25-year-old Hayley Alexander was on an easyJet flight to Belfast last week when she began feeling the telltale signs of anaphylaxis coming on.
The woman, originally from Northern Ireland who was diagnosed with a peanut allergy four years ago, was accompanied on the flight by her husband and son, who himself was diagnosed with an allergy to eggs.
She picks up her story as told to BelfastLive:
We flew out on Thursday and I stupidly left my handbag on the flight and it had my IDs and EpiPens in it. I was trying to get it back and was passed from pillar to post when I was in England trying to get an EpiPen. Because I was from Northern Ireland, it was a struggle. My chemist had even sent across an email to explain that I needed it.
Thankfully, my sister-in-law was flying out on the Friday to meet us so she was able to go the chemist, collect it for me at home and bring it over with her. On Thursday I wouldn’t eat because I was terrified without it. I did have my son’s, but his aren’t as strong obviously being for a child. I went to the airport on Monday morning to fly home, got my bag and boarded the plane. I explained to easyJet that I had a severe peanut allergy and that my son was allergic to eggs – they made the announcement four or five times. They kept announcing it to remind people of the seriousness.
I noticed my eyes started to become itchy while we were in the air. My husband kept asking me what was wrong and I thought it was maybe hay fever. I took an antihistamine anyway and didn’t think anything of it. Ten minutes later, my airway was going. My face was swelling and my lips were also swelling. It got so bad, I couldn’t breathe.
My two-year-old was sleeping at the time and I am so grateful because it was scary,” she said. “I took one EpiPen and it didn’t have a lot of affect so I had to take a second dose and I was on an oxygen mask. All I could think about was my son sitting right beside me. I couldn’t get that out of my head. Some people do think they’ll just have something with nuts in and it’ll be fine, but it wasn’t fine at all. I am a young mum and this could have been so much worse.
Allergies aren’t just a rash. It is life-threatening. I could have died. Two women came to my aid, they were fantastic and the easyJet staff were also really helpful. One lady had just come back from maternity leave and she was super with my son, keeping him entertained. I can’t thank them enough. When Luca woke, he was scared and was saying ‘mummy mask off, mask off’. He is still talking about it now, obviously two-year-olds do pick these things up. I just want people to take these things seriously, it literally is life threatening.
We applaud Alexander’s diligence in having her epinephrine with her as the outcome could have proven tragic had she been caught on the flight without.
We remind our readers that food allergies are unpredictable in that the severity of one reaction is not predictive of the next; put another way, one day’s mild reaction might present as full-blown anaphylaxis the next time, and anaphylaxis is life-threatening.
There is only one drug capable of halting the progression of anaphylaxis: epinephrine. Always make sure to take two epinephrine auto-injectors along everywhere, every time, and be sure to administer the drug first as soon as you suspect anaphylaxis. Remember: the sooner you administer epinephrine in an anaphylactic reaction, the better the outcome.