July 8, 2016

The Terrifying Medical Emergency That Happened To My Baby

Today I had the most terrifying experience since I became a mom.  Though to be be honest, it was probably the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

Harper is my second baby.  With a first baby, many parents do things “by the book.”  When you introduce a new food, you do the same food for four days, watch for a reaction, and then add the next one.  Once several foods have been cleared as “safe,” you can blend foods and create tastier purees.

I heard about Baby Led Weaning with my first, because after all, I do live in Los Angeles.  And parents here are always exploring the new, the on trend parenting method or style.  And we have been doing more attachment-style parenting techniques with my son because, it suits his personality well.

At first, I didn’t understand BLW because, wait, so the kid weans themself? What does that have to do with food?

Screw the name, all baby led weaning means is that baby gets to decide what she eats.  You don’t puree anything; they eat what you eat.

My one concern with BLW is choking. But choking it turns out, was not the issue.  Rather, my daughter had an extreme reaction to something she ate.

As moms, parents and caregivers, we know that we are in store for at least some minor bumps and bruises along the way as our children grow up.  When I first found out I was having a boy, I said to myself, there will probably be one day, when he will break a bone.  And I have to be prepared and not freak out.

A few months ago, my son hit his head on a hard metal bench while running at the park and his head was gushing blood.  It was a simple fix, just some glue at urgent care, and he barely shed a tear.  That was nothing compared to what happened today.

Thankfully it happened when we were at BabyGroup, a welcoming, loving, nurturing mommy and me group in Santa Monica.  Today I was a bit off.  I woke up tired and my head was stuffy.  I had a new intern to train, a ton of work to get done, and gift bags to make for an event in the late afternoon.  Somehow I was running far behind, and I didn’t get to eat a lot.  My husband makes a huge smoothie every morning full of protein, kale, pineapple and whatever else he can fit in (hemp hearts! Spirulina! Some crazy green powder! I don’t ask, just drink and enjoy.  Curiously, Harper had her first smoothie yesterday.  She figured out the straw in two seconds and drank a ton).

Sorry, I digress.  So at mommy and me I was feeling light headed and dug around in the diaper bag my nanny prepared and found an oatmeal bar.  I opened it up and started eating.  Harper expressed interest in eating some, so I moved to the chairs where she could eat without the other babies seeing.  She gnawed at two pieces, and most was gummed and tossed in the trash.  I went to get a wipe to clean her face and hands and noticed that they were a bit red.  I thought it was possibly from wiping too hard or just irritated.  Then I noticed the rash getting bigger and more angry.  The mom sitting next to me was a well-known chef, so I figured she might know about a food reaction.  I asked her and she said she knew as much as I probably did.

I went back to my place and sat down, and placed Harper in the circle.  She started to get fussy.  Harper is not a fussy baby.  I went and got her a bottle, and she drank for a minute and got fussier.  Her face was getting redder and was starting to swell.  I noticed the area around her eye was all swollen and inflamed.  I asked the mom next to me what she thought and she told me to ask the group.  But there was a great conversation flowing about older kids having some issues with their new younger sibling (this is a second time mom group).

Then I heard two moms say they thought Harper was having an allergic reaction.  She was drooling a ton, and kind of smacking her lips like you do when you have too much peanut butter.  Suddenly, the whole class looked at Harper and concurred, and I went to get my bag, made sure to grab the food wrapper, and headed out as quickly as I could.  I got to the parking lot (of course I was on the 8th floor) and the elevator had just gotten to the second floor, going up.  I ran up the stairs, with my baby carrier over one arm, but I didn’t take the time to put her in it.  I got her in her car seat, and called her ped as I drove that direction.  Luckily I was only a mile away.

At first, the woman on the phone told me to go to the ER, which is across the street from their office.  But ERs can take time, and I worry about sicker people getting my little one sick.  I called back, explained the situation, and she told me to come in ASAP.  I told her I was a block away.  I ran as fast as I could into the office, where a nurse was waiting for me by the front desk.  They ushered me into a room and the doctor was there immediately along with a whole team of nurses.

I could tell from their faces her reaction was severe.  Her face was bright red, swollen and inflamed.  Her eye looked like it was the worst of all black eyes. She had red patches on her arms where the food touched her arms.

They checked her breathing, and announced that her airway was not constricted.  She would be okay!  First was benedryl.  Then we removed her clothing she was wearing and I cleaned her whole body in the sink, in case she had any other food residue on her body.  They attached a monitor that showed her oxygenation level.

