For advice on severe allergies, visit the Anaphylaxis Campaign website or drop us a line / 01252 542029 /@ACOutthere/@Anaphylaxiscoms

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My first few weeks with The Anaphylaxis Campaign: More than just communication experience

Every job teaches you something you didn’t know, whether that’s about the world, about the sector, or about yourself. For instance, working in retail is possibly one of the most underestimated jobs; those people have the patience of saints. Fast food is much less appealing once you’ve worked with it (this has its pros and cons). And, if you’ve ever had a newspaper round you’ll have learnt, more people notice the absence of their newspaper than expected; skipping the middle man between a newspapers' delivery and its recycling is apparently not appreciated. 

However, working with The Anaphylaxis Campaign has taught me lessons I not only didn’t know I didn’t know, but lessons I didn’t know we all should know.

Looking back to before this job I was totally ignorant to what having an allergy is really like and how serious they are. I know so far I’ve only uncovered the tip of an iceberg but I’ve learnt so much already. In fact, working with The Anaphylaxis Campaign has even opened my eyes to both the danger I put people I know with allergies in and the danger I put myself in, having an allergy to raw tomato seeds.

Two particular instances have stuck out and, from what I have learnt here, made me think differently.

The first; the danger I put an old boyfriend in regularly during the time I was with him. He has a severe nut allergy, which I had known about but never took as seriously as I now know I should have. One day my recklessness turned nasty after having eaten nuts and given him a peck on the lips. Despite him explaining my mistake, that the nuts I had eaten left residue in my mouth and saliva and thus gave him a reaction, I continued to make other similar, stupid mistakes that put him at risk. I was ignorant and didn’t know better because the education and awareness about allergies is too limited. Who knew kissing could be a problem?

The second; the danger I put myself in. Since I was young I’ve been intolerant to raw tomato seeds, it took a while to figure out, which I now realise shouldn’t have been the case, but even once I did I was barely any more cautious. I never thought it was a big deal. In fact, I regularly ate things I knew had tomato in. Sometimes I was lucky and there were no seeds, others I wasn’t so lucky.

The worst of these times was during a picnic with a housemate to celebrate the end of our first year at University. I bought a chicken salad sandwich and, as usual, chucked the tomatoes out. I took a bite of the sandwich and decided I suddenly felt too sick to eat and threw it away. We then went for a walk, getting slowly further and further from the house. As we walked the queasiness got worse, and on top of that my lips were beginning to tingle and my throat felt funny, until suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I was having a reaction to the tomato, worse than I had ever had before. Understandably, we panicked. Deciding it was best to get home quickly we ran back to our house – a good fifteen minutes away.

I now realise what I did that day was so stupid. Not only did I put myself at risk by eating a sandwich I knew full well had tomato in but I also did physical exercise after, which could have made my reaction even worse, and I didn’t even consider I might need medical attention because I just didn’t realise it was serious. By some miracle I was okay, but I now know how lucky I really was. I now also recognise my intolerance may not be just an intolerance and am asking my doctor for an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI). I also now feel confident to ask for one, because I know the facts and I know what support I should get. All because of this job.

But the most important lesson here is that the work The Anaphylaxis Campaign is doing is so crucial. There is not enough awareness or information about allergy and this can lead to many naïve mistakes, and sometimes these can be deadly.

However, working with The Anaphylaxis Campaign has not only taught me a great deal about allergy but is a wonderful place to work. I have only just left University, in fact the day I got the job was the same day as my graduation, and to step into a job that not only is relevant to my degree but is filled with people who are really working together and towards helping others is a privilege many students don’t get these days, especially in their first few months out of Uni.

If you want to share your allergy story too – send me an email, we are always looking for guest bloggers.

Thank you