I didn't know what anaphylaxis was. Now I sort of take it for granted that everyone knows what it is, which if course they don't.
The Dictionary defines Anaphylaxis as: Hypersensitivity especially in animals to a substance, such as foreign protein or a drug, that is caused by exposure to a foreign substance after a preliminary exposure.
It also defined Anaphylactic Shock as : A sudden, severe allergic reaction characterized by a sharp drop in blood pressure, urticaria, and breathing difficulties that is caused by exposure to a foreign substance, such as a drug or bee venom, after a preliminary or sensitizing exposure. The reaction may be fatal if emergency treatment, including epinephrine injections, is not given immediately.
My first exposure to analphylaxis was when Isabella was about 5 months old. She had had eczema in varying degrees since she was a bout 6 weeks old, the most recent and severe bout was treated with oral steroids and I finally felt we had gotten on top of it. My Mum had been pestering me (in a caring way of course) that maybe Bella was being affected by the food I was eating coming through in my breast milk.
We were attending a wedding in Tasmania, and so flew down for a long weekend. After the wedding (where I had eaten smoked salmon, cakes, desserts laden with eggs and dairy!!), I thought I could see the effects of my milk in her cheeks as I fed her. I sent Peter off to get formula, bottles and a breast pump to save Bella from my poisonous breast milk.
We gave her a bottle made up with Cow's milk formula. She drank 5 maybe 10mls tops, and began to scream (not just cry), as I mopped up the milk she spat out, I noticed her neck swelling. At first Peter thought I was over-reacting (which I am known to do) – but mothers intuition rules and I didn't back down. We bolted straight downstairs (we were in a hotel), got directions to the nearest hospital, loaded her in the car and raced to get help. She was still screaming (which is good cos it meant she could breathe), and threw up rather violently.
Thankfully the hospital was close and empty. We were seen immediately. By this time she was starting to get a bluish tinge around her mouth. I don't think her airway was completely constricted, but I was beside myself never the less. She was treated there and then shipped to the children's hospital for observation over night.
Mum was right (isn't she always), but what a way to confirm it!
Bella now has an Epi-pen (adrenaline injector) with the school nurse and one which we take with us. Fortunately, we have never needed to use it…. touch wood.
To learn more about Anaphylaxis, listen to Sabrina's story. Sabrina died in 2003 from anaphylactic shock. Her story is heart-breaking.