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Cross Contamination Alert: Water coolers

I’m not going to lie. Living with severe life-threatening food allergies can be scary. Your life can change in the blink of an eye. One moment you are totally fine, the next you accidentally eat trace amounts of the food you’re allergic to without realizing it and you’re left with your body throwing a temper tantrum, while you and/or the people around you are trying to decide if they should just have you take benadryl or use the EpiPen? Do they take you to urgent care or call 911?

I never know what the next moment may hold, and sometimes reactions come from seemingly innocent sources… like a water cooler. I didn’t ever think that a simple thing like a water cooler at church could bring me to almost using the EpiPen (in retrospect I actually should have used it).

Basically, I ate dinner, and realized I had some kind of reaction going. Thinking it to be gluten, and since when I have gluten, I don’t need the EpiPen, I’m just sick for a few days, I wasn’t too worried. Just annoyed. I still took benadryl as I didn’t know what it was and headed off to help with a kids program at church, letting another of the leaders know what was up when I got there. She kept an eye on me all night, and an hour later, pulled me aside when I couldn’t stop scratching myself.

She had me take more benadryl, except, I only had tablets with me. She grabbed a cup and got me water from the water cooler in the hallway, and it was only a matter of minutes before we were starting to wonder if I needed the EpiPen or not. I was refusing to walk up the stairs, so they carried me out to the car and brought me home early. We had no idea what was going on or why I was reacting.

Benadryl started to kick in, and we relaxed some. We called our doctor’s emergency advice line and they had us go to urgent care as by then I wasn’t quite needing the EpiPen, but I did need something. They gave me prednisone and zantac in the IV (I already had taken a substantial amount of benadryl), and I was really glad when I finally stopped scratching myself all over from head to toe. Still, we were all puzzled. WHY would I have reacted like this? What could have triggered it?

Well, 2 days later I was back at the church to help babysit and right after snack time, I saw 2 of the kids in the hall drinking from the water cooler… withOUT cups. In other words, they had their mouths on the spigot thingy, RIGHT AFTER SNACK!

While we still don’t quite know what triggered the initial reaction at dinner, having put part of the puzzle together does help in preventing some of it from happening in the future.

Oh yeah, and if you see kids drinking with their mouth ON the spigot from one of those 5-gallon water coolers (you know, the ones where you have the big 5-gallon container you have to flip up-side-down and makes the funny bubbling sound when you get water from it), please don’t just tell them not to do it, but tell them the reason they shouldn’t do it is that it can make someone else really sick.

From now on, I’m a bit hesitant to drink from the water coolers at church… I think I’ll stick with my own water bottle, especially knowing how fast the reaction worsened (only took a few minutes before we started seriously considering the EpiPen).

Anyone else ever encountered this issue before?



  1. […] when it comes to cross-contamination as that’s what almost always gets me… like the water cooler incident last month, to name one. So, one night, while my little sister watched a movie with my […]

  2. always use water coolers which are fully covered,

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