"Use the epi pen! Use the epi pen!". This is the phrase most used by our three year old's allergist when discussing a recent reaction over the phone or in his office. I've always had a general fear of giving my child a shot of epinephrine. What will it do to his heart rate? Blood pressure? What if he doesn't really need it? Will it hurt him? I never seemed to fully believe the allergist when he proclaimed that it would not hurt my child. It's a shot of adrenaline, after all! What if I thought he was having an allergic reaction, but it was really something else?
I'm not scared anymore. Not in the least bit. The epi pen has gone from being my greatest concern to my new best friend. I hope that I can convince all of my blogger friends out there who also have children with life threatening food allergies to love their epi pens, too.
It started around 8pm on Friday. My father in law was in town and we had gone out to dinner at a local Mexican food restaurant. We had eaten there before, but it was the first time we allowed Ace to order off the kids' menu. Our server assured us his selection was safe and no peanut oil was used back in the kitchen. He ordered chicken fingers and fries to share with his little brother and ended up eating a few chips and two or three fries. When we left the restaurant, everyone was pleasantly full and in good health.
About an hour after we got home, Ace began complaining of an "owie" in his eyes and had a rash across his face and stomach. We treated him with a prescription antihistamine and he was feeling better within minutes. A couple of hours later he went to bed seemingly fine. A few minutes later we would learn different.
I had gone to bed and my husband was in the kitchen when he heard noise coming from Ace's room. He went to check on him and found him sitting up in bed, struggling to breathe. I ran in from our bedroom and Ace was tugging at his throat, coughing horribly and obviously having difficulty breathing. His body kept heaving, as if he was going to vomit, only nothing came up. A million thoughts popped into my head. "Dial 911. Give the epi. Give the epi. Call Paw Paw and have him come back to the house to watch the baby. Don't give the epi. Go to the hospital..." . I ended up running into the kitchen, retrieving an epi pen and giving him the shot a good minute after this all started.
I had froze. I was so scared of the epi pen that we lost a precious minute in treating his reaction. Every second counts in an anaphylactic reaction.
My fears of the epi pen turned out to be completely unfounded. Within seconds, he was breathing easier. The heaving stopped. His rash disappeared. By the time we got to the hospital (in hind sight, we should have called an ambulance. Don't try to drive a child who is having breathing issues to the hospital. Take my word for it, it was an unneeded stress!), he had only a mild wheeze.
The ER waiting room was full. Upon hearing his wheeze and learning that he had had a shot of epinephrine, the nurse took us back immediately to triage. They took his blood pressure (normal), checked his pulse (normal) and listened to his lungs. His breathing was still slightly labored and we were immediately taken back to a room. He was given steroids and we were admitted for the night for observation. After a rather uneventful night (he slept most the night), we were discharged with the diagnosis of anaphylaxis and given instructions to give an antihistamine every 6 hours for the next 24 hours and steroids for the next 48.
We learned several important lessons. Call 911, don't try to drive a very sick child to the ER. Give the epi pen immediately, don't hesitate. But, most importantly, DO NOT FEAR THE EPI PEN. I sincerely hope our experience will help ease other parents fears when it comes to using the epi pen. It saved our son's life and we will never hesitate to use it again.
48 hours after his reaction, Ace is back to his usual happy-going, toy car loving self. The morning we were discharged from the hospital, he came home, got dressed and went shopping with my husband and father in law. I'm not sure he remembers what happened, but I know I will never forget.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!