Spotting the Signs of Anaphylaxis in Your Child

This week has been all about Jumpy’s allergies. On Tuesday, she had some more skin prick tests, and I felt light-hearted as her previous tests and subsequent milk challenge confirmed she had grown out of her milk protein allergy.

When we arrived at the hospital, Jumpy was not in the mood for being poked and she put on a fight, but the nurse eventually managed to carry out the tests. Raw egg caused the biggest bump, and it did not disappear until later that night, but that was no surprise as she had failed the baked egg challenge in hospital a few months ago. All the other bumps, indicating a reaction to wheat and all nuts, were smaller. They were there, but they were smaller. That is positive, and I am clinging on to that!

The following day, I attended a first aid course at my local children’s centre. The emphasis was on trying to resuscitate a child who had stopped breathing. I practised giving CPR to a baby and a child (on mannequins!) and I now feel more confident with the procedure.

All of this made me think about what could happen to Jumpy. When I took her to A&E with what I knew was an allergic reaction, she was only six months old. Her eyes so swollen she could not open them. Her lips, fingers and toes looked like they had been inflated and were about to burst. Her whole body was covered in hives. She was wheezing. To this day, it is the scariest event I have experienced as a parent.

I now know exactly what to do in case of a severe allergic reaction, but I would like anyone who comes in contact with my little girl to be able to spot the signs of anaphylaxis and have the confidence to follow her action plan, use her Epipen or perform CPR if need be.

Anaphylaxis Action Plan - Warning - Prevention - Knowledge - Being Prepared - Calling for an Ambulance

There are dozens of known allergens that can cause unpleasant symptoms in children. However, there are some reactions that have the potential to be life-threatening, unless urgent medical intervention is sought. A severe reaction – usually caused by an insect sting, a type of medication or food – could be anaphylaxis, which requires swift intervention if a child is to make a quick and full recovery. If your child suffers from allergies, knowing the warning signs of anaphylaxis is crucial.

What Is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis occurs when the body reacts to the presence of a triggering allergen. However, it is not the allergen that is directly responsible for the symptoms of anaphylaxis, rather the enormous amounts of histamine and various other chemicals that the body releases into the bloodstream. The human body treats allergens as ‘invaders’ – in the same way it would treat a virus or bacteria. It is the histamine released by the body that can trigger inflammatory symptoms, and these symptoms can become severe in some children.

What Are the Signs of Anaphylaxis?

Identifying anaphylaxis in infants is not easy, as you cannot communicate effectively with them in order to get details about the symptoms. There are some tell-tale signs that a baby is suffering from anaphylaxis, however. During the early stages of an attack, your child may be suffering from one or all of them.

  • Profuse sweating
  • Wheezing and respiratory distress
  • A fast pulse
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hives and a swelling around the eyes and mouth
  • A sudden discolouring of the skin

The later stages of anaphylaxis can include fainting and a lapse into unconsciousness. This could be a sign of anaphylactic shock, in which case urgent medical assistance will be required. It is also vital that your child is tested for the full range of allergies if you suspect she is a sufferer.

If you child is asthmatic, or if she suffers from atopic eczema, she could be at a heightened risk of anaphylaxis, so it’s vital that you take the initiative and have her screened by specialists. Allergy testing will provide you with detailed information on the foods and substances to avoid, and the severity of your child’s condition. Your child may also be issued with an adrenaline pen, which can be used to provide emergency treatment in the event of a severe anaphylactic episode.

What Should You Do if Your Child Goes into Anaphylactic Shock?

If your child is having trouble breathing, or has lost consciousness, you should call an ambulance straight away. Your child may be gasping for air, which might make you panic. However, it is very important that you remain calm, as your panic might be sensed by your child – exacerbating her breathing problems. If you know what triggered the attack, remove it immediately. This might mean removing a bee sting or wiping food away from her mouth.

In some rare cases, children who go into anaphylactic shock will lose consciousness. If this happens, you should place your child in the recovery position, which involves lying her on her side and using her arm and leg for support. You should also tilt her head so her airway is completely opened. Continue to monitor your child’s breathing until an ambulance arrives. If she stops breathing, or if her heart stops, you should administer a form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – specifically for young children.

Anaphylaxis is rare, but it is on the increase in the Western world. The key to successful management and treatment of the condition is to have your child screened for allergies at a leading children’s hospital, and to prepare in advance for the onset of an anaphylactic episode.

 

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Comments

  1. Gosh what a comprehensive post and one that is so needed to remind everyone how serious allergies are. Poor you and Jumpy on that first occasion. I cannot begin to imagine how dreadful that must have been. So pleased to hear about the cmpa!! Fab. My advice though…in our experience…still go easy on dairy products xx

    • She does enjoy milk in her porridge, but refuses to have it in a beaker. She loves Neocate Active but I only have a tiny bit left. I guess I will have to think about that soon as first thing in the morning, all she wants is her “Milk! Miiiiiiilllllk!”

  2. My friend has a daughter who has severe allergies and went into anaphylaxis. Fortunately she knew enough to remain calm, but goodness me it’s scary. I agree, we all need to be aware that allergic reactions can be so much more than a slight discomfort.

    • You have a good point there, Iona. Staying calm is really important, as you do not want your child to panic on top of their inability to breathe normally.