On the way to the doctor, I emailed my husband call now 911.  We agreed long ago that if there was ever an emergency, we would use “911.”  That means stop what you are doing and call.  He responded in a text to both my mom and me, so I knew he knew it was serious.  But I was focused on Harper and what was going on with her, so I had to update my poor stressed out husband sitting in the dark.  I let him know she would be fine, but would be monitored for an hour.

A resident happened to be there, so my doctor ran through all of the implications ER style (which was SO cool, what do you think first? Epipen.  Next, benedryl.  Then steroid).  We decided she didn’t need an EpiPen because her airway was clear.  But she did need a steroid.

We went over the ingredients of the bar and determined it was likely an almond allergy, or some nut, but it is hard to tell until we get Harper allergy tested.

When the nurse gave her some of the liquid, she instantly starting choking and gagging and projectile vomited all down my legs, on my Tieks (fortunately it came right off!) and on the floor.  Luckily it mostly didn’t get on her and she was already sans clothes.  More benadryl and steroids followed.

Her eye swelling was calming.  He face wasn’t as furious red, it was more clammy.  She was getting happier.  They continuously checked on us, and the nurses were incredible.  My phone died and a nurse found a charger.  I had an event in a little over an hour, and all of the event stuff was in my car.  And leaving Santa Monica in the afternoon is a beast!!

I was still in fight or flight, I was sweaty, my blood was pumping.  But Harper got better.  Over the course of an hour, she became her happy, normal self, most of the swelling and redness went away.  We were given an Auvi Q (a type of EpiPen), and I learned how to use it.  We discussed allergy testing, what to look for, and secondary reactions.  Apparently four hours after an allergic reaction, some children get red again.  But because Harper threw up most of the food, we might avoid that.

Thankfully we did.  My nanny met us with clothes, and it was so nice to have her out of the doctor’s office, in the real world, with a familiar face.

I facebook messaged a friend who is a top child allergist, and she called me within minutes.  She told me babies CAN be allergy tested as long as they are over 6 months old, she reiterated we needed to always have the Epi Pen and Benadryl, and also said we should probably switch my son off almond milk.  It was SUCH a relief to talk to her.  However, she did say children very rarely grow out of tree nut allergies (if that is in fact what it is).

But I want you to know what to look for in your child when they are having an allergic reaction, so I want to share this story.

A few interesting facts:

  1. Allergic reactions happen FAST.  Harper went from fine to red, swollen and having a bad reaction within less than 5 minutes
  2. If your child is having an allergic reaction, go to your doctor, urgent care or the ER as soon as possible.
  3. Call them on your way and let them know a child is on their way so they can be prepared.
  4. If you don’t get the answer you want, call again.  YOU have to be your child’s best advocate. I am SO GLAD I called my daughter’s ped office back after the first call.
  5. If your child stops breathing or is having problems breathing, CALL 911 ASAP.
  6. When giving your child nuts or potential allergens, be alert.  I remember when I first gave my son peanut butter, I watched him closely for a reaction.  With BLW I haven’t paid as much attention to ingredients in food (plus some studies have said to expose kids to allergens earlier, even in the womb).  I should have read the ingredients in the oatmeal bar and saw the second ingredients was almond.  Almond is a nut and can be an allergen.  I have NEVER heard of an almond allergy until today.  Be Alert!
  7. Make sure you have a ped you love.  We LOVE OUR PED! I cannot say enough about how incredible his entire office responded today.  And he will probably call to check in on her tomorrow!
  8. ALL clothing, toys, etc that your child touched before or during an allergic reaction can cause a further reaction.  Wash everything (even the inside of a diaper bag!)
  9. A child with a nut allergy can suffer a reaction if someone else eats something with a nut and touches or kisses them, even some time later.  Make SURE to wash your hands and be cautious.  This is the path we are taking now, but we will remove nuts if we have to from our home.
  10. If your child has had an allergic reaction, you must ALWAYS have an EpiPen AND Benedryl on you at all times.  And don’t keep the pens in your car.  1 in 5 kids does not respond to the first shot, so ALWAYS have BOTH with you.  They are only effective for 20-30 minutes.  If you ever use one, call 911 immediately.
  11. Get them a bracelet that lets people know about their allergy.  And yes, you can find cute ones like these and these and even some on Etsy like these charms and some basic letter ones too!

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