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DukeASUGirl

Allergic reaction -- Carnival dining staff and medical staff was fantastic!

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Had an anaphylactic reaction last Sunday, which was the first night of our cruise. Told wait staff about my sesame and garbanzo allergies, but didn't mention any of the "tested positive, but tolerating" ones that the allergist thought were false positives.

Immediate first bite of the gazpacho and I felt like my entire mouth was on fire. But I couldn't figure out what it could possibly be. I assumed maybe it was just spicy, so had my husband try it. He agreed it was spicy, so I second guessed, and then continued to eat the rest of my dinner.

About halfway through dinner, I was coughing and clearing my throat. I ended up using my inhaler twice, and asked the waiter whether there was any sesame or garbanzo in the soup. They confirmed there wasn't.

When it felt like my throat was coated in mucous and difficult to swallow I excused myself to go to the bathroom. On the way there, I asked the maître d' to find out all the ingredients in the gazpacho, because by this point I was pretty convinced I could possibly be reacting.

In the bathroom, I felt a bit queasy and nauseous, but couldn't decide whether it was a body system reacting or if I just was starting to get seasick (the ship had left port about 45 minutes earlier). I had a headache, but had hit my head the day before and it could have just been that.

When I returned to the table, the maître d' came by with a list of ingredients. The second he said "cilantro" my husband and I knew -- that was one of the foods I'd technically tested positive for, but I'd eaten it many times since being tested, so my allergist assumed it was a false positive.

I guess not.

The maître d' called down to the medical center to let them know we were on our way. When we got there, I spoke with the nurse and she insisted I epi myself. But when it came time to do it, I suddenly was confused and not sure how, so she took it from my hands and injected.

Almost immediate relief. I could breathe within 3 seconds. I could think straight again. I wasn't coughing. I still felt a bit queasy, but the ship was rocking.

She monitored my vitals for a while and said my heart rate was great, oxygen was perfect. I went and sat on deck in the open air until I felt better.

The next day a medical emergency was called over the ship's loudspeaker (a heart attack that required helicopter evacuation), and I knew I would have to go to dinner that night or our tablemates would assume the worst.

The dining staff was fantastic and so attentive throughout the rest of the week. They took my orders the night before so the chef could verify all ingredients, and even went out of their way to make cilantro-free versions of things specially for me. (My special cilantro-free ceviche was delicious, and a nice surprise!)

Epi works. If you have food allergies, do not ever second guess yourself. If you ever question it, just use it. Don't convince yourself you're fine and that it isn't necessary. Don't try to be "strong." Just do it. 

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Shoutouts to Michael (our head waiter at our table in Spirit MDR) and his assistants Francisco and Kamaljeet, and to Vinod (the maître d'). We loved the Imagination!

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for sharing, I can't imagine a scarier situation. DW is allergic to shellfish and we always make it a point to mention that in any dining venue. (And she carries two Epipens at all times.)

Edited by sparks1093

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Not as serious or scary as your episode, but DW once broke out in hives on a cruise. We decided she either all of a sudden was allergic to shellfish, or more likely was allergic to the drug prescribed to her after oral surgery. The latter turned out to be the case, and the medical staff at Carnival correctly diagnosed it and helped with the problem.

 

(When I am asked if I have allergies, I always reply "not that I know of". You never know until all of a sudden you find out you are allergic to something.)

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I also have food allergies.  Glad to hear they took good care of you and insisted you use your epi pen.  You were definitely having an anaphylactic reaction!  This makes me feel a little better about cruising with food allergies! It is very unsettling to have food allergies at times and unfortunately we always have to be diligent about everything that is in our food.  I'm sad I can't eat some of my favorites anymore as my allergies developed in my 40s but better safe than sorry😢

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2 hours ago, GalvestonCruiserx3 said:

I'm sad I can't eat some of my favorites anymore as my allergies developed in my 40s but better safe than sorry😢

 

Yes, mine as well. I was 40 when I had an anaphylactic reaction out of nowhere while eating hummus, so was tested for every ingredient in that particular hummus, which was how cilantro came to be a positive, but because I continued to eat cilantro safely after that first reaction (but before I went to allergist) he speculated that cilantro was a false positive and I'd actually reacted to both the garbanzo and the sesame (both of which I'd also eaten safely for decades -- I've since reacted to both of them eaten individually at separate accidental times months later, so definitively confirmed those).

