About Those Goldfish…

While I stood next to my daughter at the doctor’s office, my heart sank as I watched her vitals drop. Her O2 levels started to decrease, her temperature was rising, and she began to wheeze.

“It is my recommendation that we give your daughter epinephrine, and then you two will take the ambulance to the ER.”

These were the words spoken by the pediatrician as my daughter was in the middle of anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. I couldn’t believe it. She has had many allergic reactions before, and normally, a dose of Benadryl improves her condition. But on that particular day, she was having a worse-than-usual allergic reaction, and her body wasn’t responding to the Benadryl. I thought that a quick visit to the doctor, a steroid dose, and 30 minutes of monitoring would do the trick. Boy, was I wrong.

I gave the nod of approval to move forward with the pediatrician’s treatment plan. I watched as the worry revealed itself in the doctor’s furrowed brow but was masked with a forced smile. She swiftly grabbed her personal phone to distract my daughter with a game. We moved to a treatment room, and I felt the heightened sense of seriousness and urgency surrounding me by the nurses and medical assistants in the room.

“Ow, Momma. It hurts.”

My daughter doesn’t like the tightness of the blood pressure cuff, but I knew it was necessary to check her vitals on a regular interval. I choked back the tears and the fear lumping in my throat. I told her, “It’s okay! Your arm is just getting a hug!” She reluctantly told me okay and quietly whimpered as she sat still. My heart swelled with pride because of my 2.5 year old’s bravery. Then, I thought, “She shouldn’t have to be this brave at this age,” and again, I choked back the tears so that I could be strong for her.

The doctor gave my daughter a hug, and the nurse slipped as she attempted to inject epinephrine into her thigh. My daughter cried and tensed her entire body, which made it more difficult to finally inject the epinephrine and count to 10. We all counted together as she wailed from fear and pain. I noted the time. It’s 3:52 PM.

The EMTs arrived, and I regurgitated the timeline. The gurney was too scary for my daughter, so I carried her into the ambulance. On the ambulance, I watched my daughter act like her normal self and make embarrassing, sassy statements like, “MOMMA, this ambulance is soooooooo dirty!” The epinephrine was working. Even before I knew her vitals were stable, based off of her behavior, I was optimistic that she was going to be okay.

About Those Goldfish :: A Mom's Look into Food Allergy Awareness Week | Houston Moms Blog

We rode out to a pediatric ER where I again recited the timeline of events to the triage nurse, a different nurse, and the resident after we are admitted. We got comfortable in our room, and I took advantage of the cuddles whilst watching Frozen for only the 2nd time ever. How I kept that movie and soundtrack at bay for that long is some sort of miracle. We were discharged after 4 hours of monitoring.

About Those Goldfish :: A Mom's Look into Food Allergy Awareness Week | Houston Moms Blog

She is okay. My daughter has several severe, life-threatening allergies to many common food items including {but not limited to} nuts, peanuts, dairy, eggs, and shellfish, but thankfully, she is okay. We were lucky that day as it could have been much worse.

This entire emergency situation could have been avoided had she not been exposed to Goldfish.

Yup. That’s right. The beloved Goldfish cracker which contains dairy in that fake orange cheese. We have reason to believe that my daughter ate Goldfish when she was at school, and our allergist agrees with the conclusion given the data. She was under the care of someone who knew about her allergies. The care of an experienced professional. Yet, they chose to give the children surrounding her a snack that could potentially kill her. {They gave her a different snack that was safe for her.} Even the experienced professionals can get comfortable with their competence and make a mistake. 

We used to allow Goldfish within her proximity. We used to allow some other foods and drinks with allergens around her. We weren’t prohibitive. We didn’t want to be “those people.” But after that scary experience, we have to micromanage social situations. Those moments of awkwardness are a welcomed tradeoff if that’s what it takes to keep my child safe.

We have had to ask parents to put Goldfish away during a play date, and in return, a toddler melted down. We have had to work with a new school’s administration to make the classroom a safe place, and in return, my daughter was denied enrollment. We have had to walk on eggshells to provide the dance school a list of safe and unsafe snacks, but I was relieved when the assistant director welcomed the recommendations without resistance.

Folks, this is my public and earnest plea. When you hear about food allergies, it is always serious and always requires vigilance. It’s not a condition of privilege/wealth. It’s not asking for special privileges. It’s not picky eating. It’s a matter of safety. It’s a matter of life and death. And who knows, you could be next. Food allergies are on the rise, and 1 in 13 children in the United States have a food allergy. That’s roughly 2 children in every classroom. Approximately 20% of anaphylaxis that occurs in schools happens to children who don’t know that they have an allergy.

So, the next time the school gives allergy-friendly snack time guidelines that are inconvenient for you, I am asking for understanding. Please put yourself in my shoes. The shoes of that parent who has to hustle from morning to night to make sure her child is eating food that is nourishing, not poisoning. The shoes of that parent who has to administer Zyrtec daily to keep the hives at bay. The shoes of that parent who has to tell her child no when she longs for that ice cream and cake at the birthday party. The shoes of that parent who had to ride in the back of the ambulance and hold her toddler’s hand and pretend that everything was going to be okay. I’m not asking for pity. I’m asking for the safety of my child.

Allergies don’t stop at the end of Food Allergy Awareness Week. If you would like to learn more about food allergies, you can find facts and figures on the Food Allergy Research and Education website. Kyla has also shared the perspective of an allergy parent at the park.

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Kristine H
Kristine grew up in Houston where she met her husband Richard. The high school sweethearts welcomed their daughter Kara {2014} after naturally overcoming infertility. Sixteen months later, their son Ray {2015} joined their family. She balances the allergy mom life as well as a full-time job at an oil & gas supermajor where she is the queen of PowerPoint. Her Houston roots run deep with her Bachelors degree from the University of Houston and MBA from Rice University. Kristine loves traveling, good food, and experiencing all things H-town with family and friends, especially drinks {bars, breweries, boutique coffee shops!}, museums, and of course, BEYONCÉ. You can follow her adventures on vu hu life, Instagram and Twitter {@vuhulife}.


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