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histamine intolerance symptoms


The night my health took a turn for the worse

I’m no saint but on the whole, I’ve always tried to adopt a relatively healthy lifestyle. Although quite partial to the odd chocolate croissant and cappuccino, I’m one of those rather annoying people who would rather spend a weekend blasting balls on a tennis court or running outside than stuck indoors watching a TV Box Set.

I think nothing of blitzing up green juices and smoothies and at the risk of sounding like a total bore, I’ve never smoked, rarely drink alcohol and have followed a meat-free diet since the age of 13. Except on December 3 2015 my life was turned upside down when I was rushed to hospital with my first ever allergic reaction. It was a particular bad boy – life-threatening in fact –  and came on entirely out of the blue.

On the night in question, an old school friend had popped over for a drink and a catch-up.  I’d warned him in advance that I might be drooling – not in that way. Earlier in the day I’d had dental work carried out on an excruciatingly painful molar tooth which, it later emerged, was dying but by the time Stephen arrived at my house my mouth felt pretty normal and I was yakking ten to the dozen as usual.

“My mouth felt pretty normal – I was yakking ten to the dozen as usual”

Only, an hour later I became aware of a strange sensation in my upper lip. It felt heavy and tingled. “My lip feels weird,” I blurted out to Stephen, who was sitting in the armchair opposite me. He peered over.  “It looks fine to me,” he replied nonplussed.

So I let it go for the rest of the evening only when I went to wave him goodbye at the front door, I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. Either my mate was being polite or needed his eyesight testing. Staring back at me was a massively swollen top lip.

By now it was midnight. I awkwardly brushed my teeth, negotiating the horrendous trout pout as I went, before climbing into bed, and prayed that the swelling would subside by the morning.

“I awkwardly brushed my teeth, negotiating the horrendous trout pout as I went”

Except, as I tried to nod off, I became aware of an intolerable itching in my throat. A voice inside told me to call 111 for advice – something I never do – but thank goodness I did. The operator was a calm and lovely chap who explained that the situation might be serious and he’d need to send a paramedic round asap to check me over. As I lived alone, he told me to stay on the line with him.

Within minutes a first responder had arrived at my house. He quickly injected me with antihistamine injection before calling an ambulance. Moments later two paramedics arrived at my door. “Ohhh, someone’s been in a fight with Frank Bruno,” quipped one, before turning serious when I refused to go to the hospital.

“There are people far needier than me, I wouldn’t want to take up a valuable NHS bed,” I exclaimed, before being told in no uncertain terms that I was having a severe anaphylactic reaction. “But I’ve never suffered from allergies,” I meekly protested as I walked up the stairs to gather my things. Precisely two minutes later my throat started to close up.

“Precisely two minutes later my throat started to close up.”

After this moment everything is a blur. I was pumped full of adrenaline twice  – first in the ambulance and then later on in the A&E resuscitation ward – before being admitted to hospital. Doctors asked if I’d eaten or done anything different on the night of the attack. I hadn’t.

The only thing I could think of was the dental work on the massively hyper-sensitive molar tooth earlier in the day but then I’d had a number of fillings in the past and had never experienced a reaction before to the anaesthetic. I was later given steroids, referred to an allergy specialist and sent on my way.

I shrugged the episode off as a random event, especially as I’d always been relatively fit and well. Little did I know then that my health – something I’d always worked so devotedly to maintain – was about to unravel in the most spectacular fashion. Read here.


Helen's Health


It’s now the summer of 2016 and I have a follow-up appointment with a different neurologist about my unexplained Foot Drop.  Although there’s still a degree of weakness in my left toes – I can’t wiggle them – I have movement in my foot and can lift it. Improvement. Yey.

Meanwhile, a nerve conduction study had identified some mild nerve damage in my right hand. Again, there is no explanation as to why. Nevertheless, I’m delighted to be given permission to try light exercise.

