The Dreaded Anaphylactic Attack

It started out as a little itch. I saw E scratching his little belly, and his shirt lifted enough to reveal that there were little welts on them. I felt something in my brain kind of click and then I lifted up his shirt, to see the little dots scattered around his torso. The sizes of the welts were varied, and that’s how I knew they were hives, not insect bites.

He walked to his grandparents’ room and lay down on the bed, asking for a back scratch. I went to get his antihistamine (we use Virlix, because he responds well to it), gave him his dose, and his grammy tried to relieve him of his itching. We decided to head home and hoped that the medicine would take effect while we were in the car, so that he could fall asleep and stop clawing away at his skin. But the hives just spread and started swelling even more. I had to take off all of his clothes in an attempt to give him comfort, but then he started coughing, and his eyes started welling up. My heart jumped up to my throat and stayed there for a bit, because this was not a good sign. When they start to cough and wheeze, that means the swelling is probably traveling to the throat and his other organs, heading towards anaphylaxis. 

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A blurry shot from inside the car. This was halfway into his reaction.

If you don’t know what anaphylaxis is, it is a severe reaction to an allergen that can lead to the swelling of your throat and other organs, blocking your airways. If you don’t catch it, if you don’t give the sufferer an epinephrine injection and seek medical care immediately, this could lead to death.

His coughing started to be more frequent, and I noticed his hives were now on his neck and was climbing up his chin. It was quick, and my brain barely had time to process it before I told my husband I was worried. He trusted his gut and the strain in my voice, turned the car around, and we rushed to the ER.

When we got to Asian Hospital, the nurse saw his symptoms and basically jumped into action. We got wheeled into the urgent bay, and it was a blur of a doctor and a nurse with words and needles. Yikes. He had to be nebulized, injected with epinephrine and a Heplock Kit (that thing they insert into your vein so an IV can be administered), and given another drug straight up (SONIPHEN). There was crying and comforting and counting and promises of rewards for being so brave and strong.

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After a few minutes, all was quiet, E was curiously staring at his “laser hand” (the Heplock thing looks like it could shoot lasers actually hahaha), and before long, he fell asleep from the meds and exhaustion. They had to observe him for another 4 hours, to make sure the reaction didn’t come back when the meds wore off.

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We stayed from 11pm until 3 am, got discharged, and passed out on our own bed by 4am. It was quite an ordeal. And one I hope we never had to go through again. BUT. Here are the important things I want all you parents dealing with allergies to always remember:

  1. KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS – pay attention to what your child reacts to. We don’t know what triggered this specific episode, since he didn’t eat anything new. But we will get him a full blood panel to get a better idea of what we are dealing with. We know he has severe reactions to peanuts and walnuts, as well as dairy, so we avoid those at all cost. We have little to none of those triggers in our home (what little we have are packed away safely), but i think we’re gonna go with really removing all of them from now on.
  2. KNOW THE SYMPTOMS- E’s first reaction are always hives. There are some that remain only in the area of exposure, but then there are hives that spread and cause extreme discomfort. Then sometimes he vomits profusely (dairy does this). The swelling is only caused by nuts. It has never been this severe before, because we have always avoided nuts since the first time a walnut TOUCHED his lip and he swelled up for half an hour. But it is important to know the symptoms of anaphylaxis even if it has never happened- read stories and testimonials of other parents who have dealt with it. That’s how I knew about the coughing and the teary eyes. If we had ignored it, if we had gone home and let him sleep it off alone in his room while we were in another room unable to hear his breathing? I don’t even want to know what could have happened.
  3. HAVE PROTOCOLS IN PLACE – as for us, we never leave the house without E’s epipen and a bottle of antihistamine. I’ve shown all the grandparents how to use the Epi and what signs to look out for. Also- if epi was administered, ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY AFTER. Reactions can resume after the medicine wears off, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Know where your nearest hospital or clinic is. Stay calm, and remember as many details as you can so your doctor can help you better.
  4. BE VIGILANT- it’s easy to get comfortable and complacent when your kid hasn’t had an episode in a while. This is not something you can afford when the severity of the allergy is this high. Always pay attention.

I hope this helps you in your journey with allergies. Our lives are a little more complicated, but I really believe that educating yourself is key. Know everything you can know, so that you’re always ready to respond to any situation you may find yourself in. Hopefully it is never anaphylaxis, but it is always better to be prepared anyway.

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