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Seafood Allergies

Profile: NFL Star Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson_White2Job: NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings
Lives with: life-threatening shellfish allergy

Allergic Living’s Patrick Bennett caught up with Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s 2012 MVP, to talk about his adult-onset shellfish allergy and how he has partnered with Mylan Specialty, the marketer of the EpiPen, to heighten awareness of anaphylaxis.

Allergic Living: Many of us heard that you had a big allergic reaction. Could you take us back to those moments: where were you, what were you eating, what happened?

Adrian Peterson: It was 2011 at training camp and we were at lunch. I had a bowl of gumbo – it had the normal stuff, shrimp, scallops, seafood. Maybe 30 minutes after I ate lunch and got back to my room, I was relaxing, resting up before afternoon practice – that’s when I started experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, though I didn’t know at the time. My throat started to itch, my eyes were extremely itchy. I remember laying down rubbing my eyes; it kind of raised a red flag.

When I stood up and looked in the mirror, I saw my eyes were swollen, and my throat was starting to swell up on me, so I called my athletic trainer and told him the symptoms. Immediately he was like, ‘Hold on, I’m coming up, just wait for me!’

When he got there, he had the EpiPen auto-injector, I administered it into my thigh, and immediately I felt my throat start to open up. I was able to breathe better, and it gave me the time I needed to get to the hospital to seek further assistance.

It kind of threw me off guard, because I eat seafood all the time, and I’ve always eaten seafood my entire life and then – just out of the blue – I have this life-threatening allergic reaction.

After training camp I went to see an allergist and found out that I’m allergic to shrimp, lobster and scallops. From that point on, I’ve had my action plan, which is knowing my allergic triggers, and always having access to my EpiPen, just in case I have an allergic reaction. I have my EpiPen on me at all times.

AL: As a professional athlete, do you now take extra care during special events you are invited to?

AP: If it’s an event where I’m going to be eating anything, I’ll know the menu; I’ll have my EpiPen in my coat pocket. I always carry it with me, after that first incident. You never know what you could be allergic to and when it can trigger, and my case is a perfect example of that – when I tell you my favorite food was seafood, I ate it all the time!

AL: It must be hard as an adult, changing your diet like that.

AP: Yeah, it’s extremely hard, but it’s a life-threatening allergic reaction. It takes lives, it’s nothing to play with, and you really have to be serious and have your game plan.

AL: Now that you can look back on this, do you think you ever had any food allergy symptoms before?

AP: It was definitely the first time ever, and that’s one of the misperceptions. People think that kids are the only ones at risk for allergic reactions, and that’s not the case. Here I was, 27, this was my first time experiencing this.

That’s why I’m partnering with Mylan Specialty for the 25th anniversary of the FDA approval of the EpiPen, and I’m working with [TV’s nanny] Jo Frost and we’re sharing our stories to raise awareness.

We’re urging people to go to 25yearsofepipen.com and there they can learn some of the misperceptions about food allergy, like the one I said – that kids are the only ones at risk – or that it limits your potential, or it makes you weak. Here I am, a professional athlete, and it doesn’t make me weak at all.

Also we want people to show us their EpiPens, no matter where they go. Like for me, when I’m in the locker room, or I’m traveling to Green Bay this weekend, I’m carrying my EpiPen with me, because you always want to be prepared and have your [emergency] action plan. You always want to have a game plan.

So we want people to show us their EpiPens, we want people to take a picture of themselves with their EpiPen no matter where they are, and upload it [at 25yearsofepipen.com].

Next: On the road, reaction breathing panic and more

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.