Morgan, a mother of 4 in Utah was home with her son recently when he started coming down with a bad case of diarrhea. She sent him to bed with a children’s dose of Imodium but it wasn’t long before he was throwing up, then very soon after complaining of a burning chest and breathing problems.
Shortly after that, coughing, wheezing, swelling & hives all appeared within minutes of each other. At this point, Morgan realized her son was experiencing an anaphylactic reaction and he was rushed to the hospital. After medical treatments and several hours of monitoring, her son was released from the hospital, the family and doctors still unsure as to what had been the exact cause of the reaction.
The next day, while sitting next to a sibling eating a peanut butter sandwich, Morgan’s son again began to experience anaphylaxis and made a return trip to the hospital. Peanuts were a highly suspicious cause at this point, but the family was still unsure until blood tests confirmed his allergy to peanuts.
But Morgan’s son had eaten peanuts plenty of times before, with no signs of a reaction… why now? The truth is, that while kids may be born with the genetic disposition to have allergies, they aren’t born with allergies specific to any one thing. Children later develop allergies to specific foods or other substances as they are repeatedly exposed to them, most often while their immune systems are still developing, but people with an allergic disposition can develop allergies to anything at any age — this includes adults as well.
Morgan says she wishes she had been better educated about allergies. She has a few food intolerances of her own and her son also has a milk allergy, but his only symptoms after being exposed to milk included skin irritations and stomach cramps — nothing life threatening. She also says that, until she went through the experience herself, she didn’t realize just how risky food allergies can be to someone who is in the same room as their life-threatening allergen and that all families, whether they have food allergies or not, should be better educated on the topic.
The blood test results for Morgan’s son also showed that his allergy to peanuts was not as severe as his allergy to milk, yet his reaction to peanuts was more severe than any reaction he has ever had to milk. This is because allergies are unpredictable and subsequent allergic reactions can result in anaphylaxis even if prior reactions were minor, so it is important to always be prepared with life-saving emergency medication on hand.
Since the peanut experience, the family now carries emergency epinephrine auto-injectors and is supportive of efforts to get epinephrine stocked in schools — especially since her son’s school is 30 minutes away from the nearest hospital. The overall experience was both surprising and scary for Morgan and her 8 year-old and they don’t know what they would have done if the first anaphylactic reaction had occurred during the school day.
Does your school have epinephrine on hand?