When personal pain motivates your research – Anaphylaxis.
So last Friday we officially became members of the anaphylaxis crew after our consultant immunologist confirmed our suspicions that our youngest daughter really did have something BIG going on with regards to her reaction to peanuts. We still have to undergo more tests to confirm what else is on the banned list but for now we are pretty sure about Peanut but also suspect soy and possibly even other members of that same legume family. I wondered momentarily whether she would even survive as a vegetarian should she make that choice later in life……
We walked out with an Epipen and for a moment I was actually quite excited – we can save her life with this thing, we can keep her safe, she will be OK.
We played with the training device pen we had been given, I stabbed my hubby at random intervals as we drove home. He stopped finding it funny after the third time but humoured me all the same.
And my daughter went back to school excited about her new ‘specialness’, showed her friends, talked to her teachers and generally felt good about it all.
But in a dark corner of my being I was beginning to mourn.
I am a slow but deep thinker which is terrible in an accident but great for long-term strategic problems and so over the rest of that day and into the weekend my mourning grew as I imagined a world filled with hidden snipers in the shape of peanut traces hidden in food, in her first kiss, on the armrest of the train she would take on a night out with her mates, in a cake that was shared around the office or in the circulating air. For a while there I looked at the world and all I saw were peanuts and potential death.
But then ever-practical hubby reminded me that there are risks everywhere for everyone and her being for-armed and for-warned was for-tunate. She had one up on many people who perhaps have anaphylactic tendencies but don’t yet know it -God forbid. She, and we were prepared and trained. And I have to say I felt better.
But then I moved onto the next stage in the emotional roller coaster that comes with a forced shift in perspective – a mindset to understand.
And that’s where it starts to become more relevant for this blog.
I know that many of my readers start investigating the cosmetics industry because they want to solve a problem – they have eczema, their kid has eczema, their grandchild, niece or nephew has psoriasis, a teen they are close to is suffering emotionally and physically with acne, their husband or wife’s skin reacts to everything they put on it and so on and so forth. The desire to help or at least support and not add to the dramas of our loved ones is arguably the most powerful motivator there is. We want to be informed, we want to have some answers or at least put forward some worthy suggestions to try. We are engaged.
I was now engaged and I wanted to know all about anaphylaxis and its pathology.
But I also wanted to know if I CAUSED it.
and that’s what prompted me to blog.
A funny thing always happens to me when I think, I sort of float outside of myself (metaphorically) and watch myself ‘think’ from outside of ‘me’ to find out what is motivating my actions and work out if I am being swayed by emotion or am pressing on logically.
On and off I found myself reading paper after paper (thankfully I have access to some great journals via Deep Divve) to find out if I had put my child at risk by eating peanuts during pregnancy – I actually couldn’t remember if I had or not, I suspect I might have as I do love nuts – but if I did it wouldn’t have been a great deal. I certainly couldn’t rule the idea out. I quickly recognised that this behaviour was bias and emotionally driven, that I was actually trying to find evidence to put me out of the frame to ease my guilt. I recoiled at the idea that I was behaving quite selfishly, taking up valuable research time focusing on building a database of information supporting the idea that I WASN’T TO BLAME.
But then I remembered that I was scared, that I’m a mum, that the last thing any mum want’s to do is harm her child and as such my actions were entirely human. Entirely understandable. Just not entirely scientific.
And again I share this because I see this emotional mindset, this clutching at research that supports an idea and course of action underpin many an action in my beloved industry. I share this because it is not wrong and can be enough to kick-start a beautiful and ultimately helpful brand but emotionally charged bias isn’t a great long-term business plan. Even short-term it is exhausting and maintains a level of fear – what if the next article I read or expert I talk to says that yes, it was all my fault after all….
But next comes rationality, an ability to detach ones emotions for just long enough to read all of the relevant articles on the potential origin of peanut allergy. To be able to read about maternal nut consumption without feeling a tightening in MY throat. To explore everything that is there and not just the stuff that won’t hurt me.
On reading further and with a more open mind I discover that there this is an area where there is still much to learn but that many reports seem to be pointing at early non-oral exposure to be a trigger to later allergy in prone individuals. Non-oral means exposure via other routes such as the skin or lungs – out of the two breathing in peanut particles was thought to be more of an issue. Peanut particulates on soft furnishings around the house for example. This low-level of exposure is thought to ‘turn on’ a process that then goes on to present as a reaction when the child eventually eats a peanut. I found this interesting but also weird as surely the world has always been full of peanut dust (?) but it is only now that the peanut allergy rates are growing faster and faster. But that is another story.
Through my reading so far I’ve also found articles and books talking about how the current ‘epidemic’ was caused by immunisations using peanut oil. I searched my child’s immunisation history, checked each vaccination for its actives and excipients and couldn’t work out how anyone could jump to that conclusion – that peanut oil was part of the injections – and so left it at that. For now. I guess the anti-vaccine lobby is a bit like the ‘free from’ crowed in cosmetics. Yes there is some truth in some of the stuff, some of the time but there are always a small percentage of protestors who go the extra mile to try to convince us that EVERYTHING IS A CONSPIRACY and I’m not about to buy into that. Another of my bias maybe….
Anyway, the bottom line is this. I don’t know what made my baby end up anaphylactic but what I do know is that whatever it was I can’t change it. All any of us can do now is move forward with fascination and not fear.
And no, I am not going to launch my own anaphylaxis awareness line of cosmetics.
I’ll leave that to you.