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Hello, anaphylaxis

I was sitting on the couch Saturday night, not doing much at all, when I noticed I had a fat lip. I didn’t remember bumping it, or biting down on it, but I’m not very physically sensitive, so I didn’t pay much attention. It wasn’t a fat lip, though. It grew steadily over the next few hours until my entire lower lip, and then my entire upper lip, swelled up to around three times their normal size.

Nothing else was wrong, and they didn’t hurt, and I could breathe ok. Still, it was unsettling, and more than a little curious, so we narrowed down the cause in no time. We’d eaten with a few friends at a new sushi restaurant, and I’d had a favorite of mine, uni, and an oyster chowder.

I also knew that my grandfather had developed a pretty serious allergy to shellfish as an adult, to the point where even the faintest smell or touch could start his skin swelling, and eating it would send him into anaphylactic shock and swell his throat until it was closed tight. Even after he knew this and learned to avoid it, every now and then a surprise encounter would earn him an ambulance ride to the hospital. He eventually carried an EpiPen with him all the time, just in case.

Food allergies can be inherited as well as created, and anaphylactic allergies are strongly hereditary. I’d eaten uni and oysters plenty before, but it’s anaphylactic symptoms often first appear as an adult, and they develop suddenly and play for keeps. You get a single warning, and the next time, your throat may close up entirely, or your blood pressure drops by 30% within minutes. No joke.

I got the message. I’m not touching shellfish again until I get a blood panel and an EpiPen. I love my uni, but if I have to choose, I’ll go with breathing any day of the week.

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14 thoughts on “Hello, anaphylaxis

  1. Dude, I’ve had the same thing happen in the last few years. Still have no idea what caused it though, so I just have to keep an epi around until it happens again.

  2. Your pictures look a lot like mine after eating a take away sushi dinner few months ago. I got tingly sensation and my lips got swollen from the inside. As I have eaten sushi before and even from the same restaurant, I kept testing the reactions few times with similar sets of sushi. First I got similar tingly sensation, but when I changed their soy sauce to one I have at home, the feeling went away. Yesterday I ate a set of sushi with the soy sauce we have at home and no swelling. No idea if it is the ingredients of the soy sayce or the packaging – this one was a 15 ml bag of Ichibiki wheat free soy sauce.

  3. What did you take or do to get the swelling down and how long did it take?

  4. i just waited, it was mostly down within a couple hours. i got a couple epipens and a round of allergy tests afterward, but they didn’t find anything, and i’ve had lots of shellfish and sushi and uni specifically since without any problem. our best guess is that i had an unusual reaction to an unusual preservative, or something similar.

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