Interview with 'Amazing and Atopic' Blogger Selena Bluntzer, Part II
Selena Bluntzer’s 4-year-old daughter Morgan is atopic; she has eczema, asthma, and food allergies. Selena writes about her experience as the mother of an atopic child in her blog Amazing and Atopic.
We recently interviewed her to find out how she discovered that her daughter was atopic, what she has learned along the way, and what advice she has for other parents.
Please describe your first experience with epinephrine. What did you learn from this experience?
My daughter had picked up a viral illness that starts off with a facial rash, then several hours later produces a high fever and vomiting. Unfortunately, I did not get the memo that this illness was on its way and chose this same Sunday as the day to let my daughter try a new candy. She developed the facial rash shortly thereafter, and that put me on alert, but we had given her Allegra and decided to watch and wait. Later that night, I could hear her breathing with a slight gurgle-sound and I put my head on her back and noticed she was burning up.
I got my husband and we woke her up, and she immediately complained that her throat and cheek hurt, and said she wanted (hemp) milk and then said she wanted to go to the bathroom. All of this was causing me concern. Even though this was several hours after the candy, she has had delayed reactions to foods before. The fever was not on the "usual" anaphylaxis symptoms list, but everything else was setting off bells. I had "new candy" on my brain.
Our daughter was shaking, saying she was cold, and she leaned over the toilet and threw up a little. I cleaned her little face, then I grabbed the EpiPen®, pulled off the safety cap, told her that I was sorry but I needed to give her "this" medicine (she knows what it is and how it works; we had used the trainer many times) and my husband was squatting behind her, hugging her. I pushed it into her leg, until it clicked. She said, "Oww!" and I counted to 10. She stayed still, thank goodness, and then I rubbed the spot for a few seconds.
She didn't seem fazed but later described to me how the medicine went all down her leg and up to her head and it made her heart go really fast "like [my] sewing machine on the fast speed." She also said it was beating both slow, then fast, like on the "broidery" setting, so I guess her heartbeat was changing speeds at times. I asked her if the shot hurt like the ones she gets at the doctor, and she said the ones at the doctor's office hurt more, confirming what I have read about the needle being smaller than those used for vaccines. She said the needle didn't hurt going into her leg. She described it going in as "smooth," which I thought was interesting. It turns out that it was actually the amount of pressure I put on the EpiPen® housing and not the needle itself that made her say, "Ow."
After administering the epinephrine, I called 911, as we're supposed to, and they came to check her out. They told us about the virus going around, and I also later found out about two other little girls who had the exact same symptoms but who don't have my daughter's food allergy history.
It was a stressful night, but once it was all done, all of that built-up anxiety and fear over administering the epinephrine was gone. I am no longer afraid of it. After seeing my daughter talk about it like it was not that big of a deal, I'm hoping she is not afraid of it either. I have talked to her a few times about it since, and she does not seem bothered by it at all. That is the main point I want to get across.
We do not have a crystal ball and have no way of knowing the future. We could have a set of symptoms that turns out to be anaphylaxis where epinephrine was needed, and the same symptoms may end up being a viral illness where epinephrine was unnecessary, as was the case with my daughter. Which would we prefer, to have not needed it and administered it, or to have needed it and not have administered it?
We need everyone to carry their epinephrine at all times, and most importantly, use it!
What are some tips for carrying and properly using epinephrine?
Well, one of my sayings is, "Only carry epinephrine on the days you want to live." Far too many people do not carry their epinephrine and that scares me. Luckily, in the next couple of months, the Auvi-Q™ will be released, which will hopefully change all of that. It is compact and therefore easy to carry, and it talks!
As far as proper usage, each device is different, but the best overall usage advice I can share is to "use early and use often," which I heard the fascinating Dr. John Oppenheimer say at a recent summit I attended. His advice was for physicians, but I think the same can be told to caregivers who are nervous about administering epinephrine. The early administration of epinephrine is key. Delays in giving epinephrine can lead to disastrous results.
What advice would you give to parents for teaching others (babysitters, grandparents, etc.) about using epinephrine?
Again, I would say that it's important not to be afraid. Epinephrine is a "benign medication" and is basically just going to make their heart beat rapidly, but on the upside it can save a person's life. I am very optimistic that the Auvi-Q™ will help put caregivers' minds at ease since it talks and walks the user through the process. I'd rather them err on the side of caution than be too terrified to act when action is required. It's easy to do and they'd be a lifesaver!
Thank you, Selena!