So last time I wrote an article on allergies I was sitting in the hospital with my 8 year old son, who was undergoing a food challenge.
He has his spaced-out doses of his allergen over the 4 hours with no reaction, we then waited 2 hours to ensure there were no problems, and then we were sent home. We were given a protocol to follow the next day to give him the same dose of the allergen 24 hours later. All good, standard protocol, nothing to see here.
Except my son was one of the very rare cases who after passing a food challenge the previous day, went into anaphylactic shock when given the food the next day at home.
Now – I am not telling you this to scare you or put you off food challenges. In fact, we have passed many (8 I think) food challenges with no adverse outcomes and they have made our lives much easier as we introduce new foods to our son’s diet. I am telling you this because even with my background as a nurse, when I had to give my son the EpiPen, it was a completely different scenario to the one I had experienced before or had envisaged.
So – on reflection, I have a few thoughts for my fellow allergy parents out there that I thought may be useful to share:
- An 8-year-old can scramble across the floor pretty fast when you say you need to give him the EpiPen. If you are not alone, have someone sit behind them so they are comfortable enough but also can’t move away from you quickly. Giving the EpiPen is not pleasant for either of you but it is over pretty quickly.
- Follow your action plan. We watched my son for a few minutes, and he got progressively worse and we talked back and forward (quickly) about whether he needed the EpiPen. When I got the plan out and ticked off his symptoms it became very clear that it was the only course of action.
- When it works, it works fast. My son reacted to the adrenaline very quickly and felt significantly better within minutes.
- It is critically important that you do not let anyone who has experienced anaphylaxis stand or walk. This is due to a blood pressure drop that can be incredibly serious.
- Practice – use your expired EpiPens on an orange or practice with your trainer pen. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but it is good to be somewhat comfortable with how it feels.
- Have a good old cry as you need to. I was doing OK until I was on the phone to the ambulance and then looked across at my husband. I then had a big cry in the shower when we got home from the hospital.
- And finally – my one worry was that because of how the EpiPen felt to my son, that if he was ever to have another reaction he may try and hide it/himself for fear of being injected again. We have talked about this and are working through it, but I think it is a really important conversation to have.
Francesca Pinzone is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of online allied health services provider, Umbo. She is passionate about bringing health services to children in rural communities and removing social inequalities. She has a MA in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact from the University of NSW, and a Bachelor of Science, Nursing from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Francesca has over 12 years of experience working in non-profit organisations and in international development, having previously worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Pakistan, UNICEF in India and CanTeen in Australia, and also currently teaches Creating Social Change: From Innovation to Impact at UNSW Sydney with the Centre for Social Impact.
She is also a mother of a child who has received speech therapy.