It was brought home to me the other day just how little some medical staff in hospitals know about allergy. Having suffered from food intolerances most of my life, I was alarmed when my throat suddenly started to swell and my breathing became restricted. Panicked, I went to my local A&E.
They decided to give me high-dose steroids and Piriton. Feeling nervous, I asked them three times to make sure the meds contained none of the allergens on the list I had given them as I was terrified it would make things worse, and I was feeling bad enough already! Three times they reassured me all was OK. So I took the medication. After about an hour sitting on my own in a cubicle, my throat improved about 20% and, thinking that was OK and the meds would work over time, I went home.
I suffered for the next 24 hours trying to breathe properly with the feeling of a golf ball stuck in my throat. I thought this couldn’t be right. I was exhausted and very scared. So I Googled the meds and found that they both contained maize starch and lactose – two of my worst allergens. No wonder
it wasn’t getting any better –
I was lucky it hadn’t got worse.
I rang the hospital. No apology
was forthcoming but they suggested
I contact a pharmacist to see if they had any
non-allergenic versions of the meds
I needed! Luckily a very helpful Boots
pharmacist suggested soluble steroids (I since found out they should have given me injectable steroids at the hospital).
I had to drive to get an emergency prescription from the hospital, then to a pharmacist to dispense it. (No, I am not making this up!) I took them there and then in the pharmacy.
Within 40 minutes, the swelling had completely gone. So simple when you know how. I was lucky I knew enough to check out what they’d given me and to sort it out. What would have happened if they had made it worse – a tracheotomy? I dread to think.
I suspect that the hospital had to use whatever they had to hand, and assumed that the power of the steroids and anti-histamine would outweigh any allergic reaction from them. In an emergency situation, perhaps I would do the same. But it does go to show that hospitals need to understand the nature of allergy more, and to be able to offer non-allergenic meds to allergy patients. It simply isn’t good enough to give an allergy patient with a life-threatening symptom
medication that contains common allergens.
First published in December 2008
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