Our experience began one Sunday afternoon. Our house was for sale and being shown, so we were required to be away for a couple of hours. We decided to drive around town looking at possible new homes. At some point, we decided to pick up a snack at a convenience store. Then we continued our drive. Katie innocently asked her dad for some of his cashews. I gave Katie three cashews. Within a few minutes, she was complaining of her throat “hurting”(her throat apparently swelling-one sign of anaphylaxis). I thought she had swallowed one nut wrong. I told her to drink some of her water. She continued to complain, and more insistently, and then began crying and saying her stomach hurt (a possible sign of anaphylaxis). I asked my husband to take us back to the convenience store to buy some crackers, thinking perhaps a bite or two of cracker would help the nut go down. Within another couple of minutes we were back at the convenience store. We turned to look at Katie and it appeared her lips and her left eye were swelling (another sign of anaphylaxis).
Only because I have had three other kids and have always read any health articles regarding children, and because my husband had had some medical training in the Army, did it occur to us that she was possibly having an allergic reaction. My husband ran inside to get Benadryl®. In the meantime, Katie was complaining more loudly that her stomach hurt and then she vomited (another sign of anaphylaxis). We gave her a melt in your mouth Benadryl® dose. By this time we knew she was in serious trouble, and we started flying towards the emergency room. Katie was becoming lethargic and saying she could not breathe well (another sign of anaphylaxis). My husband sped through town through every red light with his flashers on and his hand on the horn. At the same time, we called 911 and asked them to contact the ER to let them know we were on our way. They were no help at all (another story for another time)! We had to call the ER ourselves. Luckily I knew the number! We drove Katie to the emergency room ourselves, because we realized time was of the essence. We live in a small town in Texas and were at the emergency room in less than five minutes. They were ready for us at the ER. The doctor immediately gave her epinephrine and hooked her up to oxygen. By this time Katie was one giant whelp. She was swelling even from her eyeballs. And she was itching unbearably. The nurses hooked up an I.V. and monitors for all of Katie’s vital signs, and gave her breathing treatments. Time crept by slowly, as we watched our poor little girl’s skin break out in hives, her eye continuing to swell, her breathing wheezy and her vitals looking a little crazy. I was too scared to leave Katie’s side, and though I was so scared inside, I was remaining relatively calm so as to not frighten Katie.
After we had been in the ER for about an hour or so, Katie got up to go potty and upon her return to the bed from the bedside toilet, she began to kick and fight me, turning herself in circles, her skin as pale as the sheets she laid in. I was asking my husband to go get a nurse, because I knew something was not right. The nurse came in, snapped at me, telling me to remain calm, but I was not overreacting…I was just insistent that the doctor come check Katie. I believe the nurse snapping at me was a divine intervention to send me out of the ER. I chose that time to go outside. I hung around outside for about thirty minutes, crying uncontrollably, and relieving some of the pent up stress. I made calls to family and friends. When I knew I was calm enough to face Katie so that she did not suspect my fear, I returned to the emergency room. It was then I learned that Katie had gone into the “shock” phase of anaphylaxis. The nurse had explained to my husband that the Benadryl® vs. epinephrine internal contradiction had caused some of Katie’s disorientation. However, my husband had been watching her vitals and couldn’t help but notice the little white numbers indicating her blood pressure sitting at 40/20. The doctor then started administering Tagamet® instead of epinephrine.
Tagamet® (we learned is not just for ulcers) works in the stomach and/or intestines, where it is believed a majority of the immune system exists. Slowly, Katie’s skin began to recess from the hives. Her skin color began coming back and her vitals continued to improve over the next hour. The doctor came in and informed us that she had indeed gone into true anaphylactic shock. I believe not all anaphylactic episodes lead into shock, but you never know when it will happen, and it could happen several hours after the episode begins. To be on the safe side the doctor wanted to send Katie to a children’s hospital for further observation and stabilizing. She was transported by ambulance with a specialized pediatric team in attendance to San Antonio, Texas (about an hour away). By midnight, we were pretty well settled into ICU preparing for the worst, praying for the best. Fortunately, the night was uneventful. Katie was talking as much as ever. She was given a couple of more breathing treatments through the night and one the next day and then was released to go home that afternoon. The doctor’s educated us on the new life of “no nuts”, carrying an EpiPen® and being prepared for asthma attacks. We later saw an allergist in our town for a follow-up and additional education. About six weeks later he tested Katie for other tree nuts and peanuts. We learned she is somewhat allergic to other tree nuts, and severly allergic to peanuts.
