A Texas mother shared a photo of her daughter mid-anaphylactic shock to remind others of how scary food allergies can be.
Earlier this month, Julie Berghaus took her three-year-old daughter Maren to an allergist for a controlled tree nut challenge, which tests if people are allergic to certain nuts.
The allergist gave Maren one-tenth of a cashew and, at first, it seemed like she was only experiencing a mild reaction when she began scratching her ears.
Minutes later, the toddler was complaining of stomach pain, began coughing and was having trouble breathing before she passed out.
In the photo, Maren is being given an oxygen mask to help her breathe and a blood pressure cuff is around her arm as she lays on the exam table.
Berghaus, who lives in Frisco, said her daughter thankfully recovered, but said she wants to warn other parents to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis so they can administer the proper treatment for their child before it’s too late.
Maren Berghaus, three, of Frisco, Texas, was undergoing a controlled allergy test earlier this month for cashews when she went into anaphylactic shock (pictured)
Her mother, Julie, said Maren (left and right) began itching and then complained of stomach pain. She was given an EpiPen shot, which calmed her symptoms for about 10 minutes
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated recommendations on preventing food allergies in children.
Previous guidelines said that parents should wait four to six months before introducing high allergenic foods to children including milk, eggs, fish and peanuts.
The new guidelines, in fact, say that introducing peanuts as early as four months can prevent a peanut allergy in high-risk infants.
Berghaus told DailyMail.com said the test was scheduled because Maren had a skin test the month before that said she was allergic to all nuts.
‘She had already been eating some nuts with no reactions. So we knew these were false positives,’ Berghaus said.
‘So we had to schedule an oral challenge to verify if it was a true allergy or not.’
The mother-of-two said she wanted to enroll Maren in an oral immunotherapy program, in which the immune system is trained to not recognize allergens as ‘triggers’ by eating small amounts of the food.
‘It’s [a] costly and very lengthy, dedicated program. So the allergy must be verified prior to starting,’ she said.
WHAT IS ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK?
Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, can kill within minutes.
It is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to a trigger, such as an allergy.
The reaction can often be triggered by certain foods, including peanuts and shellfish.
However, some medicines, bee stings, and even latex used in condoms can also cause the life-threatening reaction.
According to the NHS, it occurs when the immune system overreacts to a trigger.
Symptoms include: feeling lightheaded or faint; breathing difficulties – such as fast, shallow breathing; wheezing; a fast heartbeat; clammy skin; confusion and anxiety and collapsing or losing consciousness.
It is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Insect stings are not dangerous for most victims but a person does not necessarily have to have a pre-existing condition to be in danger.
An incremental build-up of stings can cause a person to develop an allergy, with a subsequent sting triggering the anaphylactic reaction.
Even when Maren began feeling itchy, her mother said she didn’t seem bothered by it and continued to play with an iPad.
Not long after, she started to complain of a stomach pain. The allergist administered an EpiPen shot, which seemed to calm Maren’s symptoms.
However, this lasted only about 10 minutes before she began itching again.
‘Upon inspection, her entire body was quickly breaking out in severe hives before our very eyes,’ Berghaus wrote on Facebook.
Maren kept playing, but then she began coughing. When a nurse checked her vital signs, her blood pressure was low and her pulse was racing.
The nurse put a stethoscope to her chest and, even though the toddler wasn’t wheezing, she said Maren was having trouble breathing.
That’s when staff realized she was going into anaphylactic shock.
The immune system releases chemicals that flood the body, blood pressure suddenly drops, and airways narrow, which prevents someone from breathing normally.
Symptoms usually occur within minutes and include hives, a weak pulse, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and a swollen tongue or throat.
To reverse this, an epinephrine solution – a medication and a hormone – is injected into the thigh muscle, which dilates blood vessels to bring blood pressure back and up and relaxes the muscles of the airways so the sufferer can breathe again.
‘They laid her down quickly, and she then started blacking out,’ Berghaus wrote.
The allergist’s staff gave her albuterol – a medication that prevents asthma symptoms – another EpiPen shot and a steroid.
‘It only took about 10 minutes to get out of that dangerous zone. It took about two hours to completely get the hives gone,’ Berghaus said. ‘She was fine. She was like nothing ever happened.’
Maren then broke out in hives (pictured), which was followed by coughing. When a nurse checked her vital signs, Maren’s blood pressure was low, her pulse was racing and she was having trouble breathing
Not long after, Maren passed out and she was given albuterol – a medication that prevents asthma symptoms – another EpiPen shot and a steroid. It took two hours before she recovered. Pictured, left to right: Maren, mom Julie, dad Oliver, and seven-year-old sister Morgan
The mother took to Facebook to explain that anaphylaxis is not the way that it is shown on TV and to warn parent to watch for the signs.
‘I expected to see choking, gasping, hear wheezing, and see her grabbing at her chest and neck area,’ she wrote.
‘I expected the entire ordeal to be very fast and obvious and dramatic. It was actually very silent, and she didn’t show any severe trouble until very late in the game.’
The original post has more than 37,000 reactions and has been shared more than 87,000 times.
Berghaus, a former operating room nurse, also said that she wants others to know that EpiPens are nothing to be afraid of.
‘Give the EpiPen as soon as two symptoms occur, such as itching and belly pain,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘Don’t be afraid of the EpiPen. It will not hurt the allergy sufferer, even if it wasn’t truly needed. Better safe than sorry.’