In April 2009, just before my 16th birthday, I was bitten by a tick in the bush land on the Northern Beaches Peninsula in Sydney. Six months later, in October 2009, I had my first reaction. Previously I had never been allergic to anything, but after the bite an anaphylactic allergy had developed. After a lot of trial and error and help from a leading clinical immunologist and allergist at Royal North Shore Hospital, it was concluded that my reaction was caused by a combination of cow’s milk products and/or mammalian meat products and any form of exercise.
A PE lesson or a 100m sprint would set off a severe anaphylactic reaction and as a highly active member of many sporting teams this meant that reactions occurred often. For my teachers, friends and family it was hard to adapt to the almost weekly occurrence of anaphylaxis. I was in and out of hospital so many times as I was trying to figure out what my boundaries were and how I could work around them. Eventually I began to understand my own condition and was able to not only self administer an Epipen®, but was also able to take control of minor attacks.
Honestly, it was hard at first to come to terms with this change of lifestyle and a little scary, as I didn’t know if running out onto a sports field would cause an attack, since even the smallest traces of cow’s milk or mammalian meat would set off an allergic reaction, so I ended up having to consider every bit of exercise I did, including running for a bus. I also faced other challenges such as iron deficiency and calcium deficiency and often found myself tired and run down. This was especially inconvenient during my final year of high school when I was studying for my Higher School Certificate. Some of the antihistamines I took to help control a reaction caused drowsiness which also affected my ability to study.
When I first walked into the clinical immunologist and allergist’s office in 2009, her conclusion as to what had led to my emergency admission to hospital the night before, actually made me laugh. Anaphylactic allergy to mammalian meat induced by a tick was basically unheard of then. Now in 2013, I’m glad to see the increasing support and research that is underway in this area.