 

I've lost so many of my fave cuisines -- Middle Eastern, Indian, a lot of Japanese and Chinese, and now possibly all Mexican (unless they can make cilantro-free versions for me). 😞

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Good to hear that staff are trained and practiced in emergency procedures.  I usually notice when they do the lifeboat drill simulations, but rarely see the dining room staff practice emergency drills.

 

I would hope that buffet staff get the same practice and training?

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2 hours ago, ontheweb said:

(When I am asked if I have allergies, I always reply "not that I know of". You never know until all of a sudden you find out you are allergic to something.)

 

Yes, definitely! I was 40 when I had an anaphylactic reaction to hummus out of nowhere, after eating it safely for decades. And even though I'd tested positive on a skin test to cilantro, I continued to eat it safely, so the allergist presumed it was a false positive. From what I understand, there is something called the "basket theory" that says we all have a basket of tolerance for certain things. Others' baskets might be much larger so they can safely tolerate something for decades, but once your "basket" fills up, you could react even if you had no idea that food might not be safe for you.

 

Guess my "cilantro tolerance basket" picked that day to overflow. 😞

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Yeah, figuring out allergies/intolerances in humans is still more art than science.  My niece suddenly became full-blown celiac after eating her own weight (I exaggerate) in mac'n'cheese every week for years.  Took the doctors a while to understand the symptoms and diagnose - at first they thought it was just a stress-induced issue because she had just started college, and all those other life changes that occur at 17/18.  Her identical twin sister is not celiac (and also ate a corresponding large amount of mac'n'cheese etc).

 

A "middle-aged" friend became wheat-intolerant over the course of a year or so (thought it was gluten intolerance, but after someone suggested it could be isolated to wheat she tested out that theory, and it turns out she can drink all the barley-based beer she likes...)

 

I have a very mild allergy to nuts, sometimes.  It seems to crop up when I am reacting to certain pollens (I do have a mild hayfever allergy, but not to all pollens).  If I eat nuts while also in prime pollen allergy mode, I get "hacky-phlemy".  No problem the rest of the year.

 

I am glad the MDR staff knew exactly what to do, and they accommodated you so well afterwards.

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4 hours ago, ontheweb said:

 

(When I am asked if I have allergies, I always reply "not that I know of". You never know until all of a sudden you find out you are allergic to something.)

 

Exactly! And allergies can develop at any time.

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My daughter started developing allergies to shrimp about 5 years ago... it's progressed to the point that she won't risk eating any  seafood, not just shellfish! On our Vista cruise 2 weeks ago she had her first bite of the Caesar salad and started to react, and asked her husband (who also had the salad) if he thought there were anchovies in it. He said yes and sure enough, she started with the same symptoms you described... the scary part is that, in spite of being an RN, she doesn't carry an epi pen! We kept an eye on her and the symptoms never got worse, but she was very careful the rest of the cruise.

 

I told her she needed to coordinate with the dining staff to avoid cross-contamination and also to get a darned epi pen!

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18 minutes ago, Shaded Lady said:

My daughter started developing allergies to shrimp about 5 years ago... it's progressed to the point that she won't risk eating any  seafood, not just shellfish! On our Vista cruise 2 weeks ago she had her first bite of the Caesar salad and started to react, and asked her husband (who also had the salad) if he thought there were anchovies in it. He said yes and sure enough, she started with the same symptoms you described... the scary part is that, in spite of being an RN, she doesn't carry an epi pen! We kept an eye on her and the symptoms never got worse, but she was very careful the rest of the cruise.

 

I told her she needed to coordinate with the dining staff to avoid cross-contamination and also to get a darned epi pen!

Yes she absolutely needs an epi pen and an allergy plan.  I actually just got an Auvi-Q for free!

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26 minutes ago, Shaded Lady said:

My daughter started developing allergies to shrimp about 5 years ago... it's progressed to the point that she won't risk eating any  seafood, not just shellfish! On our Vista cruise 2 weeks ago she had her first bite of the Caesar salad and started to react, and asked her husband (who also had the salad) if he thought there were anchovies in it. He said yes and sure enough, she started with the same symptoms you described... the scary part is that, in spite of being an RN, she doesn't carry an epi pen! We kept an eye on her and the symptoms never got worse, but she was very careful the rest of the cruise.

 

I told her she needed to coordinate with the dining staff to avoid cross-contamination and also to get a darned epi pen!

