Anaphylaxis from peanuts

This peanut allergy thing just got real. Up until now Riggs hasn’t had a severe reaction from peanuts, but we can’t say that anymore.

We were at a super bowl party with family and he accidentally ate a peanut butter m&m. Someone saw him and said “wait, did he just eat that?!”

That scary moment has changed our lives, and we won’t be the same. The few hours after that moment were so heart wrenching and scary for our little family, but we are grateful things ended well and because of it we are more prepared and educated than ever.

We found out riggs was allergic to peanuts when he was just 6 months old. He broke out in hives from the TINIEST bit of Peanut butter on his toast. We visited the allergist soon after to confirm, and sure enough he is allergic to peanuts. His blood work numbers have always lingered around 2.0 (which is really low on the allergy scale) and his allergists have been optimistic that he could be one of the lucky 1/5 kids that outgrows the allergy before the age 5. He has had a few minor reactions from random things that were processed with or cross contaminated with peanuts but this was the very first time he had actually ingested the real deal. This super bowl party was it, the moment I’ve looked back a million times already and though, if we just did things differently.

Back to the story…

“Wait did he just eat that?!”

We all froze and I ran over and immediately gave him 5ml of Benadryl, and took off his shirt and waited for any sign of a reaction. The whole time trying not to freak out, hyperventilate, or pass out!

Since this was the very first time he had fully ingested peanuts, I didn’t know what to expect. His allergists said that his blood work numbers were in the range of anaphylaxis and that we should always carry epinephrine with us. They also said that there is no way to know for sure if he will actually have an anaphylactic reaction if he does eat peanuts and that he could just have other symptoms that aren’t life threatening. They had advised us to give him Benadryl if he ever got hives on his face, and if they spread through his body, if he got red, or had trouble breathing then to do his epi-pen and rush to the hospital. I thought we were well prepared, and thought I knew what to look for. So we waited. For 45 minutes all eyes in the room where on him and we carefully watched him for any changes. Nothing happened! We were thrilled. Maybe he really is lucky and outgrew the allergy, maybe the Benadryl did the trick.

Yeah, we were wrong.

About an hour after he ate the m&m and we were getting our stuff gathered to go home he threw up. He still didn’t have hives, or a rash, or swelling, those were the things I was waiting for. I was still naive and optimistic, we dodged a bullet. Maybe his body just didn’t like the peanut, and now he would be ok. This wasn’t the start of anaphylaxis right?!

Yeah, we were still wrong.

As we got the kids in their car seats and started on the 20 minute drive home Riggs started coughing. He has asthma and had a particularly hard few months with it leading up to this. Just a few days early he has been to the dr because he had such a persistent cough. His dr had upped his asthma medicine, given him an oral allergy medicine AND started him on an antibiotic. So coughing is normal for us, especially this week. Maybe him eating this peanut butter m&m had just triggered an asthma attack?! After a breathing treatment and his steroid he would be fine. He couldn’t be having an anaphylactic reaction…. right?!

Still wrong.

I climbed in the back seat so I could keep an eye on him, I was still looking for hives, redness, and swelling. Still nothing. Riggs was becoming uncomfortable and saying his belly hurt, and pointing to his neck and saying it hurt. I gave him two puffs of his inhaler and I told Kelley we better head to the children’s urgent care where they could do a breathing treatment. Still in denial that this actually was anaphylaxis, and just thinking it was a minor symptom affecting his asthma. The urgent care is on the same campus as the hospital so I figured if things got worse we were close to the emergency room. Within 3-4 minutes Riggs breathing was getting worse, and his face was starting to get bright red. Redness….That was the thing i was looking for! And it all clicked. He was definitely having a reaction from the m&m. And it was definitely starting to get serious. We were pulling off the freeway exit headed to the hospital and I told Kelley to head to the emergency room not insta care. He didn’t realize how bad it was getting and I felt like he was driving 2 Miles and hour. The hospital is maybe 2 miles from the exit but it felt like 40.

Riggs was stating to really struggle with his breathing and I could hear that every breath he took was labored. I had his epi pen in hand but was nervous. We were so close! What if I did the epi pen wrong? Or what if they do something different and the epi pen will have negative affects? What if? What if? What if?! I was starting to feel panic, and had tears in my eyes. This was serious. And scary. And Riggs was not doing well.