The reactions affecting my airway are still ongoing but the allergy management plan prescribed by my immunologist is helping and has afforded a sense of control. The dark cloud that has been hanging over me is beginning to shift, so I decide to accept a travel commission to Barbados – one of my favourite Caribbean islands. The trip is FANTASTIC. And it makes a refreshing change to the merry-go-round of hospital appointments I’ve grown accustomed to.

“My lizard-esque antics attract some quizzical looks from other tourists”

I’m with a great bunch of people including blogger Nadia El Ferdoussi who acts as my Official Tongue Checker. Now, as a rule, I know when I’m reacting because it becomes difficult to swallow or because my tongue no longer fits within my teeth. But it’s always good to have a second pair of eyes monitoring the size of your tongue.  Speed is of the essence in these situations as the antihistamines must be taken at the onset of a reaction otherwise they’re unlikely to work. Nadia checks the size of my tongue morning, noon and night. It’s such a relief to have that support, although my lizard-esque antics attract some quizzical looks from other tourists.

Meanwhile, my troublesome left foot is greatly responding to the gentle swimming and paddling. I even dabble with paddle boarding. Dramatic as it sounds, I remember what it’s like to laugh again and by the end of the trip, I feel in a much better place physically, emotionally and mentally.

Only, as we taxi across the runway preparing for our eight-hour night flight home, I become aware of a familiar sticky feeling in my throat. “Please tell me I’m not having a reaction,” I quietly whisper to myself. Then boom. It happens. I can feel my tongue swelling. Not only that my right hand is starting to grow in size. This has never happened before.

“I’ve stupidly left my medication in a bag in the overhead locker.”

Panic consumes me. Our group is scattered about the plane. The cabin crew are strapped into their seats. And I’ve STUPIDLY left my medication in a bag in the overhead locker. I have no water. The seatbelt sign is on. So I just sit. Petrified. I need to take my meds fast but can’t get up. I hit the call button as soon as we are permitted to move. My tongue is huge.

A crew member grabs my emergency drugs and shuffles me off to the back galley, collecting Nadia along the way. The FSM (flight service manager) then calls a doctor on the ground who advises I up my antihistamine dosage. Thankfully, the plan of action works. My tongue stops swelling and Nadia stays with me for two hours. I vow to make a checklist on how to travel with allergies as soon as I get home and made a mental note to always have my medication within easy reach and carry water on me at all times. How could I have been so stupid?

Back on dry land, I pay to see a different dentist about my hypersensitive tooth – the one I’d originally been treated for on the day of my first severe allergic reaction.  It had been prepared for a root canal and had a temporary dressing inside but the new dentist examines me and regrettably explains the tooth cannot be saved and needs extracting. It’s a huge chunky one in my top set so now I’m going to be left with a GAPING HOLE in my smile on top of everything else. My heart sinks.

My Worzel Gummidge appearance is going to take a while to grow used to.”

The procedure is made all the more worrying because we still do not know the cause of my reactions. My dear mum accompanies me to the surgery. I’ve taken a long and fast-acting antihistamine as a precaution and we have two Epi-Pens on standby. Fortunately, the extraction goes well although my new Worzel Gummidge appearance is going to take a while to grow used to.

Only by the Autumn, my health begins to deteriorate again. Another appointment has come through the post.  Back to the hospital again, this time for a less than glamorous investigation involving my rear end and a camera. The diagnosis? Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  I’m also dealing with intermittent horrendous stabbing pains in the muscles and joints all over my body. The episcleritis is back. I feel exhausted. And each day I wake up feeling as though I’m  fighting the flu.

My wonderful GP is as bewildered as I. Sat in front of him is a patient who desperately wants to return to her active, healthy lifestyle but whose body appeared to be falling apart. He orders more blood tests, takes one look at the results and immediately refers me to an endocrinologist (hormone specialist). Six months later the appointment comes through.

So what does he find? Read here. 





Helen's Health