something. But i didn't even get signed in all the way and the nurse was out there taking me back.

You say "I am allergic to peanuts and I ate peanut oil but didn't realize it" and they kick into high gear!

Sometimes, the doctor explained, oral Benadryl doesn't work (especially if you don't do something fast enough... I let it go too long before I realized what was happening.) It will work 99% of the time. But the injection of Benadryl works 100% of the time. So I got that and Ranitidine (zantac) injected in my IV and they ran a bag of fluids through me to help with the pain the next day.

Oh, and that feeling of having the wind knocked out of me and gasping for air from the pain... that was the anaphylaxis, not the pain. I am so used to choking, coughing, gasping, wheezing, and getting ready to pass out that I didn't realize I was having trouble breathing... I wasn't just having gasping from pain.

I was sent home under constant observation of my friend (or they would have admitted me if no one could watch me) for the next 24 hours, along with Benadryl and Zantac.

The Next Day... Oh, my aching body.
I am glad they gave me the fluids because when I woke up the next day, I could hardly move from the pain. Not just my aching anus from the fiery feces the day before, my WHOLE body HURT! Every inch of my muscles felt like I had been jumped by a gang of ninjas and beaten to near death. It felt like I had done a million sit ups, pull ups, push ups, and sprinted to the next town over and back. I was miserable.

My follow up appointment was that day. My doctor, after a little lecture, gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers. That helped a lot and I finally made it through all the pain and agony.

I learned a few things from this experience.

ALWAYS read the ingredients! No matter how much of a rush you are in, READ. THE. INGREDIENTS. Not just a quick scan, either. Read every last word in the ingredients list. Just because it's cashews and has 3 ingredients doesn't mean you can skim and go.

If you are in that much pain and your poop feels like fire, go to the emergency room and get some help!

Don't wait it out until your intestinal lining is swimming in your toilet. TAKE A BENADRYL IMMEDIATELY!

Understand this! Anaphylaxis can be delayed! It doesn't always happen within minutes. Mine took over a half hour to hit me. One allergist I had told me there is no such thing. BULL! There is such a thing! And I experienced it that day.

Always have your epipen handy. While I didn't use mine because I wasn't putting it all together that I was in anaphylaxis, I now know the other, ugly, scary side of anaphylaxis. If I start having a reaction like that, I will have my epipen ready!

Listen to yourself. I have an issue with this and second guess myself often. Don't do that. You know your own body. You know when something is wrong. Trust your gut, even when it's pushing a pile of poop into your pants. Don't ignore the little red flags and brush them off as the flu, a stomach bug, or something that must be going around.


  1. GOOD ARTICLE!!!! What annoys the crap (excuse the pun) out of me is that some fillers in medications have my allergens in them. For example I was recently prescribed a medication THAT I MUST HAVE TO LIVE which has lactose in it. HELLO MILK ALLERGY can NOT tolerate any ingredient in milk whatsoever. Allergic to mushrooms any mold and pork and all plants (but not the fruit they bear) ALLERGIC TO THE PLANET IS RIGHT!!!

    What REALLY annoyed me is the pharmacist says "it's only a little lactose it typically does not affect people with such allergies". I was offended because IT DID AFFECT ME and IMO she was invalidating me and that just frankly pissed me off! What say you to this D?. Also online pharmacies have places to update your info and allergies but NO PLACE TO LIST FOOD ALLERGIES!!! ARGH!

    1. That annoys the hell out of me too! I had a medication that contained a corn derivative. And like you said, the pharmacist totally invalidated my concerns. I did react to the medicine! I have learned that we need to stand up for our allergies because no one else will. When they say "Oh it's just a little" I say "Well, a little anaphylaxis can kill me" and stand my ground.