Routine blood test uncovers deadly allergy

Last updated 07:45 25/11/2014

Does an allergy rule your life?

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Does an allergy rule your life?

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My allergy journey started as a child - no big deal - I got hives whenever I slept in a hotel or borrowed a friend's clothes.

It turned out to be an allergy to fabric softner, which was easy enough to avoid. As the saying goes, "if it hurts, don't do it" so the answer was to avoid fabric softner and I wouldn't get hives.

But what if it doesn't hurt? What if there are no outward signs?

I was 26 years old when I was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening allergy I didn't even know I had.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, and because of the medications I take for that I have regular blood tests.

One night, while lying in bed, trying to sleep, the phone rang. It was my rheumatologist. She said there was something very wrong with my blood test results and I needed to go to A&E NOW, and to bring all my medications with me.

I felt fine. I was thinking to myself, what could possibly be so wrong with me when I feel fine. But I did what I was told and went to A&E, where a nurse met me and took me through for more blood tests and to look at the medications I was taking.

I had brought in all of my arthritis medications, plus a bottle of antibiotics my GP had prescribed for an infection on my foot. I didn't think anything of it. I've taken antibiotics before, and I felt fine.

Turns out that my liver enzymes were through the roof and my liver was about to rupture.

After several tests, they determined that it must be the antibiotic - erythromycin (ERA)- that was causing my hepatitis (hepatitis just means inflammation of the liver). I was told to stop taking the antibiotics, and was released on condition that I was to rest until my liver function results returned to normal levels.

A simple bump or nudge could cause my liver to rupture, so I couldn't work, couldn't do sport, couldn't do anything, until I was deemed healthy again. It took weeks for my liver to recover.

I now wear a medic alert bracelet, indicating an allergy to ERA, so that if I am ever in an accident or injured and cannot speak, I will not be prescribed it. It is written on all medical files at the GP's and in hospital, and comes up if my health files are accessed online.

I have since also been found to be allergic to metformin, a drug prescribed mostly for type 2 diabetics.

I was lucky that I was already being cared for under the health care system for my arthritis and that this allergy was picked up in a blood test. Without that blood test, I would have never known, and potentially could have died.

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