Yes, she 100% needs an EpiPen or AuviQ. Depending on her insurance, it might be totally free. There is also a $300 discount card that could reduce her costs, depending on whether she has a copay or deductible or whatnot. 

 

She should carry 2 at all times, and as an RN she should especially know this. What I was having was the start of an anaphylactic reaction, and your daughter has just been lucky that her reactions have stopped before progressing further, but the only thing that will reverse anaphylaxis is epinephrine, not Benadryl and not waiting and seeing. Please insist she see an allergist. But even without seeing an allergist she should get a prescription. This is SO important!

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If this happens to you again please think twice about going into the bathroom without someone with you...a member of my family was alone outdoors and nearly died as she crawled to the side of the road for help after being stung by something...she was just darn lucky...had you collapsed it might have taken too long for you to be discovered....

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12 hours ago, ProgRockCruiser said:

I have a very mild allergy to nuts, sometimes.  It seems to crop up when I am reacting to certain pollens (I do have a mild hayfever allergy, but not to all pollens).  If I eat nuts while also in prime pollen allergy mode, I get "hacky-phlemy".  No problem the rest of the year.

 

Same here. Birch pollen is almost identical in structure to one of the various component proteins of the peanut. On the peanut component test, I test very mildly positive to the ara h8 peanut protein, but negative to all other component proteins. Ara h8 is cross-reactive to birch, and is considered very unlikely to ever result in anaphylaxis -- it's more of a season allergy response. Basically your body thinks you're eating birch pollen, and if you're allergic to birch pollen, then you get the itchy, watery eyes and sneezing of seasonal allergies.

 

I'm fine with peanuts the entire year, but during pollen allergy season I get phlemy. My daughter actually has a real food allergy to peanuts (she tests positive to ara h2, which is generally considered to be the "scary" peanut protein), but for me it's just seasonal. That being said, I basically don't eat them anymore anyway bc our house is nut-free due to her.

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Posted (edited)
53 minutes ago, searoses said:

If this happens to you again please think twice about going into the bathroom without someone with you...a member of my family was alone outdoors and nearly died as she crawled to the side of the road for help after being stung by something...she was just darn lucky...had you collapsed it might have taken too long for you to be discovered....

So sorry about your family member -- so glad she was okay!

 

And YES, you are so right. I absolutely should not have gone to the bathroom alone. But I just wasn't thinking straight at that point, and was second-guessing the reaction so much I'd convinced myself I was fine and had alternative explanations for everything. Kinda scary how even though my body was telling me something was wrong, my brain was fighting so hard to keep me from using the epi. Even with all the evidence clearly screaming at me that I was reacting, I second-guessed myself to the point that I might not have used epi had the maître d' not told me about the cilantro, and if it had progressed any further it might have been too late.

Edited by DukeASUGirl

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I'm glad everything worked out for the BEST for you!  I will say the Carnival staff/doctor are really special people too in my book also.  It was not for me, but my friend had a bad fall while we were doing a tour (not through Carnival, but on our own), and we felt like she was in bad shape, and later found she had broken her shoulder.  The one we were touring with drove (wasn't supposed to, but got permission to go beyond the gate as she could not walk) us all the way to the ramp.  They came with a wheel chair, and pushed her up the ramp to the medical facility. From there she was in the medical office, and the doctor started doing X-Rays, etc.  I won't go into all the details, but the doctor went way beyond what I thought he would normally do for someone that had got hurt like her.  We were back/forth to the medical facility for about 3 days, and the doctor and staff were wonderful. I never dreamed I would find out this way about that area, but if all Carnival staff are like that in that area, they are great!!!

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18 hours ago, Shaded Lady said:

My daughter started developing allergies to shrimp about 5 years ago... it's progressed to the point that she won't risk eating any  seafood, not just shellfish! On our Vista cruise 2 weeks ago she had her first bite of the Caesar salad and started to react, and asked her husband (who also had the salad) if he thought there were anchovies in it. He said yes and sure enough, she started with the same symptoms you described... the scary part is that, in spite of being an RN, she doesn't carry an epi pen! We kept an eye on her and the symptoms never got worse, but she was very careful the rest of the cruise.

 

I told her she needed to coordinate with the dining staff to avoid cross-contamination and also to get a darned epi pen!

