By Henry Ehrlich
Several months ago, I was treated to an interview by phone with Jerome Bettis, former Pittsburgh Steeler, who was speaking about his food allergy—specifically to shellfish—in conjunction with Auvi-Q™, the groovy new epinephrine autoinjector. This was a welcome development because nothing separates the reality of food allergies from the sneering stereotype than the image of a 5’ 11’’ 255lb. man who averaged 1000 yards a year in a 13-season career.
Competition being what it is, Mylan and EpiPen™ now have an NFL player of their own—2012 most valuable player Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson, 28, who tells us what happened after a large training table feast:
I had a couple bowls of seafood gumbo at lunch that day, and 30 minutes after eating I went back to my room to rest up for afternoon practice. At the time, I didn’t necessarily know what I was experiencing, but my throat and eyes were very itchy. I remember lying there and rubbing my eyes – just rubbing and rubbing. So I got up and looked in the mirror and everything was swollen. I got on the phone immediately and called my athletic trainer, and I told him what was happening and that I couldn’t breathe out of my nose. He said he was coming right up, but as soon as I hung up the phone with him, my throat started to close even more. So I was about to go downstairs and try to meet him, but as soon as I came out of my room, he was coming up the elevator. He had an EpiPen autoinjector in his hand, so he showed me how to use it and I managed to insert it into my right thigh. Almost immediately, my throat started to loosen up and I was able to breathe a lot better. We went to the hospital after that, and I ultimately had tests done and found out I was allergic to shrimp, scallops and lobster.
So, to add to all the other health problems encountered by NFL players—concussions, torn cartilage and tendons, broken bones, and eventually crippling arthritis and early dementia—we have a new one, and it happens to be to shellfish allergy. Crustacean allergy occurs frequently in adults, whereas most of the other big 8 most commonly appear in children. Indeed, an old family friend of ours was the only person I ever met with seafood allergy, which came on suddenly in his fifties. He was baffled, seeing as how he grew up in a seaside town in Long Island where shellfish was a staple of his early diet.
The allergenic proteins in shellfish are closely related to those in cockroaches and dust mites, which are major environmental allergens—think about that the next time you order a nice shrimp cocktail. Regardless, it helps the cause of food-allergy awareness to have such role models as Jerome Bettis and Adrian Peterson come out of their shells.
Photography by wikipedia commons