Food Allergies And Asthma in Paradise

I am on a long anticipated vacation to Hawaii. Beaches are my Happy Place. The only problem is that islands have lots of….wait for it…seafood. At almost every restaurant.

I am sporting my “seafood allergy” bracelet and I have my 2 pack of epinephrine auto injectors in my bag, but I’m worried.

I don’t trust anyone.

We just spent half an hour walking around a quaint little seaside town looking for a place to eat. A grilled chicken place – that sounds safe, right? You can smell them smoking their chicken on an outdoor grill from a block away. It smells heavenly. But they also serve seafood.

Well, Mexican food is usually safe for me. Beans, rice, a little chips and salsa and I’m good. But this place also has shrimp and other seafood tacos. Hmm.

After looking at several options, we decide to try the Mexican restaurant. I tell the cashier that I am allergic to seafood and show her my Epi Pen and seafood alert bracelet. She remarks that it must be scary.

I assure her it is.

My life is in the hands of her kitchen staff. The two line chefs walk over to the counter to see what we’re ordering since her ipad is having problems. I tell them we are ordering carne asada street tacos but that I am allergic to seafood – and can they please be careful and use a separate area of the grill and separate utensils?

They look at me with a not – so friendly – expression and walk off. I’m sure they are muttering under their breathe something like “Stupid annoying tourists! Go back to where you came from!”

Nice.

This is my life.

The problem with allergies and asthma is that our bodies over-react to normal things that don’t bother other people. I’m one of the 65% of adults who have asthma AND allergies.

Some people with asthma have allergies to environmental triggers (grass, trees, flowers, cats, dogs, mold, etc). Some people with asthma have food allergies. Some have both. Lucky us.

Seafood makes my body go into overdrive and start a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis can happen 5 – 30 minutes from exposure. It’s a life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause hives, swollen throat or tongue, weak pulse, dizziness or fainting, nausea, diarrhea and cardiac arrest.  Oh yeah, and death.  Death is a big reaction.

So I’m the Annoying Tourist that has to make special food requests. It’s not like I’m a Diva and expect special treatment. It’s that I have a life threatening food allergy. And I need to protect myself.

We fly back home tomorrow, and I need to call the airlines and make sure they don’t serve seafood on the plane. In all my years of flying, I have never seen them serve seafood on a flight. But last week, I watched a news story about a woman who had anaphylaxis on a flight home from Hawaii. They had served seafood on her flight. However, she had left her Epi Pens in her checked bag (instead of her carry on). That can be a deadly mistake. Luckily, there was a doctor on board who used the airline’s epinephrine auto injectors and took care of her until they could land.

Seafood protein can be airborne when cooked, which means if I am nearby when someone is cooking/eating seafood, I can have anaphylaxis.

I’m going to enjoy the rest of my time here, because the beaches are my Happy Place and I’m on vacation!

But, I’ll take a few precautions here and there, just to protect myself.

Anyone else have fun trying to avoid seafood?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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