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Food Allergy

Adrian Peterson: Food Allergy’s MVP Speaks Out

01ap-lockerAdrian Peterson is the Minnesota Vikings’ running back with the incredible speed, strength and ability to mow through a defense. He was the NFL’s MVP for 2012, and in 2013 joined an elite club of pro football players who have surpassed 10,000 career rushing yards (he accomplished this in seven seasons).

The man is clearly a superstar. And now he’s also become a leading ambassador for the food allergy community. Yes, Adrian Peterson has a shellfish allergy and has experienced anaphylaxis. This year, he is working with Mylan Specialty, the marketers of the EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-injector, on an anaphylaxis preparation and awareness campaign called Ready2Go.

Allergic Living Editor Gwen Smith speaks with Adrian Peterson about the new campaign and about how he prepares in case of anaphylaxis. Plus he shares truly inspiring advice for kids on how to get past bullying and stay focused on the positive in life.

Adrian Peterson: Hi, how are you doing?

Gwen Smith: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for speaking to Allergic Living. Adrian, can you start by taking us back to the day in 2011 that you discovered, the hard way, that you were allergic to shellfish?

AP: Yes, unfortunately in 2011, I discovered that I had food allergies. During lunch, I had a couple of bowls of seafood gumbo. Maybe 30 minutes after I’d gone back to my room, I felt my throat itching and itching. It was hard for me to breathe. I looked in the mirror and noticed that, from the nose down, my face was swelling up.

Immediately, I called the head trainer and told him the symptoms. He got there as fast as he could, which was a good thing because I was wheezing just to get air. He came up with an EpiPen Auto-Injector and he demonstrated real quick how to administer the EpiPen, and I administered it to my right thigh and held it there. I waited 10, 15 seconds and my throat started immediately to open up, I was able to breathe better. I noticed my face also started to go down, even before I left the room to go down to the ambulance. [Adrian was taken to hospital; later tests with an allergist proved his allergy to shellfish. FYI, responses to epinephrine in an allergic reaction are individual and will vary.]

After that, I addressed the team about what I called my action plan and that’s: knowing my allergic triggers, making sure that I avoid them at all times, always making sure that I have access to my two EpiPen Auto-Injectors and seeking further assistance if anaphylaxis unexpectedly occurred again.

GS: Did it take you a long time as an adult to get used to watching out for shellfish?

AP: It did, and a misperception is that kids are the only ones at risk for anaphylaxis. But here I was, 27 [years old], and my favorite food was seafood – that was all I used to eat was shrimp and lobster.

GS: Have you had any reactions since?

AP: No, I haven’t.

GS: Adrian, you’ve got amazing talent and were MVP in 2012. But aside from your work on the field, what people can’t get over was your work ethic to come back quickly from an ACL knee injury. What would you tell kids and parents reading this about the importance of taking care of your body and your health?

AP: To be blunt, it can be the difference of your whole life. That’s one of the main things I’m excited about to have the opportunity to continue my work with Mylan Specialty. Just to continue to encourage people to be healthy and, when it comes to anaphylaxis, to have your plan in order – to really be, ‘ready to go’.

That’s the campaign that we’re working on. When you boil ‘being ready to go’ down, it comes down to two things: first, being prepared, knowing your triggers, avoiding them and knowing the signs and the symptoms and always having access to your two EpiPen Auto-Injectors. And the second is being ready to use your auto-injectors and seek emergency assistance.

GS: When it comes to teens and young adults, they usually don’t like to be different, and some with allergies do resist asking about food being served at a fast-food place because they’re embarrassed. Or they don’t want to carry their auto-injectors. What would you say to a young person with food allergies who’s doing this?

AP: That’s kind of right on point with the Ready2Go Campaign. We’re kicking off a nationwide draft to find kids who, like me, have severe allergies, some of whom have had unexpected attacks of anaphylaxis. We’re urging kids to visit, and we explain to parents how to film their kids doing a 30-second video of their inspiring story of living with anaphylaxis on a daily basis. At the end of the campaign, we’re going to select three kids to join my Ready2Go MVP Team – and they will get the chance to meet me and film an educational video, to get the awareness out there. [Editors' note: the contest has now closed; stay tuned for the winners!]

This campaign goes toward what you were saying about kids who might be thinking: ‘OK, I don’t want to carry this EpiPen with me,’ for whatever reason that might come to their minds. But then they see a guy like me and kids can say, ‘wow, this is what Adrian does.’

And they can go to and see my video and how my steps are lined up, and how I’m prepared in case anaphylaxis occurs. That will motivate them to not be embarrassed, to know that this is a serious matter and you must be prepared at all times.

GS: A guy who’s as strong as you and what you’re known for, I think that can make a difference don’t you?

AP: I do, I really do – and that’s what it’s all about.

Next: Adrian’s advice on food allergy bullying