Thursday, February 19, 2015

Peanut-Tainted Cumin Made Me Sick! Hungry Boyfriend Saved My Life!

I finally figured out what happened after my boss called me today in hysterics.

"Denise!  Don't eat any cumin!  I heard on the radio it all contains peanuts!"

I thanked her.  I told her that I appreciated her letting me know.  I told her I was avoiding cumin.  After we hung up, I experienced a Eureka moment of insight:  I hadn't been vigilant about cumin avoidance last night, and that was the likely reason for today's violent eczema flare up.

It all started last night with a late night visit to the local taco truck with my boyfriend.  I ordered a chicken burrito, my boyfriend ordered tacos.  I was responsible about my peanut allergy when ordering my food, I asked the cashier and the cooks if they used peanuts 'en Espanol.'  They said they didn't, so I thought I would be safe.  But you know what?  I didn't ask about cumin.  And Mexican food uses cumin.

What's so bad about cumin?  The FDA discovered peanut proteins in cumin and products containing cumin and issued a massive, massive recall.

People with severe peanut allergies are being advised to avoid all cumin.

I started asking the cumin question about food I could eat last week, but I failed miserably to remember to ask it last night.

It is completely exhausting to remain perfectly on guard and vigilant about everything I eat.  I get hungry.  Food looks good, and smells great.  Blood sugar gets low and my brain shuts down.  And then I have the lapse in judgement.

Unbelievably, despite the fact that I have been hospitalized over 30 times for severe food allergies and asthma, I get complacent.  I'm around other people and I forget that I have this invisible disability, and I forget how some food can make me very sick.

Back to the story, my boyfriend and I take our entrees home and I sit down in the living room and he goes into the kitchen to put his tacos on plates.  While he's putting hot sauce on them, he turns and the plate of open face tacos flips off the counter on to the floor.  Not the kind of floor you could eat food off of.  His dinner was ruined.  Poor guy!  He was so bummed out.

I told him that I was really sorry that happened, and then, being the awesome girlfriend I am, I told him he could eat half my burrito.  He said okay, and then made something with melted cheese and then he sat down next to me.  We cut the burrito in half and he got the slightly larger half.  And this is how he accidentally saved my life.  I probably would have gone into anaphylactic shock had I eaten the whole thing.  It was a yummy burrito.

About 5 minutes after eating my half-burrito my stomach starts to hurt really bad.  It hurt with this very specific kind of pain.  It's very alarming because I only get it when I eat food I'm allergic to.  It's different than the other kinds of stomach pain like heartburn.  It's hard to describe, but it's like I can feel the food I have eaten disrupting my molecular structure.

I have this helpful app on my phone called "Why Risk It"  It has a helpful list of all the symptoms of anaphylaxis.  Stomach pain is one of them.  I was on edge, I knew it could be the start of a reaction.  I waited to see if other objective physical symptoms occurred.  I was waiting for my asthma to kick in, my face to swell up, hives to start appearing on my body.  45 minutes went by and none of that happened.  I was in the clear?  I took a couple Benadryl and then went to sleep with my Epipens easily accessible inches away.

At 4:45 I woke up and my hands were on fire. Warning: the next part is gross so you might want to skip this paragraph.  The skin on the top of my hand was oozing clear liquid and I could see the layers of my skin trying to separate.  My skin became pale and red.  An angry inflamed rash appeared.  Accompanied by searing pain.  Tiny little cuts started bleeding along the entire rash on the top my left hand.  The pain started to become really itchy, like I had hundreds of mosquito bites.  Blood started replacing the clear liquid.  The skin on my hands was literally burning from the inside.
The eruption of this violent rash is what is known as an eczema flare, when my immune system turns on me.  This is what happens sometimes when I unwittingly eat a tiny, tiny amount of something I am allergic to and I do not go into anaphylactic shock.

I'm doing sort of better than this morning. I was a trooper and went to work.  I still have itchy patches on my scalp, forehead, neck, and under my ears.  My hands are doing better.  I treated them with steroid cream. One of the side effects is thinning of the skin, and my hands look like they are 90 years old.  I have grandma hands.  But the rash and the bleeding have gone way down, and it only hurts a little to move them to type.  I am able to accept the pain and continue on with life.  I am grateful.  Not everybody can do that.

My stomach and abdomen still hurt.  My body feels sick from all this inflammation.

And I'm mad at myself for letting this happen.  And I'm also mad at food because it turned on me.  I ate an apple for lunch, oranges and toast for breakfast.  Haven't had any dinner.  I'm fed up with having a body that requires me to eat. I'm upset with my body for being so broken.  Why should I eat food if it makes me sick like this?  These are temporary issues.  All of this stuff will pass.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you pass along the information about the cumin contamination recall to everyone you know affected by peanut allergies.

For the next few months: warn everyone you know affected by peanut allergies to be very careful eating in restaurants that use cumin as a spice!  I learned that the hard way.

And I am very grateful that my sweet boyfriend ate half that burrito. He saved me!  Even though I am in pain and miserable today, it could have been a lot worse.

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