To Medical Alert…Or Not

Hello fellow allergy sufferers!

I have been remiss with this blog as I have been concentrating on my other blog, A Broad Abroad (, but I have been thinking lately about my journey with salicylate sensitivity and wondering how everyone else is doing.

I now wear a “medical alert” bracelet that doesn’t look too medical but has the words “aspirin allergy” etched into it. I got it when I was headed over to Ireland, in case I had a heart attack or something and someone tried to put an aspirin under my tongue and kill me inadvertently.

This image is like my bracelet: I like it because it doesn’t LOOK like a medical alert bracelet and so doesn’t make me feel a hundred years old! I got it online at, a site where artisans sell their wares, and have been very happy with it. If you’re thinking of getting one, don’t go to a pharmacist; look here and pick one that fits your style.


I do worry though, about stopping an EMT, say, from saving me from a heart attack; maybe I wouldn’t react too badly to the aspirin. Maybe it would save my life. Maybe the heart attack could be curtailed. Maybe I’ll die someday because of this friggin’ bracelet…

Or not. Maybe I’d have survived the heart attack without the killer aspirin, but would have died from anaphylactic shock. Who knows? Luckily, it didn’t happen…but it could, someday, and I just can’t figure if this bracelet will save me or kill me.

A friend of mine in the healthcare industry says that EMTs are trained to look for these bracelets, but may not recognize mine as one because it’s not standard. Also, it’s almost always flipped the wrong way, the important part laying flat against the inside of my wrist, so they really might not even see it.

Whatever. I’ll just let fate decide: if they see it and save me anyway, yay! If they see it, don’t give me the life-saving aspirin and I die, oh well; if they don’t see it, give me the aspirin and I survive, well that’s the way it was supposed to be. And if they don’t see it, give me the aspirin and my face blows up like a blowfish (it’s happened before), then maybe they’ll recognize what’s happening, shoot me up with Benadryl, and I’ll live. It’s a three out of four chance of survival. I’ll take it.


So, having survived so far–being diagnosed nearly a year ago–I can say I feel much better than I did. I was definitely on overload back then, eating almost nothing but organic fruits and veggies, drinking lots of wine, having tea, using spices, drinking caffeine…and my body was a mess! Healthy eating makes me sick–another sufferer has even written a book by that title! Salicylate Sensitivity is a weird, strange, frustrating ailment, but I’m here to tell you that it can be managed. Once I started eating differently and avoiding all the “wrong” foods, I started to feel better, the hives went away, the joint pain went away, the facial swelling stopped. I believe now that my liver was “toxic” as my Ayervedic doctor said, because it was overwhelmed with allergens. I envision it saying “Look, I am trying to tell you something, now I’m just gonna break you out in huge hives because you’re not listening!”

I’m listening now. Someone described the problem like this: it’s a bucket. Once you start filling it up–by eating salicylate-laden foods–it’ll react. But the reaction “limit” is different for everyone, so you just have to work it out for yourself. I can eat a few things on my no-no list before I react: others are not so lucky. Some people have huge reactions to anything that has even the tiniest bit of salicylate and suffer from migraines, stomach problems, etc. I think I’m one of the lucky ones in that I break out in hives or just itch before I have bigger problems; it’s like a warning: okay, you’ve had a handful of strawberries and a glass of wine, so stop now before I really cause you trouble!!

Sometimes I react and am not sure what to: the blueberry muffin yesterday, the beer from the other night, or some hidden spices in a restaurant soup? Detective work is a big part of figuring out what we can and cannot eat, but I have discovered that the bucket idea is right on the money, and so I pick and choose what “bad” foods I will eat by the day.


Going to a party? I’ll skip a morning OJ, skip the turkey sandwich (all luncheon meats have salicylates), drink only decaf; then, I can have a few beers and not have to worry. If, however, I haven’t been too good during the day, one beer may put me right over the edge. It’s all a game…but there is no winning.

If we SSers want to stay feeling well and able, then we must avoid so many of the foods that others enjoy willy-nilly. When we have our Hell With It moments, we suffer. It’s as simple as that. So, we learn to drink vodka, but we miss our Pinot Grigio. We forego the luscious fruit salads and stick with the potato chips, which only sounds awesome: I can eat all the crap I want, but that’s not really good. This “healthy diet” for us isn’t healthy at all.


What to do…what to do. Fuck it. As the oft-misquoted Marie Antoinette said:

Let Them Eat Cake….but have them read the ingredients list first because they may or may not be allergic to something in the mix.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patricia
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 14:13:16

    Hi Patti, really found your comment a great help.Found this blog when searching for a support group for people with salicylate sensitivity in Ireland. Have been trawling the internet trying to make sense of my recently diagnosed allergy and trying to adjust to incorporate a very restricted diet into a hectic lifestyle. Yours is the first common sense I have found (along with a sense of humour!)
    Many thanks and please keep up the blog.


    • Patti O'Brien
      Jul 17, 2013 @ 17:14:37

      Patricia, thank you so much. I have a new blog so I don’t write on this one much anymore, but I should b/c I have learned alot. Most of what I’ve written was during a learning period, so it might not be such good advice! I recently lived in Ireland for a month!! too bad we didn’t meet. my other blog is A Broad Abroad at You might like it! as for the sensitivity, it’s a bitch. A year later, I’m still mad about it and still trying to make it work. I’ll tell you one thing: it doesn’t go away. I cheat all the time and suffer for it. the best thing is to avoid things and work on your “bucket”…try one “no no” food A DAY and see how it goes. I’d suggest cold turkey at first, let things settle down, then eat one thing, and see how you feel. remember, it can take awhile for symptoms to appear, tho I think my hives pop up pretty quickly after ingesting the wrong stuff! keep in touch and I’ll try to help you…and I’ll put up another blog soon. good luck!!! it’s a bitch, but it’s not cancer–that’s how I see it!!!


      • Patricia
        Jul 19, 2013 @ 11:59:09

        Thanks Patti, that’s great advice. On the cold turkey at the moment and have to admit feeling a lot better generally. It’s adjusting the shopping basket I find hard, hate grocery shopping at the best of times. I have little absent minded lapses even on the old cold turkey, brushed my teeth with the wrong toothpaste the other morning and the face started “flying off me” as they say here. You know our funny saying here having spent a moth here- hope we treated you well on your stay and it would have been nice to meet up. but as you say it’s not cancer, just a lifestyle adjustment. Now, if i could only kick a hole in the bottom of that “bucket”………1
        Thanks again for the advice
        Oh. P.S any pointers on what shower soaps etc are sal free? Having huge issues with skin reactions to them also, obviously topical sals are an issue also.

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