Friday, August 14, 2009

In Which I Learn The Hard Way

I had a bit of a harrowing experience on Wednesday.

I was sitting at my desk, working, an hour after coming back from my lunch break, when I felt a little tickle in my throat. Like I had something caught in it. I coughed to try to loosen it up, but it wouldn't go away. I tried drinking some water to see if that would help, but it didn't. Over the span of the next few minutes, the coughing became worse, uncontrollable.

I realized then that my throat was starting to feel tight, and that I couldn't take a full breath. I was talking with Aunt Becky online at the time, so I typed to her:
I think I'm having an allergic reaction.
She urged me to call 911, but I didn't think it was urgent enough for that. It was clear that something was happening, but I wanted to see if we had any Benadryl. Trying to keep myself calm despite not being able to breathe normally, I rummaged around in our medicine cabinet.

Nothing.

The Boss was at work, but I called her anyways. I explained the situation as best I could, trying to breathe evenly. I was only able to take short, half-breaths at this point. The tightness in my throat was worsening, and I was still coughing heavily.

I was starting to feel a little light-headed, and I knew that I had to do something, and soon. It would take about 20 minutes for The Boss to leave work, pick up the Benadryl and get home; I knew I wouldn't make it that long. I could call 911 like Becky advised, but even in as bad a shape as I was then, I was stubborn, and refused.

There is a Rite-Aid pharmacy less than an 1/8th of a mile up the road, but walking there was out of the question. Just walking across my apartment made me short of breath. I'd have to drive.

I grabbed my keys and made my way slowly down to my truck. I tried to force myself to breathe through my nose to try to keep things under control. I could feel the panic starting to edge its way in. Still feeling light-headed, I cautiously pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards the pharmacy.

I was wheezing by the time I got there, about a minute later.

I stumbled inside and grabbed a bottle of water from the coolers in the back. I shuffled over to the aisle where the Benadryl was, grabbed a package and ripped it open. I popped a pill out through the foil backing and gulped it down, right there in the middle of the store, not having paid for anything yet.

There happened to be a store associate in the aisle next to me. He looked up at me with wide eyes, shocked.

"Are you okay?"

I pulled the water bottle from my lips and gasped, "I should be okay now," gesturing with the open box of Benadryl.

He followed me to the registers up front, the wide-eyed expression never leaving his face. I paid quickly and left, leaving a frightened-looking cashier behind me. I imagine they talked about me for a few minutes after I was gone, wondering what was wrong with me.

When I got home a few minutes later, the wheezing and coughing were fading. My throat was still tight, but I felt like I was starting to be able to catch my breath. I took another pill just to be safe. Within 15 minutes time, I was mostly back to normal. Within 30 minutes of that second dose, I was drowsy, the unfortunate but welcome sign that the Benadryl was working.

I've thought long and hard about it since this happened on Wednesday, but I have no idea what could have caused the allergic reaction. Until this happened, I had never had an allergic reaction before, to anything, in my life. It had been an hour since I had eaten anything, so I know it wasn't likely a food allergy (and I hadn't eaten anything outside of the normal, anyways). It's possible that I was bitten or stung by a spider or something, but I didn't feel anything, nor do I have any bite or sting marks.

To say the very least, it was a frightening experience. It scared the piss out of both The Boss and Aunt Becky, not to mention myself. For the record, I would have called 911 if I had thought it was bad enough. I'm stubborn, yes, but not stupid.

Take this story as a public service announcement of sorts, to always have Benadryl or some type of antihistamine in your home. You never know when you'll need it.

41 Comments:

JennyMac said...

ugh....so glad you are ok. Because the onset was so quick, and the cause unknown, I am glad this did not turn out much worse.

When on vacation, one of my friends had an instant and horrible allergic reaction to something unknown. Guess what? Benadryl to the rescue then too. It terrified her as well and we were on a fairly unadvanced island.

Side note on benadryl, we also used to give our boxer dog the baby version during the horrid season of pollen here. Worked beautifully on her too.

Have a allergy free weekend, please!

Melissa said...

Damn, if it wasnt something you ate then I would imagine you got bit by a spider and didnt know it.

FYI - The liquid works faster. :P

~Jennifer~ said...

Wow, glad you're ok.

I'm allergic to something. We don't know what. I was covered in hives at 10. At 17 the hives returned and my throat started swelling shut.

I'm 29 and sit everyday waiting for it to happen again. Don't have any clue what causes it. I have an epi pen. Just checked it and the prescription was filled in 1996. I should probably get a new one.

You may have just saved my life.

dsmcaron said...

HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?

I didn't even need to grab my mom hat, it floated over to my head and settled down.

1. Call 911, stubborn=stupid (sorry)
2. I was told that this sort of allergic reaction gets worse, so the next time it happens, your throat may close even more quickly
3. get yerself to an allergist asap and find out what you are so allergic to.

