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How to Handle a Chronic Illness at Work

Whether it's epilepsy or peanut allergies here are some tips on who to tell, what your employer needs to know, and what people should do in case of an emergency.

Peanut Allergy

While most allergies to foods can cause symptoms, such as hives or stomach cramps, severe food allergies can cause anaphylaxis -- an allergic reaction that can be severe and sometimes deadly. For you and your co-workers, this means recognizing the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which may begin with severe itching of the eyes, but within minutes progresses to more serious symptoms such as those below:

 

  • Swelling, which can cause swallowing and breathing difficulty from swollen tissues in the throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives, even in the throat

 

Immediate medical attention is needed -- have someone call 911 -- since the condition can quickly result in an increased heart rate, sudden weakness, a drop in blood pressure, shock, and ultimately unconsciousness or death.

If you have a severe peanut allergy -- or other food allergy -- you should always have an epinephrine injection with you. Epinephrine is adrenaline and it rapidly reverses the effects of anaphylaxis. Be sure your co-workers know where you keep it in your office, and how to use it. Even when the symptoms subside, someone should take you to the emergency room.

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