  3. Must be really scary and so important that people know what to do in case of a problem. #pocolo

  4. Louise says:

    Thank you so much for your informative and reassuring posts on Jumpy’s allergies. My little boy (13 months) had a terrible reaction to baby porridge with cow’s milk at 6 months, though thankfully it was just awful hives and sickness, he didn’t swell or struggle to breathe. It must have been terrifying to have seen your baby like that. Since then we’ve realised he also reacts to eggs, though that’s just a rash. Now I’m back at work and the stash of frozen breastmilk is gone, he’s doing well with soya formula. I am very hopeful of him growing out of his allergies, but I’m worried about how we go about finding out whether he has or not. I was interested to read about the testing Jumpy has had; our GP just prescribed soya formula but didn’t mention any kind of testing. I might bring it up when we next have a prescription check for his formula. Best wishes, and thanks again x

    • Thanks for your comment Louise. Jumpy started reacting as soon as I tried introducing solids and formula (Have you read about it? There is a link in the post.) The only reason she had blood tests and then food challenges in hospital as well as skin prick tests was because of the trip to A&E and suspected IgE allergies (allergies which can lead to anaphylaxis). Before that, we had months of awful skin, insomnia, not knowing what to do, keeping a food diary and basically cutting out a lot of food from her diet. It can be really tough when your little ones have allergies or intolerances. I hope your GP refers you soon. x

  5. Thank you for such an insightful and very detailed post, on never knows when it might come in handy. Poor you and little Jumpy I can’t imagine how worried and petrified you must have been! *hugs*xx

  6. Kim Carberry says:

    So much great information….A lot of it I didn’t know.
    Glad the tests went well x

  7. Thanks for sharing this information and experience, Mel. My son had minor reactions to eggs as a baby, but fortunately he’s grown out of that, which is lucky as he loves them so much now! I’m glad Jumpy’s tests went well x Thanks for sharing with #WotW

  8. Thank you for sharing all of this information. It must have been so scary seeing your little one like that. I hope that you get all of the answers that you all need to move on and to prevent this ever happening again xx #WotW

  9. Tu est très courageuse Mel ! Ma fille est allergique aux poils des animaux et aux acariens comme moi. Mai c’est rien pour apport aux allergies alimentaires. Mon frère est allergique aux poisson et il faut faire attention mais avec un adulte ça va. J’aurais peur pour apport à l’entourage. Il faut que tout le monde sache ce qu’elle peut manger et j’imagine que c’est ne pas évident. En tout cas, “chapeau” pour ton article. Bon weekend 🙂

    • Les acariens, je pense que c’est contraignant comme allergie, surtout quand tu n’es pas chez toi. Maintenant qu’on sait ce qu’il faut éviter pour Jumpy, on se débrouille bien. Bon week-end ma belle. x

  10. Thanks for sharing this very very important information and knowledge. I am not sure if I can be calm when this happened but at least I know what to do. #wotw

  11. Excellent summary of a very serious situation. My mum carries an epipenand has been in anaphylactic shock once and hospitalised twice for bee and wasp stings. She’s had to use the pen at home a couple of times too which is scary. Both my brother and sister are also alergic to bees and wasps and my brother has several food alergies….but touch wood so far none of the children in the family (mine and my nieces and nephews) have shown any signs of allergies. Both my boys have been stung by bees and wasps and each time I’ve given them an antihistimine straight away, not risking finding out if they could be allergic. I always carry antihistimines with so many allergies in my family. It’s important more people know what to do in an allergic reaction so well dne for writing about it.

    • Thanks Phoebe. I always feel nervous when we are near bees or wasps as I have no idea whether she is allergic to these or not. When she had the blood tests, they only checked for foods she was likely to be allergic to, not anything else. If she ever was stung, I would get antihistamines in her before you had time to say the word, and I would use the Epipen if need be. The thing is, I cannot help but think that a sting could happen on a school trip when she is older. Her action plan does not mention bees or wasps. I would definitely want staff in charge of the children to recognise the signs of a life-threatening allergy and have the confidence to use the auto-injector.

  12. Such an informative post Mel – so important to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how scary that trip to A&E must have been for you. So glad that you feel confident in what to do and hope you manage to educate those around you too.

  13. This is such a comprehensive post Mel, so full of information. One of my brothers and one of my nieces both have this condition and carry an epipen. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

  14. What a wonderful post – very informative and thorough. I’m sorry you have to deal with all of this, but it’s information anybody who is ever around children should know, so thank you for sharing.

  15. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) says:

    Phew it sounds terrifying Mel, the thought of anything like that happening to your child is worst nightmare territory and terrifying to think that something so “innocuous” as wheat or eggs could cause that result! Great, informative post xx

  16. I can’t imagine how scary that was hon! We had the hives the first time 5yo had Thai fish sauce but fortunely piriton sorted her out, and I’ve never given it to her again. Thanks for sharing your story to help others lovely xx

    • I would have liked to read something like that when she started reacting to everything she was eating, really. It helps when you know you are not alone. x

  17. myrecipebookuk says:

    It’s great to hear that Jumpy’s allergies look to be improving little by little. Lots if people grow out of them so fingers crossed she’s one of them.

    Thanks for the post. It’s one of those things you never really expect to have to deal with (at least I don’t as I don’t have allergies myself) so it’s good to have an idea of what to do just in case.

    • I really hope she does! Nobody I know has allergies so it was quite a shock when I started weaning her and everything seemed to make her unwell.

  18. Fiona Chick says:

    The thought of your child going through this is terrifying, but it is so vital to be armed with the knowledge on what to do in the event of allergic reaction, no matter what end of the scale it is. I am never far from children’s Piriton, as you never know if they’ll react to a new food. Having an antihistamine close by is always useful because of this. Everything you have outlined is informative and correct. Thanks for disseminating this information, Mel.

    xx

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