Unfortunately, we learned some very valuable information in an extremely difficult way. Allergic reactions to food do not occur the first time of ingestion of that food, but can occur at any time after that first time. We are not big nut eaters, and Katie was never crazy about peanut butter, so her exposure had been previously limited. We learned that peanuts are a legume, not a real nut, such as tree nuts, and that peanut allergies are rapidly increasing among children. Now it will be “no nuts” for us all. We have also learned that nut and nut oils can be found in very unobvious products (i.e, some chilies and sauces, candies, cookies and pastries) and that many foods have been processed in factories or on equipment that also processes nuts, so we have learned to read labels for everything. We have learned that you must be constantly vigilant of any foods, and always ask managers or chefs if they cook with any nuts or nut oils, and be wary of cross-contamination of foods.
I will always be educating school principals, nurses, food service, teachers and parents about Katie’s allergy, making sure nuts are not used in class projects and that Katie eats lunches brought from home at a safe table, and that parents provide safe classroom treats or that Katie not eat anything that we have not approved of. And we have tried to educate Katie about “No Nuts” and she has learned quickly. However, she is still so young, and our fear is of an accidental ingestion. We carry an EpiPen® and inhaler with us when we are away from the house. The school has been given a plan of action along with an EpiPen® and inhaler. The sitter has been given the same. I constantly read information about children and allergies, trying not to be too obsessed with it.
I am trying to handle my anxieties. The first couple of weeks after Katie’s incident, I was suffering extreme anxiety. I was pumped on adrenaline during the first couple of days. Over the next couple of weeks, I was obsessing about learning enough information about anaphylaxis and children with allergies, hoping to relieve my anxieties. I was having anxiety attacks out of the blue, with heart palpitations and trouble focusing on everything but the near death of my daughter. My doctor explained that it was normal for me to be going through this anxiety, especially after such a traumatic event. She told me I may continue to have small panic episodes for months afterwards. The severity of the anxiety has decreased over time, but sometimes something will trigger the overwhelming feeling of being out of control. My husband has had his share of anxiety as well. He is handling it in his own way. He has written about it to family and friends (part of his writing included in this article). All I know is that we love our daughter so much it hurts, and that we would not know what we would do if we lost our baby girl. We will try to do everything we can to keep our Katie safe, staying constantly vigilant, and keeping others vigilant of Katie’s allergy condition, also.
This has been a tough endeavor for my family and I, but thankfully the good Lord has been with us, and we had a lot of support from our good friends and family. We also had some great doctors who really seemed to care about Katie and her situation. This website, plus many of the other websites about allergies, have been invaluable.
We are thankful Katie pulled through this. It’s different when it’s a near death experience of your child. Makes you view things a bit differently, makes you appreciate your child that much more.
Jontae was 14 months old when he first had a anaphylactic reaction. We were at an organic whole food cafe’ with one of my girlfriends when I had to use the bathroom. My girlfriend watched Jontae who was happily sitting in his pram at the time. Whilst I was in the bathroom my girlfriend who doesn’t have children gave Jontae approximately half a teaspoon of chocolate fudge that she was eating. We left the cafe after I returned from the bathroom and went for a walk.
No more than two minutes after we had left the cafe Jontae began to try and force his hand down into his mouth (itching and swelling had started). I asked my girlfriend if she had given him anything to eat and she said, “Yes the fudge.” I wasn’t sure why this was happening until I raced back to the cafe with Jontae and asked what was in it. They told me that there were cashew nuts in it. “Great,” I said. I had purposely not given Jontae any form of nuts up until this time because you always hear of other people’s children having problems. By this time approximately four minutes after he ate it he was swelling around the mouth and coming out in hives. Lucky for us we were about 500 meters away from our children’s hospital here in Perth, Western Australia.
I knew that this was an emergency and that me loading him into the car and driving immediately to the hospital would be faster than calling an ambulance. So we rushed off to the hospital. Six minutes into the ordeal we pulled up into the emergency bay and he began vomiting profusely. I rushed him into triage and they took one look at Jontae and asked me what he had eaten. I told them cashew, and he was rushed straight through into the emergency room. Three doctors worked on him frantically stripping him down to his nappy and giving his swollen, red and hive covered little body oral antihistamine first to see if this would stop the reaction. 1 hour after receiving the oral antihistamine my little angel was almost totally normal like nothing had ever happened.
Jontae is now 3 and 3/4 years old and after specialist consultation we carry two EpiPens® and oral antihistamine everywhere. Boy was I lucky that for him the day that it all happened he probably only ingested about 1 or two cashews. Thank goodness it wasn’t more or a peanut butter sandwich as he may have stopped breathing I have been told.
