I read an article the other day about the timeline of ‘the peanut allergy’. It said that in the 1980s people didn’t talk about it. They were considered rare and the media had no interest in them. In the 1990s, medical journals finally started the conversation when they realized how serious they were, and by the mid-1990s, newspapers began publishing articles with headlines such as, “Nut Allergy Girl’s Terror; Girl Almost Dies from Peanut Allergy.”
This seems strange to me- living a life where peanut allergies aren’t talked about. For all I know, that article could have been about me. In the mid-90s, I had my first anaphylactic attack.
In 2013, medical journals began calling peanut allergies an ‘epidemic’. More and more people became aware of what it was, media coverage increased, and people started diagnosing themselves. Although it’s not clear if more people have an allergy now then before, the conversation had changed.
At the same time, I had already been living and dealing with my allergy for nearly 20 years. That’s no small feat, 20 years and only one attack. For that, I have my mother to thank. She instilled in my brain 4 easy steps to preventing an attack:
- Read the label. Read the label. Read the label. Even if you think you know the answer, it doesn’t matter, read the label. In Canada, it’s mandatory for all products to have an ingredients list. More importantly, it’s mandatory to have an allergy warning on it. If there are peanuts or tree nuts in a product it will say on the ingredients list in bold letters- you can’t miss it.
- If you don’t know, ask. If they don’t know, then don’t risk it. Sure it would be nice to have a taste of the delicious looking dessert, but if you aren’t certain then it’s just not worth it.
- As a follow-up to number two, bring your own food. Growing up, my mom would always bring a dessert to parties and family gatherings. Peanuts and nuts are most commonly used in baking. As someone with a major sweet tooth, I’m always looking for a little something after my meal, and what’s a party without cake? So my mom would make something herself to ensure there would be at least one thing I could eat.
- Keep your hands away from your mouth, and wash them frequently. Now I’ll admit, this is the tip I had the hardest time with. I’d forget and find myself resting my head in my hands during class or something. A peanut allergy isn’t about the actual nut, it’s the oil from the nut that causes the reaction (fun fact for you there). Since you can’t see oil residue easily, you never quite know if someone who touched the doorknob before you grabbed it while eating a peanut granola bar. So throw some hand sanitizer in your bag.