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6 Lessons Learned From an Anaphylaxis Emergency

Anaphylaxis Emergency Room

His Only Peanut Butter Cup 

I am a food allergy mom (and a designer of fantastic Epipen carrier).  Here is our story. 
We held off testing nuts on our son Nicholas until he was about two years old.  We lived out in the "bush"...about 35 minutes on the highway to the nearest hospital.  To do the "test" my husband drove into town and parked in the hospital parking lot while my son tried his first (and last) Reese Peanut Butter Cup.  They dutifully waited in the car for about half an hour and then drove home. 

Delayed Anaphylaxis Reaction

Just after dinner that night Nicholas broke out into hives.  It had been three hours since the Peanut Butter Cup experiment.  He was scratching like crazy, so I gave him a dose of Benadryl and we drove to the hospital. 

At the hospital, they gave us more Benadryl and we waited for about three hours to get the all clear.  The hospital doctor gave us a prescription for an Epipen.  I followed up with our family doctor and he sent us 5 hours down the road to visit with an allergist. 

Peanut Allergy Confirmed by Allergist

At this point, peanuts were the only nuts we Nicholas had tried.  Since that didn't go very well we held off on all nuts until we saw the allergist.  At the allergist office, Nicholas was tested for peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood.  We were given the prognosis of a peanut allergy.

We faithfully carried an Epipen and avoided peanut products.  All was well for four years.  Optimistically, I planned to take him to an allergist again to see if he had outgrown it.  But, we found out the hard way he had not outgrown his allergy.

"Mom, My Tongue is Itchy"

It was Christmas time and we were visiting my family.  Nicholas ate some baking from a neighbor that was labeled as almond bark.  After eating it, I heard him say his tongue was itchy.  He stopped eating the bark, drank some water and carried on.  All appeared fine.

Back at the hotel, we were watching a movie and he started itching like crazy.  Hives!  Again it had been about three hours since ingestion of the food.  We gave him Benadryl, got out the Epipen and drove to the hospital.  Did I mention it was a snowstorm...a big snowstorm?  Luckily we knew where the hospital was because my father had been there the day before.  It was a crazy holiday season for us all....

Our Trip to the ER

I never administered the Epipen because he had no difficulty breathing.  I was ready to do it, but didn't.

When we arrived, the hospital admitted him and gave him a hopped up Benadryl.  Shortly after, he vomited.  The nurse wasn't sure if it was the oral meds or the reaction.  He was also coughing non-stop by now - he also has coughing variant asthma.  They gave him a small dose of epinephrine.  This cleared up his symptoms and then we waited it out for hours.  It was probably 1am by this time.  The snow had really mounted up outside.

That Christmas I got cute photos of my 4-year-old daughter curled up in the hospital bed with her big brother all hooked up to the monitoring devices. ... sleeping soundly.

Lessons Learned from Trip to ER for Anaphylaxis

In the end, we all lived to play another day.  The learning points of the experience were:

  1. My son now knows what a reaction feels like: tongue scratchy.
  2. My son is now very, very afraid of peanuts.
  3. We will take him to emergency if he ever feels scratchy tongue again.
  4. We are now vigilant about foods we didn't make.
  5. We are cautious of the 3 hour lag time. 
  6. We are now confident to give the epinephrine and call an ambulance once the reaction starts.  No more waiting for us!

Although nobody wants to have a severe allergic reaction, I feel all of us (Nicholas, too) are way more prepared if we have another one. 

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