Birthday Party turned ER Visit

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A couple of months ago we had a big learning experience!  Riley had been invited to a birthday party at a friend’s house.  He actually didn’t want to go because he had a huge black eye and headache from tripping and hitting his head on a cattle guard at a camp out the night before.  At the party they were going to have a bounce house and play in the water, and he wasn’t feeling up to it.  I told him he didn’t have an option because the birthday boy’s mom  was making vegan cupcakes especially for him and had purchased a ton of safe food with him in mind.  We had already worked out the details so he could feel included in the party.  I didn’t want her to go through all of that work and then not show up.  I told him he had to tough it out.

I took him to the party and went to talk to the mom.  I surveyed the food and made sure Riley knew what he could and couldn’t have.  I read the labels on the packages and then I told him to just take it easy and call me if for some reason his eye or head was bugging him so I could come get him.  I wanted him to at least be there for a little while.

Less than an hour later Riley called me and asked me to come pick him up.  I hopped in the car and headed over assuming he wasn’t feeling great, but as soon as he opened the car door, he said “Allergies.” He wasn’t in a panic, he said his mouth was itchy and his stomach was starting to hurt.  He had Benadryl and his Epi-Pen with him but hadn’t taken anything.  I made him take the Benadryl right then and we drove home.

It turned out there was a candy decoration on top of the vegan cupcake and the mom forgot to check the ingredients on it.  The cupcake was fine, but the decoration contained egg, which Riley is severely allergic to.

The stomach pain got significantly worse and he asked me for the Epi-Pen because the pain was so severe.  I wasn’t worried about it being a life-threatening situation but I was more than willing to give him the Epi-Pen. It is more the trip to the ER that I dreaded since I often wonder if it was really worthy of a trip there.  It is not exactly cheap.

To be honest, I had been praying for a chance to use the Epi.  Riley has been afraid of it and since we live right around the corner from the hospital, we haven’t ever used it.  We have driven him straight to the ER anytime we’ve had a significant reaction.  And by the time we get all settled in, the reaction has subsided enough that THEY haven’t even used one on him!  I always wished they would so we could get that “first” out of the way in the ER room!

So we did the Epi-Pen for the first time.  It really wasn’t bad.  In fact, I could see the relief on his face, both from realizing it wasn’t that bad, and the immediate pain relief that followed.  I knew the next step was supposed to be to take him to the ER, but I figured that if the reaction was gone, maybe I didn’t need to.  That was where I learned about how epinephrine works for the first time.  About 40 minutes later the pain started coming back.  I called the doctor and they told me to go to the ER because that is protocol after an Epi.  I was worried that this one must be so severe that the Epi-Pen was not enough.  The doctor told me that it only lasts about 45 minutes, and that’s it.  I thought it was just one dose and it knocked it out. I had no idea!  I would be asking more questions at the next allergist visit only to find out this wasn’t exactly true…

Off to the ER we drove.  And once again, by the time we got checked in and in a bed, the pain had subsided enough that we didn’t need much medication.  They gave him a Pepcid AC to help with the stomach pain and told us to be sure to give that to him with the Benadryl since his reactions tend to be stomach pain and it helps more with that.

He ended up being released after almost two hours with instructions to monitor him and continue giving him Benadryl for the next few days.  I’m glad it wasn’t worse, but I learned a lot.

My big take-aways from all of this?

1) Don’t eat anything without reading the label.  People are well meaning, but even we get it wrong sometimes and we live with food allergies everyday!  It’s better to eat a treat at home later, or bring your own treat when eating at someone else’s house or at social gatherings.

2) The Epi-Pen only lasts 10-20 minutes and reactions might come back.  After I followed up with my allergist, I learned that the effects of epi-pens usually last 10-20 minutes, not 45 minutes like the doctor told me on the phone.  Some reactions require multiple doses to completely stop it, and some reactions can reoccur in a second phase within 30 hours of the last reaction.  I’m not sure if our Epi-pen lasted a little longer, or if we had a second reaction, but I’m glad we had two on hand in either case.  If you feel the reaction merits and  Epi-Pen, go the hospital after you give it.  And make sure you have enough accessible to give you enough time to get you to the hospital if you have a severe reaction.

3) Pepcid AC can help with food allergy stomach pain.  Obviously if it is severe or an emergency – give an Epi-Pen and go to the hosptial, but if it is milder, this is another antihistamine that can help specifically with the stomach.

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