Perspective of an allergist-mom – part 1: The reaction

    Wednesday, 17 January 2018 19:47  Blog

(an occasional series by Dr. Pedersen about her experiences with allergy in her family)

Prior to becoming a mom, I was pretty sure that I would be calm, cool, and collected about my kids’ health. After all, I am a board-certified pediatrician and allergist. So, when my picky son (we will call him Mini P) was 9 months old and FINALLY ate a few bites of eggs and then refused to eat any more, I thought it was no big deal. When he got fussier and fussier over the next few minutes and just wanted to be held, I thought he was tired from a long day at daycare. When my husband looked at him and said, “he looks blotchy, and is he itching his ear?” I brushed him off. When Mini P refused his bottle, I figured he was overstimulated and brought him to his room to calm him down. When, as I was changing him into his pajamas, he began to projectile vomit multiple times, I finally realized what was going on.

I yelled to my husband to call 911 because Mini P was having anaphylaxis to the eggs. As we waited for the ambulance to arrive and he vomited again, I wished I had a EpiPen at home, and I hoped that Mini P would come out of this OK. When the EMTs arrived, he looked a little better and part of me wondered if I had overreacted. But as we were getting strapped into the ambulance, he began to look grey and his breathing didn’t seem normal. The EMT said that he was going to give him Benadryl and I told him to give epinephrine. He hesitated. I told him that I was an allergist, and this kid needed epi. Mini P got an EpiPen JR in the leg, and a shot of Benadryl in his arm. A few minutes later, on route to the hospital, he was exhausted but on the mend, and I was changed forever.


I always have prided myself on being an empathetic physician. However, I could not fully understand the sheer terror a parent faces when their child is (or might be) having an allergic reaction. I have had to talk myself off the ledge a few times when my anxious-mommy mode over takes my rational brain, and I have had to call Mini P’s allergist (Dr. Accetta, of course!) when my rational brain can’t yell loud enough to calm my anxiety. Usually, I try to imagine what I would say to any other parent in the situation, and I make myself follow those recommendations like:

  • Don’t skip out on brunch – just make sure that everyone washes up after eating eggs, and that you have a really yummy alternative to eat that is safe.
  • Follow your gut – if you are not sure the food is safe, don’t eat it.
  • And of course, always, always, always, have your epinephrine autoinjectors even if you are “just going somewhere for 5 minutes”. Mini P hasn’t had an accidental exposure since he was diagnosed, but I never want to have those terrifying 5 minutes of knowing what is happening and having no way to treat it again.