Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An EpiPen Experience

Let me first start out by thanking the mom that is allowing me to post about her family's recent experience requiring an EpiPen.  She originally shared her story with members of the Parents of Allergic Kids Yahoo Group.  There is some really good lessons that I'd like to share with my readers so I asked if I could also publish her experience on my blog.  Here's her story:

"My son had an allergic reaction which resulted in the use of the epipen. This is only the second time that he has needed the epipen in his 13 years.

But the good news is: the EPIPEN WORKS!!!!

My son is allergic to peanut, treenut, dairy, egg, sesame, mustard. We also avoid fish and shellfish. The reaction occurred at a restaurant we visit quite regularly…the manager knows us and they get his food started when they see us walk in. The reaction started when he took bites of chicken and carrot and had some of his drink…so, we're not sure where the contamination was.

His tongue and throat felt itchy and his throat started feeling clogged. He took Benadryl. I asked him if maybe he was feeling itchy and had a lot of mucous because he had stopped his Zyrtek (in anticipation of upcoming allergy skin test) - this happens to him sometimes. He said that he knew he was having a reaction because the water felt like it was barely trickling down his throat…he said that it was like it went into his throat but it was going down one drop at a time. On way to hospital by this time. I kept telling him to drink his water…wanting to monitor his swallowing plus hoping to get the Benadryl in his system faster. He said he thought he might be a little better so I thought the Benadryl might be working. Then, 1-2 minutes later, he said that all of the sudden he feels like there is something huge stuck in his throat and like someone is sticking a knife in the bottom of his throat. Pulled over and did Epipen.

Last time he needed the Epipen, I was holding the Epipen and my husband was coaching me to "do it." This time, I was telling my husband to do the Epipen.  When you're the one holding the Epipen - it's difficult to convince yourself that you need to give the shot. Soon after he had the Epipen, my son described the feeling to me as 'all the stuff in my throat is dissolving and now I can swallow.'

Normally - the appropriate protocol is to call 911 after giving the Epipen. We were close enough to Levine Children's Hospital and the Epipen was obviously working so we drove there and I called to alert the ER that we were on our way. They kept us until it had been 4 hours since the "incident" and also gave him oral steroid.

Of course, ask your doctor for the best individual action plan because I'm not qualified to give this kind of "advice." But, I learned recently (since the reaction) that at the first sign of any throat symptoms - give the Epipen. I had always thought that you should start with Benadryl. However, the Epipen is not scary, does not hurt and works quickly and effectively.

One thing the hospital didn't tell us…which I think they maybe should have…was to keep Benadryl in his system for a while. That evening, he looked and felt terrible - pale, shaky, nauseous - so I called our pediatrician just to get reassurance that all of these symptoms are expected side effects of meds. since it was already about 7 hrs. since Epipen and 5 hours since oral steroid. The pediatrician said she suspected that he was feeling side effects of meds - probably steroid - and she also told me to give him another dose of Benadryl.  After she suggested that…I remembered that we got that same recommendation after his reaction 3 years ago. However, at hospital discharge, they did not tell us to give a follow-up dose of Benadryl…wonder why that wasn't part of their protocol."

I really hate that she and her family had to experience this, but I'm so glad she shared.  The part describing what her son was feeling as his throat was swelling was particularly moving, but also very helpful if I ever needed to help Abigail identify what she was experiencing.  A few take-aways: 1. No matter how many times you frequent a restaurant or purchase what you feel is a safe food brand, for people with severe food allergies, there is always a risk.  I feel most confident with manufacturers that label a food allergen if there's  even a small risk of cross-contamination, and of course, if I prepare the food myself.  2.  Always carry an EpiPen and do not hesitate to use it if the situation calls for it.  Our doctor at Duke told us that if in doubt (obviously there's no doubt if someone is having difficulty breathing) the best way to tell if you should use an EpiPen is if multiple systems are reacting.  For instance, if you are experiencing hives (a skin reaction) and vomiting (a stomach reaction), use the EpiPen and then call 911.  3.  I had not heard about continuing to use Benadryl even after leaving the hospital.  It's good advise.

I truly believe that the best way to arm yourself and loved ones against the life-threatening effects of a food allergy is knowledge.  Thanks to this mom for giving us another lesson.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW! I need to give you a call and talk to you about allergies. Will got blood work back saying he was allergic to about 30 foods! I will try and give you a call sometime this week. Julie