My Outlaw In-law

in Food Allergy
Published: July 2, 2010

Even my own brother-in-law does not have an auto-injector despite his many food allergies, including peanuts and tree nuts. The first time he got one was when he began dating my sister in 1989. She said: “You have to have an EpiPen.”

Today, Sean Randall, a 43-year-old artist, thinks it’s in a drawer somewhere. I always ask him if he has life insurance since Sean has allergies and asthma, the combination considered the most high risk for life-threatening reactions. A severe asthmatic as a child, he spent time in the oxygen tents, and now takes the controller drug Advair daily.

He has been coping in his own way for years. As a student in boarding school in Winnipeg, he never ate toast because the knives had been in peanut butter as well as jam jars.

“You manage,” he says. “You learn breakfast is cereal, you learn self-discipline.” Sean once ate a peanut by accident in a restaurant with low lighting, and had an anaphylactic reaction. He added to his strategies: “be more vigilant when eating in darkly lit restaurants.”

Rather than carrying an auto-injector, he figures a call to 911 will save him in a crisis. “It’s less of a decision and more of laziness. If you don’t use something for 20 years, it doesn’t seem necessary.”

Largely, he relies on avoidance: no peanuts are allowed in their house in Regina, and he doesn’t go to restaurants, such as Thai eateries, that use peanuts in the kitchen. He also avoids bake sales and has learned “the hard way” which chocolate bars will set off a reaction.

Still, my sister and I hope to wear him down yet, and finally get that prescription refilled.

Reprinted from Allergic Living magazine.

Related Reading: The Allergy Deniers