He is allergic to peanuts, all tree nuts, and border line allergic to soy.
But he is happy, healthy and full of life and we are always just really, really careful.
After my husband leaves for work I get Jack and his baby sister, Brooke, ready for the day. We run a few errands and then get home by noon for Jack’s nap. Jack has been healing from an ear infection so I make sure that he is resting well. It’s what happened within the next three hours that changed everything.
After Jack woke up we had a non exciting lunch of corn and hot dogs and then we played. Thomas the train engine got a lot of wear on this day. If you were in our household you would hear “choo choo” over and over and over again. Baby Brooke just sat in her bouncy seat happy to hear Jack’s version of how Thomas and his friends made it around the Island of Sodor that day.
After dinner I gave Jack a little snack. He gobbled down his cheese and crackers and was grabbing at my snack. I was eating a couple cashews. Since Jack was not allergic to peanuts, walnuts or pecans I thought I would give him a ¼ of a taste of a cashew. He chewed it and ran back off to play trains. It was a treat for Jack on that night. I filled up our hot-tub and let him play in it with some of his Christmas toys. He had taken his medicine (penicillin) to help his ear infection, and then it was bath time.
When I took him out I noticed a couple of spots on his legs but thought it must be from something rubbing on his skin. Thirty minutes later I noticed two red marks between his nose and mouth and he started rubbing his nose a lot.
When my husband arrived home from work I told him that Jack was acting a little tired so we might have an early night. Fifteen minutes later Jack’s eyes started to swell and he got really fussy. We gave Jack Benadryl and called the doctor. The answering service picked up because it was after hours. Jack started to turn in circles and was screaming.
“Now what?” I screamed. I was in panic mode. My little boy, the love of our lives, was in grave danger and I could not fix it. Quickly, like a tornado running through our house, we got our family ready and headed to the nearest emergency room. We wanted to take him to the best Children’s Hospital in town, but we didn’t feel like there was time. And we were right.
Jack was throwing up in the car and passing out. I kept him awake in his car seat by letting him watch Thomas on the DVD player and talking about choo choo trains. By the time we got to the ER and got off his footy pajamas Jacks body was covered in welts. His body was red and swollen. His ears were the size of his feet and he was screaming. He was having an allergic reaction to what we believed was what he ate that day (cashews) or his medicine for his ear infection. We helped the doctor and nurses hold him down so they could put an IV in. They gave him more Benadryl and steroids. It took eight hours before the redness and welts went down. It was the most frightening thing to watch our little joyful son in so much pain. The ER Doctor told us he had never seen that horrible of an allergic reaction before. Jack went home with a prescription for steroids and allergy medicine, and a diagnosis of a cashew allergy. He is possibly also allergic to penicillin.
I walked several times past the big container full of Fancy Mixed Nuts, and at the last minute I decided it would be a great healthy snack to hold us all over till dinner. So we paid for our groceries and walked over to the car care area to pick up our van. As we waited for my husband to complete the process of picking it up, I opened the nuts and gave each child a few nuts.
For our 2 year old Joshua, I specifically picked out 3 cashews, as I thought they would be easy to chew to prevent him from choking on them. He stuck the 3 cashews in his mouth chewed 2-3 times, and immediately started coughing and spit them back out in my hand. He never even swallowed the nuts.
I thought he had swallowed a little piece of one wrong and it was causing him to cough, so I gave him a drink, which did not relieve his coughing. I kept asking “are you okay?” and he said “no” every time. Within a minute or two, his lips started to swell and he started to show hives, then his eyes started swelling and he was drooling and his voice was becoming hoarse. All of this occurred within 3 minutes of putting the nuts in his mouth.
By now I recognized that he was having an allergic reaction, and I picked him up and ran with him to the pharmacy in Sam’s Club and asked them for Benadryl. By the time we got to the pharmacy he could no longer make any noise with his coughing, as his airway was swelling shut. They looked at him and immediately handed me a bottle of Benadryl. I gave him a dose and asked the pharmacist to call 911.
The ambulance arrived. They started an IV and transported us to the hospital about 3-4 miles up the road where he was given steroids and epinephrine, as well as placed on a cardiac monitor. They monitored him for about 4 hours in the ER and then released him.
It took about a week for all the hives to disappear. He remained on steroids and Benadryl for 3 days after the event. Not long after this reaction we saw an allergist and he was determined to be allergic only to tree nuts, but we were instructed to avoid all nuts, as they can develop a reaction to peanuts as well. We now carry an EpiPen and Benadryl fast melts everywhere we go.
Colorado Springs, CO