Now that I have had plenty of time to process it, and can think about it without overanalyzing the situation and feeling the urge to down a bottle of wine, I can tell you about Breezy’s first ever close call with accidental ingestion. Or, maybe, I shouldn’t say “first ever”. We did used to allow her to eat plain M&M’s before we knew what cross-contamination meant or how to read a label. Ignorance is bliss, remember? Anyway, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I took our little ones to one of the biggest local parades of the year. Parades are one of those occasions where I try not to let my anxieties get the best of me.
The thought of my little ball of allergies and cuteness standing curbside with her bucket in hand while children on homemade floats throw packages of her kryptonite at her feet generally freaks me out.
However, events such as these are a childhood right of passage. God knows there are going to be a million times in her life where she will be excluded because of her allergies. I make sure it doesn’t happen on my watch. As the parade marched passed us, fire trucks, politicians, pageant queens, churches, and more tossed candy right to us. It was also a learning opportunity for Breezy, as she kept asking if it was safe for her to pick up, but, also, where it breaks my heart for her when I know that it could be different. That it should be different. That instead of looking to me for permission to pick up candy off the ground, she could be aiming to see how much candy she could get in her bucket. She shouldn’t be worried that everything they throw to her may have nuts or eggs in it. She knows the usual no-no’s; Reese’s, Snickers, etc., and not to touch them when they came her way. She was thrilled when she was tossed a Tootsie Roll or a Dum-dum, treats that she knew were safe for her. When it was all over with, we went back to our friends’ house to play.
Breezy brought her bucket of candy in the house and, as always, I instructed her not to get anything out of it until I could look at it. On this day, she decided not to listen. Here’s where I get over-analytical and decided my first mistake was not taking the bucket of candy myself. She came to me and asked if she could have some of her candy, and I told her to bring me the bucket. She went down to the basement, and instead of bringing me the bucket, she comes back upstairs, chewing on something (which I now know she thought was bubblegum, and she probably hurried up and put it in her mouth because I usually don’t let her have it), and says “Mommy, can I have this?” I said “What is it?” and she says “I don’t know”. I immediately tell her to go spit it out quickly, and to bring me the wrapper. She knows we don’t ever eat anything without reading the label first, and I reminded her of that. That’s when she brings me the bucket and the wrapper of the mystery candy she had just chewed on. The wrapper was something I had never seen before. It was pink, so I get why she would think it was bubble gum, but it had Japanese writing all over it.
I searched frantically for any ingredients, and finally, in very small print and nearly cut off of the wrapper said the words “may contain peanuts”.
I tried not to panic, as this was the first time she had ate anything “may contain” since our “light bulb” moment 2 years ago. I looked over her, up and down. No hives, no swelling. No signs of distress, respiratory or otherwise. I had her stick her tongue out. Normal. I made her take a deep breath. Normal. Thank God. I didn’t give Benadryl, because I didn’t want to mask any signs of anaphylaxis should they arise. I watched her for a while before telling her she could go play, but I kept a close eye on her. All was well….. or so I thought.
About 2 hours later, it happened. She was sitting on the steps playing with the cat when she said “Mommy, my face is itchy.” Her face had several hives. No where else, just her face. At this point my conclusion was she was having a reaction to the cat. Her most recent environmental skin test showed negative for cats, but she has had mild topical reactions to them on occasion. I calmly wait for a minute to watch for other symptoms. Again, I didn’t want to give her Benadryl to mask any symptoms of anaphylaxis. Nothing. So, I gave her a Benadryl and took her home to give her a bath to get any cat dander off of her. During the 10 minute or so drive to our house from our friends’, I glanced in the backseat to check on her. The hives were worse, which was odd after giving her Benadryl. I start to overanalyze again……”Maybe, I give Benadryl to her too often and her body has built up a tolerance to it?” By the time we get home her face is nearly completely covered. I rushed her to the bathtub, and quickly washed her face. No change. Waited a few minutes. Still no change.
Then it hit me. This isn’t the cat. This is from the piece of candy. This isn’t topical. This is INGESTION! Is this it?! Am I supposed to EPI?! Everything I had taught myself the past two years to prepare myself for something like this suddenly kicked in. Normally, after a mild reaction to a cat or dog, she’s completely back to normal after a Benadryl and a bath. This wasn’t going away at all. I wanted to kick myself for giving her an antihistamine, thinking if her throat starts to swell I’m not going to know it until her lips turn blue. But this was only ONE symptom. No more. I tried to stay calm. She started to get sleepy, and wanted to lie down. I prayed it was the Benadryl, which always affects her differently. She fell asleep, and I sat right beside her the entire time with my eyes on her, Epi-pens by my side and ready to go, praying that her lips didn’t change color. I called our allergist that (Praise Jesus!) has Saturday hours. Luckily, I caught them right before they were leaving the office. They called in a steroid to our pharmacy, and reminded me of symptoms of anaphylaxis. Talk about preaching to the choir.
Breezy finally awoke 2 hours later, an abnormally long nap for her, even with an antihistamine in her system. She was still pretty groggy when I put her in the car in her pajamas to run to the pharmacy to get her steroids. By the time we made it back home, within 15 minutes, she was completely back to normal. The hives were gone, and she was her active little self again. She was okay, but I was not.
I became a stay at home mom almost entirely for the reason being her food allergies. When she isn’t at school she is with me 99.9% of the time, and I felt like I failed. I failed her, my husband (who was out of town for this whole episode), and myself. The guilt was immense for a while. If I had taken the bucket of candy away it would have never happened. I had to remind myself that I am human, and I am going to make mistakes. I’m the type of person that has to find the silver lining in everything to keep myself sane. The silver lining in this was this it could have been unbelievably worse. She could have went into full blow anaphylaxis, and all the events that follow that could have happened. But they didn’t. This was a huge learning experience for both Breezy and myself that I am bittersweetly thankful for.