One mom took to social media to warn others that anaphylaxis doesn't look like it does in movies. In the post, Julie Ferrier Berghaus documents her daughter’s allergic reactions while taking part in a controlled tree nut challenge by her allergist. Her goal: “to educate people on what anaphylaxis could look like, so they don’t wait to give epi.”
Researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies, which includes 5.6 million children under the age of 18. To put into perspective, that means that there are likely two children in every classroom who have a food allergy. Among these children, more than 40 percent have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis. These statistics are not to be ignored. As parents, our top priority is to keep our children safe. For parents whose kids have food allergies, this becomes even more serious as it could mean the difference between life and death.
In her Facebook post, which, at time of press, has been shared by 54,000 people, Julie emphasizes the fact that her daughter’s symptoms came on silently. There was little drama that is often portrayed in movies.
After being given 1/10 of a cashew, her daughter’s first symptom was itchy ears. She then complained of a stomach ache followed by itching all over. Afterward, she broke out into large hives all over her body. Julie shares that her daughter was content playing and didn’t show any obvious signs of distress throughout most of the reaction. However, her symptoms quickly changed. Suddenly, her daughter began blacking out and was given an albuterol treatment, and another shot of epinephrine. An IV was started with a dose of Solu-Medrol given. She was lethargic and in and out of consciousness for approximately ten minutes before she started coming around again. Her daughter was then observed for several hours afterward to ensure anaphylaxis didn’t return.
Every allergic reaction looks different. While obvious signs may arise, other times symptoms can be less visable. In Julie’s daughter’s case, she didn’t show evident signs of distress until the situation became dire. When it comes to exposure to an allergy trigger, Julie, along with the EpiPen® website, warn that you should never hesitate administering epinephrine. We are all familiar with the phrase, “better safe than sorry!” and it’s imperative to act fast before the reaction becomes severe.
As a parent whose child doesn't have a severe allergy, it's easy to become complacent with the importance of education in regard to food allergies. However, chances are, my daughter will have a friend with one and I want to ensure that I am able to keep him or her safe. Whether or not you are directly impacted by a food allergy, Julie’s story is a reminder to all of us to be aware, to know what to look for and how to react accordingly.