Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Food Allergy PSA

Well I have a lot of fantastic excuses for not blogging, but this one takes the cake.  A few weeks back on Friday morning - coffee was brewed and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood was mesmerizing the girls.  I was ready to sit down and type out the most fabulous quick takes that have ever been written.  But Emeric had been up alllll night nursing yet still seemed ravenous and so I searched the depths of my cabinets and came up with a few sample packs of formula from the hospital.

I can haz a snack??

While I was mixing, I noticed the first ingredient listed - nonfat milk.  Wait, why are we supposed to wait until babies are a certain age to introduce dairy products but babies who are formula fed can have it right from the start?  I ponder on that as I try to get him to try a little formula from his new sippy cup, but he's not having any of it.  In fact, he almost scratched my face off just for offering it, which reminded me I needed to trim his nails.  I went to grab the nail clippers and started trimming away as he squirmed and cried.  That might sound like perfectly normal behavior for a 7 month old, but Emeric has always been strangely docile during the whole procedure.  But you know - babies go through phases and all that, so I pressed on....until his cry started getting raspy and weird.

I turned him around and saw a frighteningly similar scene to the last week's pecan fiasco - swollen mouth, chin, neck.  And I panicked.  Even though he looked similar to Clare, he was clearly having some respiratory issues and I hadn't gotten that expired epi pen refilled yet, shame on me.  (In my defense, I did have an appointment with the allergist and was planning on getting the new prescription then.)  I ran to the medicine shelf and started frantically grabbing bottles - things were a little unorganized because of packing/unpacking toiletries after a trip down to North Carolina.  I grabbed a big brown bottle that I thought was right, measured it out, and started pouring it down his throat...and then thought to myself "is the Benadryl usually this purple??"

No.  No it is not.

I now start frantically wiping the adult tussin out of Emeric's mouth and let loose my first outloud bad word ever right in front of my 2 and 3 year old.  I stand up and assess the situation: The skin around Emeric's eyes is starting to swell.  Stephen is already at work and just moved to a new building the day before and I don't have his new phone number yet.  I'm still in my pajamas, and so is Clare.  I skipped my shower the day before and am a little less than fresh.  Everyone has bed head and Clare is still wearing half her breakfast across her face.  We live on the second floor in a large apartment building and getting everyone to the car and strapped in takes 15 minutes minimum on the best of days, and then there's that pesky 15 minute drive across town to even get to the ER.  My alternative to packing everyone up and heading to the ER is to call an ambulance...with a 2 and 3 year old in tow.

What Clare looks like on any given morning.

I take a deep breath, throw on a maxi dress and tell Ava to help Clare with her shoes (which I discovered were on backwards after we arrived at the ER) and start running while yelling to the girls to try and keep up.  I keep running and yelling as they stop to chat with a man in the lobby about how their brother is sick.  I keep running and yelling across the parking lot to the minivan, strap everyone in, and ask Ava to please tell me if Emeric starts turning blue or looking otherwise distressed.  She chimes in with helpful comments all the way: "Mom, Emeric looks blue but I think it's because the sky is blue and it's shining on him!"  We tear into the ER and I realize each of my children has officially had their own visit to the pediatric ward.  Hooray for milestones.

An approxmate recreation of the scene.

Emeric is hooked up to the monitors ASAP and his oxygen levels look just fine, but his entire face is red and swollen by this point and he's strangely lethargic - not crying, not itching, just sitting and staring while being poked, prodded, and carried around by the nurses. The doctor says the accidental Tussin won't hurt him and they start him on Benadryl since he seems to be breathing ok.  An hour later he was starting to clear up quite a bit and after a few more hours they cleared us to go home.

This is your child on Benadryl.

First and foremost, I wanted to share the information I received from my allergist regarding how to respond in a situation like this.  Benadryl is a great drug for hives, but if you notice any voice or breathing changes (usually accompanied by hives around the mouth to indicate this is an allergic reaction to something eaten) FIND AN EPI PEN IF POSSIBLEAND CALL 911.  In other words, trying to hightail it to the ER with multiple small children was the wrong choice.

And I've also learned a few other things from this fiasco that I thought I'd share.  I apologize in advance for the excessive use of caps lock and dramatic language.

1. Take a shower everyday.  I am really bad at this.  Whether it's a run to the ER, the dishwasher leaking all over the floor, or just unexpected company, emergencies happen.  Best to tackle them smelling fresh for a little extra boost of confidence.  