I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on tv. But I have an allergy to morphine that closes my throat like that and they said even the second time it happens it could kill quickly. Badass, what will my blog do without you? Go! Do as I tell you.

Report back with date of allergy doctor appointment. I can't believe I'm being so bossy, but I am so freaking serious.

Jaime | Fast Times said...

That's pretty darn scary.

The Peach Tart said...

I've had this experience before and did call 911. Glad you are better but it would probably be a good idea to visit an allergist for some testing.

Mrs Soup said...

Man, so glad you are okay. But seriously, that is scary. And listen to your Aunt Becky. She is smart. *nods*

Samsmama said...

The worst part of it all is not knowing what caused.

That Benadryl is some powerful stuff! I always have it around. I had to take it through my entire pregnancy and am fortunate that it doesn't make me tired.

Next time, 911!

mysterg said...

If it wasn't an allegic reaction or a bite, then what have you done to piss off Darth Vader?

Glad you're ok. Next time call 911 to be on the safe side.

Aunt Becky said...

Dude. My heart is still racing. I would have called 911. I nearly called it FOR you. Too bad I have NO IDEA where you live.

Natalie said...

I'm allergic to eggs and if I eat something with eggs in it and don't realize...it can take anywhere from 1 minute to an hour for me to start breaking out in hives and some of the worst stomach pains ever. It depends on how much egg was in the food.

I've accidentally had a large enough unknown dose of eggs where I blacked out from pain. I should have gone to the hospital, but like you I was stubborn and just popped some benedryl.

You also might be wondering how does someone accidentally eat someone with eggs in it. When I asked someone "hey does this have eggs in it?" and that mother bleeper told me no because she thought I was lying about the egg allergy.

OK I think my comment is long enough now.

for the love of pictures said...

Wow! So glad that you are okay. Allergic reactions are no joke. We always keep some Benadryl in the house - though my family has a history of sensitive skin/allergic reaction/allergy issues.

Next time, choose the better safe than sorry course and call 911 right away :)

Kristina said...

Good for you for keeping your cool! I probably would have ran around in circles panicking until curled into a ball and died. Glad you're okay!

Aunt Juicebox said...

I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of allergy testing, because I have a niece who is allergic to peanuts, and I babysit her on a regular basis. I keep peanuts out of my house, anything with peanut butter is kept on a high shelf (my daughter is a veg, gotta keep it for her) but we also have quick dissolving benadryl as well as her epipen. It's better to be safe than sorry, Badass. My FIL is allergic to shellfish, but only since he became an adult. So you could have developed something and not know it. Look for the liquid kind or the kind for kids that dissolves. What if you couldn't have swallowed the pill? It's a scary thing. I'm glad you're all right.

Moonspun said...

Um, yeah stubborn...not stupid? you just go on thinking that...
At least you knew enough that you didn't have much time. But seriously dude...find out what's wrong and call 911 next time.
Glad, though, you are ok!

LucyCooper said...

I had this happen to me this summer with strawberries. Never in 37 years have they bothered me. One night I ate a whole quart of beautiful organic strawberries, and 30 minutes later I felt like a junkie with no smack- itchy, panicky, irrational, and like my throat had been eaten up with fire ants. Thank god we had some liquid Benadryl for my son ( liquid IS better) Scary! Now go get allergy tested. The world needs all the badass geeks we can get....

Mwa said...

Very scary. Better keep some of that stuff on you. And I would also say go see a doctor. But then I know I wouldn't, so hey I hope it doesn't come back.

Kathy Garmus said...

Scary stuff, and proof that allergies can strike at any time. I'm glad you're OK.

Rebecca Knight said...

EEK! I'm so glad you're okay!

I had this happen about 2 months ago at work and it was awful. I apparently developed a shellfish allergy (which can happen to folks in their 20's without warning), and had just had sushi AND a shrimp bowl. Same thing--throat swelling shut, utter confusion, refusal to call 911, taking life-saving benadryl.

Definitely think back on what you ate that's one of the top 7 food allergins--it's really random, but allergies can develop whenever.

Also, sometimes testing can't determine what's up for about 4 weeks if you've had a really bad reaction, so keep that in mind if you're going to have the doc check you out. Good luck!

Inna said...

Geez Badass!!! That sux! I'm glad your feeling better. And I'm with all the other commenters, I'm not sure you should have been driving in that condition. I guess maybe stock up on liquid benadryl just to be safe.

Lola said...

Jesus, man!!! Get yourself to an allergist STAT, and always, always have the Benadryl on you. I've got it in my purse, car and tons in the house.

If your throat started closing, though, you need an epi pen. Don't be dumb like that again!

lovelila said...

OMG! That is super scary!!! I'm glad you were able to calm the reaction, but still... good grief.

