Allergies and Asthma and Epipens… Oh My!

This past weekend, Asa took her first ambulance ride. She also received her first epipen in over 3 years…

I’m not gonna lie, it was scary. We were having a totally normal night at home. Then out of nowhere, she started coughing a lot and then said her stomach hurt. At first we weren’t sure what was going on. I had her come closer to me and could tell that she was wheezing. I got up and immediately gave her her Albuterol inhaler. We’ve been monitoring her for asthma symptoms for the past 6 months or so. She hasn’t been fully diagnosed with it yet, but she’s been having some “asthma-like” symptoms so we’ve been prescribed inhalers and are supposed to use them when she’s sick, develops a cough, or starts wheezing. I knew this was a moment to use it.

We still couldn’t figure out what was going on or what was causing her to start this episode that seemed like an allergic reaction.

Then I started wondering… the stupid cookies I had baked had peanut butter in them. I made them knowing she wasn’t going to eat them and she’s never had an airborne reaction before. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking it would be a big deal. But when she started coughing and acting strange, I realized that the peanut smell was really strong, and if it was that strong, maybe she was reacting to it.

We immediately started opening windows in the house, putting the cookies into a sealed container, gave her Benedryl, and took her outside to breath the fresh air. Her wheezing stopped right after she got her inhaler. We kept monitoring her and asking her how she felt. Eventually she said that the pain in her tummy was now in her chest too. When she said that, I gave the epipen. Ryan called 911.

In hindsight, I probably should have given it a little sooner. I feel like we learn something in every single one of her reactions – whether it’s a small reaction or a big one. You always see a little more clearly when you are looking back at the situation. But still… By the time the paramedics arrived at the house, Asa was acting pretty normal. They listened to her and said that she sounded great and that we had done the right thing. We explained everything that happened and they said a hospital visit was needed to be monitored following administering an epipen (we already knew that drill!).

They had her ride in the ambulance. At this point the epipen had kicked in and her adrenaline was up. When she heard she was riding in the ambulance, she literally yelled, “YES!” and couldn’t get her shoes on fast enough! She was cracking us all up even in the midst of a really scary situation.

At the hospital all of her vitals looked strong and remained that way. When the doctor finally came in, he basically acted like it was almost impossible that she had had an airborne reaction to the cookies. When I explained that I didn’t know what else it could have been, he didn’t offer any other suggestions and instead just said, “Well if she’s that sensitive to peanut you should probably get rid of everything peanut in your house…” (thank you, sir…) and then said, “She looks fine now!” It was almost as if he didn’t even believe she had had a reaction at all. It was frustrating to say the least. But at least she was safe.

The rest of the weekend, I ruminated over the event. I couldn’t stop re-playing it, wondering what had really happened and if there was something I could have done better. Should I have given Epi sooner? Was it really an airborne reaction? Did she have an asthma attack? Did she react to some new food and I didn’t know it? Why was that doctor such a jerk? Hadn’t he heard of good bedside manner?

Today we took Asa to her allergist. After going over the whole event with her, she truly thinks Asa had an asthma attack – a “viral induced asthma attack” to be exact. After she said that, I told her that when we followed up with her pediatrician, we found out that she had an ear infection and this only made the allergist feel even stronger that Asa was probably working through a virus and had an asthma attack as a result. We came up with a whole asthma action plan to add to her allergy action plan. Now she has to carry not only an epipen with her to school, but an emergency inhaler as well. She’s also on a daily inhaler for at least the next month while we monitor her closely.

The allergist made sure to tell me that I did everything right in the event this past weekend. As allergy parents, we are taught to look for certain symptoms, and not to hesitate with the Epipen if those symptoms are present. She said that giving the Epipen is never going to hurt, but not giving it can be deadly, so giving it is always what we should do in these situations! As we always say… “Epi First, Epi Fast!”

The life of a food allergy parent is hard. It’s so easy to beat yourself up – to wonder if you did the right thing and if you should have done something differently. It’s exhausting – both mentally and emotionally. The fear you experience in the heat of the moment, and the sigh of relief you feel after, are so heavy. I walked around for days feeling somewhat depressed just because the weight I was feeling was so heavy.

If you’ve never experienced this before, I’m so happy that you haven’t! And if you have, just know that you are not alone. When I was upset and confused the day after asthma attack, I turned to some allergy communities that I am apart of (and my own social media pages that I run) and felt so supported! It’s a community that none of us want to belong to but we find a lot of comfort in because we know how each other feel and what we are going through. So when you’re feeling heavy, reach out. I’m here for you, and others are too!

Back to her normal spunky self!