2. You know how you check your smoke detectors when you change your clock??  Yeah, well get in the habit of checking your medicine cabinet too.  Make sure you have enough of all those emergency drugs like Benadryl and syrup of ipecac.  And for the love of all things good, if you need an epi pen - KEEP AT LEAST 10 ON HAND AT ALL TIMES.  Guilty confession - still don't have any syrup of ipecac.  Hopefully that admission doesn't jinx me.

4. Label said medications well.  Have current dosing info for each of your children written on the bottle.  Target brand medicine all comes in similar looking brown bottles and is apparently indistinguishable in an emergency.

Bright tape helps, too.

3. Keep a bug out bag ready with fun games, a water bottle, an extra cell phone charger, etc.  We have an amazing pediatric ER that brought out a set of brand new art supplies for the girls (including watercolor paint!!) but in an emergency you might not be so lucky.  Also, Clare's attention span isn't quite robust enough for long stretches with art supplies so an extra bag of tricks would have kept her out of the biohazard bins just a little longer...

And if you are looking for a great service project, 
consider making up some activity bags to donate to local ERs for 
children who are accompanying a sick family member...

4. Have a pair of shoes for you children that they can put on quickly in case of an emergency.  That means no saltwaters, wop wop.

5. Rehearse the drill with your kids.  Instead of putting on her shoes and helping Clare get hers on, Ava was very busy asking me approximately 4 million questions about what was happening to Emeric and if he was ok.  If you have kids with food allergies or other health issues that increase the likelihood of these kind of emergencies, make sure any children that are old enough to understand have been given a rundown of what to do and expect when a crisis happens. 

Even if you have never had any kind of emergency, I would highly suggest going over some practice scenarios with older children.  For younger kids, try rehearsing a special code word - for example, when I say "code red" to Ava she now knows it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that she obey quickly and not talk or ask questions.  Practice this with the little ones so they get the hang of it.  It's kind of fun and exciting for them if you use it in the very rare occasion of an actual emergency, but for heaven's sake DO NOT give into the temptation to start using this every night when someone asks whats for dinner for the 500,000th time.  

6. If you are one of those people that likes to slow down juuuust a little bit when the vehicle behind you is riding your tail a little too closely, knock it off.  Crazy eyed mom in the minivan might be driving a sick baby to the ER, not just late for soccer practice.

Experienced food allergy people, do you have anything you'd like to add??  Because I'm still a n00b at this, and I'm all ears.

See you here tomorrow for a rundown of what I'm reading!!


  1. Great job, Jamie! I know you see all the mess but I see an amazing mom making sure all her babies are okay and you did it. And then followed it up with some great tips!

  2. Sounds like all good tips. I've heard recently that poison control doesn't recommend ipecac anymore, so I would check with your ped to see what they recommend. You did your best and got your kiddo help-rockstar mom!

  3. Skip the ipecac. I've got severe allergies myself and carry a kit with benadryl and epipen + predisone at all times, and I used to carry ipecac, until I tried to use it once. Turns out it takes an HOUR to work. By which point, there is no point. And you've spent and hour feeling miserably nauseated but not actually throwing up. Fail.

    Glad your babies are okay--I know how scary that can be!! I usually keep one extra set of epipens on hand (and they generally come in a two-pack now). Keep in mind that they do expire, and they are expensive (mine cost $250/a pop), so probably best not to stock pile. Although an expired epipen is better than no epipen, as long as the fluid isn't discolored (and even then, it still might be better to use it than not).

    1. Also, something no one told me for years: benadryl helps the epipen work better, so always give both in an allergic situation. (I was used to a sort of tier-reaction system, where something was benadryl-worthy or epi-pen worthy but not both--turns out, if it is epi-pen worthy, it is benadryl worthy too). It can stave off a secondary reaction (and those can be delayed by several hours)

  4. Holy Smokes! That is scary! I have a lot of work to do for an emergency kit. I think I have the basic Tylenol & Advil (maybe?)and some band-aids.

    I better get to work.

    Agree on the shower, although I'm often caught on the one day that I don't. Jinx?

  5. So scary, Jamie. You sound like you handled it great, though. Thanks for the tips. I'll be praying for your little ones.

  6. Bravo!! I just love love your post... thanks for the useful tips!
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  7. This is a terrific post. I'm so sorry this happened to your son and so glad he's okay!

    Random answer to your question about cow's milk in formula: We're not told to hold off on cow's milk 'till the age of one because of any allergy issues, but rather because cow's milk isn't formulated to meet the nutritional needs of human babies. (It's right for cow babies, of course.) So baby formula takes a cow milk base (unless it's a soy, etc. based one) and adds stuff until it gets everything to the right levels. In particular, the sodium levels of cow's milk are way off from human milk, and so can be dangerous to babies because of too much sodium.

    Just a little random knowledge gleaned from pediatrician visits!