My Allergy Adventure [Alternate Title: The Day They Had to EpiPen Me. Twice.]

Yesterday was one of those days.

I had to be at the allergist's office at 9 a.m. for my "penicillin challenge" - which really does sound like some sort of Hunger Games type challenge when you think about it.

Here's the back story: Back in January when I had the plague (OK, it was strep throat but it felt like the Plague), my doctor prescribed an antibiotic for me that she thought would 'work' and not cause me any additional issues. [I have a low tolerance for antibiotics and we were running low on options]. I took the antibiotic (clindamycin) for the full 10 days and then I broke out into hives as soon as I stopped taking it.

My doctor decided I needed to see an allergist to determine why I was allergic to that medicine and what we could do about it.

The allergist said the only antibiotic they can test as an allergen is penicillin (which I hadn't taken in six years because the last time I took that I broke out into hives).

Which bring us to the "challenge" yesterday.

The test started out with a skin test - which was fine. I had no reaction. Then they started shooting penicillin into my arms every 10 minutes. The doses were something like: 1/100,000; 1/10,000; 1/1,00; 1/100, 1/10; and then full strength. After the injections I was going to have to take a couple of doses of amoxocillin by mouth.

The doses were going OK until we hit the 1/10 and full dose. Within a minute or two of the full strength dose I noticed a few things going wrong. My head was immediately stuffy, I was congested, my tongue was tingling, and my lungs were tight.

None of these things seemed OK to me, so I told the nurse who told the allergy doctor. He sent me off to do a breathing test. I passed that but was still feeling "off" so they decided to "observe" me for a bit. Sitting there knowing I was having a reaction to the penicillin was rather nerve racking...the worst part was knowing that my breathing was not OK.

After about 30 minutes the allergy doc came back, looked at my arms (which now had red welts at the injection sites) and said "I'm not comfortable continuing this test. You're having a full reaction and you're officially allergic to penicillin."

Oh, and we're going to have to EpiPen you.

Well that's just dandy. 

And sure enough, the nurse comes in and shoots me with epinephrine (via syringes) in both arms. If you have never experienced being EpiPen'd let me tell you it is very unpleasant. Almost immediately I was jittery and shaking and it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. To say it was awful would be an understatement. I also had to take a Zyrtec just for good measure.

And then I sat there, shaking and jittery, for 45 minutes while they continued to "observe" me. Then the doctor comes in and says I surprised him by "failing" the challenge. (Oh goody). And then he gives me a list of all the antibiotics I must avoid, including penicillin (in all I can't take five different "families" of antibiotics in addition to Celebrex).

He also tells me I need to wear a medical alert bracelet at all times (I think I'll just wear it when I'm out and about). And then he gives me a prescription for steroids to help put a stop to the reaction.

The rest of the day was a train wreck. I felt like total crap (and oh yeah, driving after you've been double EpiPen'd is NOT recommended). After the epi wore off I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I couldn't concentrate, I just wanted to sleep.

Oh and I was also itchy all over because I was still having a reaction (once the epi wore off). I ended up taking two prednisone and sleeping for two hours.

Yay for allergy challenges.

As unpleasant as the challenge was, it's good to know that I really am allergic. And thankfully (??) there are still three types of antibiotics I can take if when I get sick again.

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