The married father of four was unexpectedly diagnosed several years ago in his early 40s as having sensitivity to ‘salicylates’ - derivatives of salicylic acid found in plants that act as a natural immune hormone and preservative to protect them against diseases, insects, fungi, and harmful bacteria.
“I remember my tongue swelling up without warning which was pretty scary, so I made the decision to get behind the wheel and drive myself to hospital and only just made it in time,” Darren says.
“When the Doctor told me the reason for my reaction I didn’t even know what salicylates were and was staggered at the idea that some of the foods I had been eating all my life had suddenly reached levels that were affecting my health.
“I am more in tune with the signs that I am about to have a reaction now because I will start to get shaky, but others have been triggered by physical trauma without warning by something as simple as hitting my thumb with a hammer which then causes swelling in different parts of my body,” he says.
Salicylates are also found in many medications, perfumes and preservatives, and while both natural and synthetic salicylates can cause health problems in anyone when consumed in large doses, for those who are salicylate intolerant, even small doses can cause adverse reactions.
“Completely eliminating salicylate from a diet and the environment is virtually impossible, so I had to put in place measures that best managed the risks and gave me a degree of control,” Darren says.
“A critical day for me occurred when I had a reaction at work that saw my tongue and throat swell very quickly, and that got me thinking about what I would do if I couldn’t talk and tell people what was happening – so becoming a MedicAlert member was one proactive step towards keeping myself safe.
“I have had a number of minor reactions in recent years, caused by anything from carrying a backpack of weed spray while gardening to taking nasal spray for hayfever, but three out of my four bad incidents have been triggered by sudden trauma,” says Darren.
Two of those serious incidents happened as a result of knee operations and Darren says wearing his stirling silver bracelet around his wrist is a visual warning for health professionals about his condition.
“In addition to wearing my MedicAlert bracelet, I also now carry an EpiPen which also helps to give me peace of mind, knowing I have measures in place that will help during a reaction – especially if I cannot speak for myself.