Sandy said...

Just my opinion but I think that was bad enough to call 911. I think you were very lucky. I'm glad you're okay and did have the presence of mind to get the Benadryl. And I agree you need to see an allergist and be prepared for that happening again.

My mother is asthmatic and she called me in the midst of an attack years ago rather than dialing 911. It was the strangest thing because she didn't say a word (couldn't) but somehow I knew it was her and what was wrong. I was at work and put her on hold and called 911 (in another town) and stayed on the line with her until I heard the EMTs with her. One of the scariest moments of my life but keeping a cool head (like you did) made all the difference.

Take care of yourself.

TechnoBabe said...

You were very fortunate to be able to drive yourself to a pharmacy and get the Benadryl into your system before you were in worse shape. I am guessing you have plenty on hand now in case....

Maggie May said...

See an allergist!

Aunt Juicebox said...

You are loved. I know you've had your fill of doctors. Think about your wife, if not us, and try to fit in a drs appt.

Chris Mancini said...

I would like to combine two popular theories: Maybe you ate a spider and it bit you on the way down.

Badass Geek said...

To All: I realize now how dire the situation was, and should I encounter it again, I assure you that I will dial 911 for help. It's always easier to know in hindsight what we should have done better, and yes perhaps 911 would have been the safer option, but I never would have done what I did if I had felt like I wasn't in control of the situation. Not once did I feel like I was not in control of myself.

I do plan on having myself tested for allergies, just as soon as my doctor can fit me in. Until then, I'll keep plenty of Benadryl on hand (I can't do liquid medicine, it makes me sick) just in case.

I appreciate all of your concern, truly I do. It is comforting to know that I have so many awesome people to kick me in the ass when I do stupid shit like this.

Debbie said...

I can imagine how scary that would be!! And I agree and need to take the advice..with kids in the house... one should be prepared! and so, I will head to the CVS and make sure we are ready JUST IN CASE!! glad you are OK!!

Kim said...

I'm glad you are okay! That had be pretty scary, I haven't ever had an allergic reaction and thankfully all Mini-Geek has ever had is a reaction to amoxicillin, which was a very nasty rash.

You probably should call your doctor though, allergies worsen over time and since you have no clue what it is the next time could be even worse. If it happens again don't be stubborn and call 911!


Thanks for the warning though, all I have in my apartment in children's Benadryl, I wonder how well that works on adults or how much I'd have to take.

mumma boo said...

So glad you're ok! I was freaked out just reading about it. Think about getting an epi-pen to have around just in case, especially if you don't know the cause of the reaction.

abrandname said...

Ok...you have been scolded enough....I will say that now that I met you, you need to be careful....you and your wife are super friggin cool and I would hate to see you in the hospital man....

The mom in me freaked when I read this post just now because my oldest got hives once a week when he was younger and we still don't know why....no throat swelling but I always worried about that though....

Take care of yourself....

Mad Woman said...

I was all set to scold you and call you a dumbass in 15 different languages, but I figure enough folks have done that already and I can always bring it out another time right?

So instead I'll say this:

ZOIKS! That was a close call Shaggy! Glad to hear you're ok and that you will actually call 911 if something like that should happen again. Go get tested!

Employee No. 3699 said...

See, this is why I feel so bad for not keeping up with everyone's posts.

I'm sooo glad you are okay. Please call 911 in the future! This coming from the person who drove herself to the ER last week after having chest pains and numbness in the left arm.

Seriously, I'm glad you are okay, but I hope you're following up with your doctor. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Tammy Howard said...

Wow.

I shall pick some up tomorrow on your recommendation.

Scary story!

Chibi said...

Gah! So glad you're okay, but more glad you've recognized the danger and that you've promised the ENTIRE INTERNET that you'll call 911 if it happens again. You don't want to piss of The Internet. I hear they have tubes & stuff. ;)

Laura said...

Oh my gosh... that is scary!! I don't think I could have stayed so calm... I am so glad you are okay!

Nej said...

Gulp. What a crappy day for you!!

I'm glad everything worked out for the better...but Mot would be giving you a virtual slap upside the head, were he here. :-) :-) :-)

Miss Grace said...

I'm glad you're okay. I always have benadryl around.

rebecca said...

You are clearly a man. A woman would've called 911 at the first hint of throat closure. I feel bad for the Boss having to live with you; but, then again, I have your twin living at home with me. *sigh* Men!

Very happy to hear you are alive and well. And, yes, moral of the story is always have Benedryl in hand.

Danielle-lee said...

You *are* stubborn! But so glad you made it to and from the store okay.
We always have it in my house, since my girl is medically allergic to mosquito bites, my hubby is apparently allergic to almond butter (funny-ass story, let me tell you!) and I get random shingles & hives every summer.
So sorry you had to go through that though.

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