At Home Allergy Scare!

Last week I awoke to a voicemail and a 5 part text from a childhood friend starting with “I called the pediatrician!”  In a panic, I read on…

The good news? Her son is fine.

The bad news?  He suffered an allergic reaction.

Earlier in the evening, her son and husband ate a bowl of ice cream at home.  Shortly thereafter, her son, who is allergic to peanuts, complained his throat “felt tight”.  My friend immediately gave him Benadryl but unfortunately did not check the ingredients of the ice cream, assuming that it was safe.

His symptoms subsided.

Next she called my cell phone, which unfortunately was off, and left a voice mail.  If only she had called my home number, I would have told her to check the ice cream ingredient label and to follow his Food Allergy Action Plan if the allergen was present.

His throat tightness returned.  She called the pediatrician whom she had difficulty contacting and unfortunately never thought to call 911 or his allergist.  The pediatrician told her to give him more Benadryl and explained that he could have an anaphylactic reaction, so she should watch him carefully.  My friend ended up sleeping on his bedroom floor listening for choking sounds all night.

Thankfully, the next morning he was fine!  When he went downstairs to eat breakfast, her son happened to check the ice cream and what do you think he found?  You guessed it!

“Mom, there’s peanut butter in this ice cream!”, he yelled.

Needless to say, my friend was horrified.  Unbeknownst to her, peanut butter was listed on the label although it was not in bold and not listed separately.  Admittedly, she was in a rush at the grocery store and didn’t read the entire label. Like some of us have done at times, she merely scanned the label for bold words and an allergy statement.

That morning we had a long talk. I gave her some suggestions to hopefully prevent such an incident in the future and told her that they are very fortunate that he is okay given the sequence of events.

Afterwards she stated, “I think this should be a blog post!” to which I replied, “Definitely!”.

  • Read from the bottom up!

I always tell my kids, family and friends to begin reading labels from the bottom and look for an allergen statement.  If present, return the item to the shelf.  If not present, continue reading the entire label.

  • Enlist your child’s help.

Have your child read ingredient lists as well since another pair of eyes may help to prevent mistakes.  Additionally this gets your child in the habit of reading labels.

  • Double check ingredient labels prior to preparing food.

Reviewing ingredients a second time at home before eating/preparing food may help to catch an unsafe item that was previously missed.

  • If a suspected or actual ingestion occurs, follow your Food Allergy Action Plan.

Hopefully your doctor has provided instructions for suspected and actual ingestions both with and without symptoms which may include administration of Benadryl, Epinephrine and possibly calling 911.  You may get a blank form at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

  • Be a detective.

Allergic reactions generally occur shortly following an exposure.  Check the last food/beverage consumed prior to reaction.  My friend told me that if she had known the ice cream contained peanut butter, she would have given her son the EpiPen immediately and called 911.

  • Roll play with your kids.

Give your children different scenarios, and ask them questions such as “Who would you tell if you didn’t feel well after eating ___”, “What would you do next?”, “How could we prevent this from happening?”

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