Ignoring “May Contain” Labels

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On Thursday of last week we had the opportunity to visit the Emergency Room with Riley.  Although there have been several occasions I believe I should have used the Epi-Pen, I have always been hesitant and frankly, afraid of the big needle.  I don’t do needles.  I can’t even handle hospitals.  I have had at least two occasions where I have had to sit down with my head between my knees outside someone’s hospital room just because I came in to visit.  I am proud to say we did go to the hospital but not so proud to say that I put off using the Epi-Pen again.

It started off as a normal morning.  We were eating breakfast together.  Riley was eating Silk Tropical Yogurt with Nature Valley Crunchy Protein Oats N’ Honey Granola.  He’s eaten this granola many times before and never had a problem, but this morning his mouth was itchy and his throat started hurting terribly.  I looked at the back of the granola bag and realized that it said “MAY CONTAIN ALMOND, MILK, PECAN and WHEAT INGREDIENTS.”  I knew it must be a reaction to a trace of pecan since the only other thing he is allergic to is milk, and that allergy is mild enough that a trace wouldn’t likely cause a reaction. I kicked myself for ignoring the label. To be honest, we often ignore those labels because they are on SO many items, but it obviously wasn’t a smart idea.

I gave him some Benadryl hoping it would ease his discomfort.  But within 20 minutes, instead of feeling better, his stomach started hurting too, and he started to feel dizzy.  At that point I knew the Epi-Pen was the next course of action but I was too afraid to use it.  Instead I drove him to the Emergency Room (which is about 2 minutes from our home, thank heavens!) with the Epi-Pen in my lap.  I hoped they would give it to him there so I could learn from the pros and he could feel at ease knowing they know what they are doing.  I was never panicked by his reaction.  It wasn’t that bad, but I was worried that since multiple systems were reacting, that it could get bad quickly.

By the time we got all checked in and the doctor came to see us, most of his reaction was gone.  I was grateful he was fine, but also wished I had been able to have my hand held through an Epi-Pen administration.  I vowed to be both more careful and more brave in the future.

We were more lucky than I knew.  The next day Bruce Kelley, a young man from Twin Cities also ignored a “May Contain” label and had an allergic reaction that proved fatal.  He had eaten chocolate bars that said they may contain peanuts many times before without having a reaction.  But that Friday, he had a reaction to one of the chocolates and a bad one.

The lesson I take away from our experience and the tragic news from the Kelley family is that we need to be diligent in label reading, in carrying our Epi-Pens, and not hesitant about using using them.  The risk of a serious life-threatening reaction is real and we should never be too casual about it.

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