My wife foregoes fish for the same reason. The last time she ate it she got really queasy and decided it was too close. Of course I am a seafood lover so it makes it a bit difficult since I won't eat shellfish in the house to prevent the possibility of cross contamination. 

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I've carried an EpiPen for about 25 years - ever since I reacted to something at an office Christmas dinner and nearly passed out from oxygen deprivation while driving myself 10 miles away to the ER!  By the time I got there, I couldn't speak and my nail beds were blue! 😵

 

Assumption was that it was one of the various fish/shellfish I'd had.  Thing was, allergy testing with different serums showed absolutely NO reaction to shellfish!  Still, I avoided shrimp for years.  I finally decided to try a couple at a restaurant within walking distance of the hospital and nothing happened.  I gradually increased my consumption, waiting to see if anything happened and nothing did, so I now pig out on shrimp/lobster whenever possible, which is usually on cruises! 😀

 

Thing is, that means we don't know what caused my reaction.  Hard to avoid something when you don't know what it is!  I suspect it was something that was tainted.  Or something in that last glass of wine, which was not what I'd been drinking.

 

Anyway, I have my EpiPen but I rarely carry it with me when I'm on a cruise.  It's usually in my cabin in my "big" purse and not in the little bag I use around the ship and ashore.

 

It's also probably expired because the cost is now absurd.  This is something that KEEPS YOU FROM DYING!!  Yet the drug company was allowed to increase the price to an insane amount.  It's obscene, really. 

 

Anyway, good to know your situation was handled well.

 

p.s. I do have an intolerance to bivalve seafood that causes a very unpleasant GI reaction.  My sister and daughter also have it.  So, I no longer eat mussels, clams, scallops, oysters, etc.  I can eat squid and octopus, though.  And if you're allergic to dust mites (I am highly allergic, which is a drag because they're everywhere), you may also have issues with snails.  I read that online, so it must be true! 😋

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22 hours ago, DukeASUGirl said:

 

  

I've lost so many of my fave cuisines -- Middle Eastern, Indian, a lot of Japanese and Chinese, and now possibly all Mexican (unless they can make cilantro-free versions for me). 😞

 

 

First off, Glad you're ok, and that Carnival handled it well.  

 

I don't think asking for cilantro-free versions is so crazy. To some people, cilantro tastes like soap.  So some places do have cilantro free rice- Chipotle is one, you just have to ask for it, it's in the back.  I know that's just fast food, but I've had a friend ask for cilantro free food at a local chain, and they were able to do it.  So you never know! 

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Please stay on topic i.e. not a medical discussion of allergies and treatment modes.

Thank you!

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Onboard, they mentioned something about a post-cruise survey. I haven't received it. When should I get it? I want to make sure that I can give these individuals the shoutouts they deserve for handling the situation so well.

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21 minutes ago, DukeASUGirl said:

Onboard, they mentioned something about a post-cruise survey. I haven't received it. When should I get it? I want to make sure that I can give these individuals the shoutouts they deserve for handling the situation so well.

Usually, you can also share the information of crew members who went beyond the call of duty and made your cruise special at the purser's desk. I hope you had a chance to give them a shout out then.

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On 7/9/2019 at 12:08 AM, DukeASUGirl said:

So sorry about your family member -- so glad she was okay!

 

And YES, you are so right. I absolutely should not have gone to the bathroom alone. But I just wasn't thinking straight at that point, and was second-guessing the reaction so much I'd convinced myself I was fine and had alternative explanations for everything. Kinda scary how even though my body was telling me something was wrong, my brain was fighting so hard to keep me from using the epi. Even with all the evidence clearly screaming at me that I was reacting, I second-guessed myself to the point that I might not have used epi had the maître d' not told me about the cilantro, and if it had progressed any further it might have been too late.

I hear you on this point.  I have food allergies as well as allergies to certain medications.  Recently I had a bad outbreak of hives that I suspected was from a prescription arthritis medication I was taking.  The rash started behind my knee under an Ace bandage, and initially I thought it was a contact dermatitis from the bandage.  But even into the next day as the hives moved from my knee to my thigh to my stomach then to my chest, I resisted the idea that it was allergic hives and debated whether or not I should go to the emergency room.  In the end, my sister insisted we go to the emergency room.  Glad I went. Thanks for recounting your ordeal here.  Also, I'm glad the staff took such great care of you.  I always carry 2 Epi-Pens on my person cause you just never know.

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