We were a block from the hospital and I told Kelley to REALLY hurry. Like break the law if he had to! He still didn’t know how bad it was. I started to unbuckle Riggs from his seat and get him ready to be rushed in, I still had his epi pen in hand. I was taking off the lid, this was happening, i was going to do it…. but then we pulled up to the hospital, Kelley ran around to get Riggs and jogged in. I got Etta out of her seat and was maybe 50 yards behind him epi pen in hand.

The hospital is re building right now and in the process of moving the ER to another building, so it was all a little confusing and took me a second to find the correct door. What I saw when i finally got by the construction and through the makeshift doors will forever be etched in my memory. It literally felt like a scene from a movie. That sounds so dramatic, but it really was so scary. I walked into the lobby and there were only 2 other people in the waiting room, both were standing and looked terrified and anxious. I followed their gaze and they were looking at Riggs and Kelley. Kelley stressed and waiting at the unattended reception desk, holding a shirtless Riggs. Riggs looked horrible, BRIGHT red from the shoulders up and the look on his face was sheer desperation. His eyes caught my eyes and without saying a word it was like he was begging me to help him. With every labored breath he took i could see every single rib as his skin was being pulled with each breath. Retraction. I knew that that was not a good thing. He was not ok and i needed to help. I went into full on mama bear mode. I stared banging on the reception desk and yelling, yes yelling “he is allergic to peanuts and having a reaction!” The women walking by stoped and looked at me, almost like she was going to reprimand me. But I am sure she saw panic and terror in my eyes as i stood by a helpless little boy barely able to breath. She rushed over and opened the door to let us through to the admitting rooms, and grabbed the closest nurse. The nurse was so calm and collected, he looked at Riggs and asked a few questions. “What did he eat?” How long ago”. He was taking what felt like FOREVER.

He must have had to tune out crazy moms a lot because he was in his own world doing his things. But slow! I finally said (well maybe shouted) “he is having an anaphylactic reaction from eating peanuts, he is allergic, do you want me to give him his epi pen?!” Showing the nurse the epinephrine in my hand. And then I could see it click… he called out a series of commands and codes to the staff and rushed us back to a room. Within seconds the dr was there and the nurse was giving Riggs epinephrine.

I was on the verge of a panic attack. We had made it, he was being helped by people who knew what to do.

The room quickly filled with medical people, a handful of nurses, respiratory teams, wires, monitors…. it was all a blur. There little Riggs sat in the center of it all, Kelley by his side solid and steady. The dr calling orders, and his team executing. I am forever grateful for them, that team that literally saved Riggs life that night. It is insane to me that they do that, save lives, every time they come to work. They save little boys who bodies are in distress from accidentally eating peanuts. They save moms, and dads, and grandmas, grandpas, neighbors, friends. They save lives, and they saved a big part of my entire world that night.

It took about 20 minutes, epinephrine, steroids, multiple antihistamines, and breathing treatments for Riggs to finally be stable. And then the hives came! all that time I was waiting for hives, they were the one thing I though would show up first. Now, almost 2 hours after him eating the M&M the hives came. His body was COVERED in huge hives. At one point the nurse decided to take off Riggs pants to keep an eye on the rash and see if it was spreading and it was everywhere. From the top of his head to his tiny baby toe.

The Dr on call wanted us to stay the night to make sure that things where really clearing up so we set in for a long night at the hospital. Riggs dozed off and me and Kelley decompressed from everything that just happened. We cried, we laughed (at how naive we were) and we made an emergency plan for the future.

Within 5-6 hours after getting to the hospital riggs was better. His breathing was back to normal, he didn’t have a rash or a single hive. Thank you Modern medicine! Since we live so close to the hospital the dr said we could head home and keep a close eye on Riggs until the morning. We left with a long list of medicine and instructions, but he was going to be ok! The next day he was completely back to normal and if you saw him you would never have guessed what his little body just went through.

We learned A LOT from the experience. To be honest i am really grateful that is happened, because it opened my eyes. I now know when to give Riggs his epi pen, we are more vigilant in what he eats, and we have a emergency plan in place. Peanut allergies are hard core, scary, and life threatening, but being prepared and ready for anything can save lives.

We learned that everyone is different and even though it is very common for the first signs of a serious reaction to happen right away and within minutes that it can take up to a few hours for symptoms to appear.

We learned that it can’t hurt to give him epinephrine and that if I ever even slightly think he is having a reaction to inject epinephrine and head right to the emergency room. It won’t hurt him and it is better safe than sorry.

We learned a lot that night, and are glad we are on the other end telling the story this way and not having a horrible ending.

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