Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

I got some sort of allergen contamination yesterday. I don’t think it was the usual category of culprits (foods), since I wasn’t eating at, or near, the time of anaphylaxis. Most often, there’s some sort of cross-contamination of one of my major allergic triggers in whatever I’m eating (for example, the most recent two times were due to a sneaky corn kernel improperly packaged into frozen peas). When I accidentally consume this food I’m allergic to in my presumably “safe” dish, I’ll succumb to a dangerous histamine reaction and then have the long-lasting sequelae that follows, such as fevers, night sweats, loose stool, joint pains, stiffness, body aches, exhaustion, and migraines.

Yesterday, when the anaphylaxis occurred, I was out in our garage sorting old boxes in storage. I was home alone and lost in my own thoughts, so I wasn’t particularly in tune with my body. Because I was kneeling down and bent over bins on the floor so my head was hanging down, I was hardly cognizant of the swelling in my throat and tongue. As soon as my subconscious must have identified a restriction in breathing, my head was raised to neutral and I became immediately aware of the massive swelling obstructing my airway. I hustled inside and took 100mg of Benadryl. Then, I engaged in my usual anxiety-dissipating practice of pacing in front of the house on the street. I rationalize that I originally felt naturally inclined to do this when home alone because it makes me feel safer and less alone, or that I will be “seen” should the issue spiral to a direr situation. Now it’s just a habit; it’s a near reflex response, which is helpful because it’s so conditioned as part of my anaphylaxis-treatment process that it eliminates the need to think and form a game plan in the moment of stress. I ended up taking 50 more mg of Benadryl after fifteen minutes to encourage a faster reversal of the anaphylaxis; I didn’t want to have to go the Epipen route and urgent care, but the breathing was still quite restricted and labored. Those final two pills decisively pulled me out of the danger zone and restored my patent airway. At that point, I went back in my house and watched Best Baker in America.

By the time I went to bed, I had a fever and a bad stomach ache. My ears, stomach, thighs, and neck were so itchy I was nearly drawing blood with my vigorous scratching. Luckily, all the Benadryl coursing through my circulatory system helped me fall asleep, though 45-minutes later, I was already up again, but now with thundering joint pain and a headache. Despite my policy of taking as few analgesics as possible, I took two Tylenol caps to try and quiet the body throbs so I could fall back asleep. The rest of the night played out in a similar fashion: a brief stint of sleep and then waking with fever and severe pain, and taking medication when a sufficient amount of time had passed.

In the morning, the joint pain had escalated and I had bloody stool and a stomach ache. It’s going to be a rough few days. I really wanted a healthy few weeks with a break from notable pain, injuries, or illness setbacks. No such luck right now. Fortunately, my emotional health has been relatively robust over the past two months or so. This contamination will certainly pose a challenge to that positive mental attitude, but I’m a determined fighter lately. I’ll get through this. As I was explaining to my mom, the main challenge is that I don’t know what the instigating trigger was, which increases anxiety and uneasiness around the whole thing. It’s difficult to feel “safe” and confident in not needing to feel anxious in various situations and environments when significant, scary reactions can come seemingly out of nowhere. At least when I catch a food contamination, I see and understand the reason for my anaphylaxis. In contrast, when no obvious trigger is identified (like yesterday in the garage), there is like big, beastly unknown factor that carries the power to potentially kill me. That makes me feel petrified and paralyzed with anxiety and suspicious of everything that’s likely innocuous in my surroundings–feelings that aren’t welcome for someone who battles generalized anxiety disorder. I’m guessing that the offending trigger was some sort of mold spore or environmental contaminant, but it’s hard to say. I’m not particularly prone to seasonal allergies and hay fever, though I am very reactive to molds, mildews, and dust.

Today, it’ll be more of a fight than I’d like to keep my spirits up and accomplish the things I’d like to do, but I’ll do my best to be brave and tough. I’d like to say it’ll pass quickly, but truthfully, I know it won’t. I’ll now be burdened with this host of uncomfortable symptoms for at least a couple weeks. Until then, I just have to exercise my patience and mental fortitude to maintain a positive attitude.

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