This is the story of our son’s first anaphylactic reaction to milk, he was two years old. It happened when we were living in Texas.
Actually, it was our very last night there. We had just sold our house and we were staying in a hotel in San Antonio for the night. We didn’t have any of our vehicles (they were getting shipped to NH) and we were leaving at 5 am the next morning on the first flight home.
We stopped at a fast food restaurant on the way to the hotel and each of my sons got something to drink (our youngest got an apple juice, and our oldest a chocolate shake). While I was unpacking and getting us situated, our child with allergies picked up the wrong cup and drank from it. Within seconds his bottom lip started to swell.
I immediately gave him Benadryl (which they now say NOT to do because it can mask the symptoms of a severe reaction and delay the use of epinephrine). He started coughing and wheezing and had developed hives. My husband and I just looked at each other, them him, then each other. I grabbed the EpiPen® and took off the cover. I asked my husband “should I use it? Do you think he needs it?” His response “I don’t’ know” and we waited.
We had never had to use it before. I knew it would hurt him a lot. I knew it was better to use it and not need it, then need it and not use it. He was now showing signs of swelling in his lips, mouth and tongue, hives were appearing on his face, and he started coughing and wheezing.
We continued to look at him and then at each other, then at him again. Finally, I said “I’m using it, hold his arms away from his legs”. I jabbed it into his thigh and he screamed while I held it there 1, 2, 3, 4 (you have to count to ten while holding it against the thigh) still screaming 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, still screaming 10. I pulled it out and told my husband to call 911.
I held my boy up to my chest as we both cried. I tried to not get too emotional so that wouldn’t scare him even more. I rocked him back and forth telling him it was okay. All the time thinking to myself “how could I be so stupid? How could I leave BOTH cups within reach? Why did I take my eyes off of him? I’m such a horrible mother. What is wrong with me?” The guilt that an allergy mom feels at times can be so hard.
Jamie, my husband, was fantastic. He calmly spoke with the emergency people on the phone, and then called the front desk to let them know what was going on. He explained to our oldest son (he was seven at the time) what was happening and that none of it was his fault and answered any of his questions.
Within ten minutes fire engines, police cars and an ambulance had pulled up in front of the hotel. Our son had started to calm down. We had about nine emergency responders and the four of us cramped in our hotel room. They all were absolutely phenomenal. They checked our son out and he was doing much better. The EpiPen® had worked. The EMT staff talked to me about how their family members were also allergic to milk and nuts and that we did the right thing. I think that was probably to calm me down too. We had quite a scare and needed the reassurance.
We decided to stay at the hotel and not go to the emergency room (which is NOT the right thing to do…always go to the emergency room after administering epinephrine). The EMT’s offered to stay in the hotel parking lot for a while in case he had a second reaction. The firemen and women gave both boys a tour of the fire truck. We were all able to breathe again…and even smile a little.
Looking back on it now, I realize how lucky we were and how dumb we were. We should have gone to the hospital. I wasn’t educated enough to know any differently. I also felt comfortable knowing the EMT’s were in the parking lot. Regardless, I now know to always go to the hospital after a severe reaction. Always.
Having a severe anaphylactic allergy to dairy is very difficult to manage. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be my son’s last anaphylactic reaction. I can choose to either beat myself up with guilt and what if’s or I can use these painful lessons as tools to help my son and to help others. I choose to put my pride aside and be painfully honest about my mistakes in hopes that it can save someone else. Please don’t judge.
Important Safety Information
EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors contain a single dose of epinephrine, which you inject into your outer thigh. DO NOT INJECT INTO YOUR VEIN, BUTTOCK, FINGERS, TOES, HANDS OR FEET. In case of accidental injection, please seek immediate medical treatment. Epinephrine should be used with caution if you have heart disease or are taking certain medicines that can cause heart-related (cardiac) symptoms.
Tell your doctor if you have certain medical conditions such as asthma, depression, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, have any other medical conditions, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Be sure to also tell your doctor all the medicines you take, especially medicines for asthma. If you have certain medical conditions, or take certain medicines, your condition may get worse or you may have longer lasting side effects when you take the EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. Auto Injector.
The most common side effects may include increase in heart rate, stronger or irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, paleness, dizziness, weakness or shakiness, headache, apprehension, nervousness or anxiety. These side effects usually go away quickly, especially if you rest.
Talk to your healthcare professional to see if EpiPen or EpiPen Jr Auto-Injector is right for you.
EpiPen® (epinephrine) 0.3 mg and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors are for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) caused by allergens, exercise, or unknown triggers; and for people who are at increased risk for these reactions. EpiPen and EpiPen Jr are intended for immediate self administration as emergency supportive therapy only. Seek immediate emergency medical treatment after use.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.