As a rule, there are a number of things that we do, to (as the Man likes to say) reduce risk. We always have a cell phone (and we were reminded here as to why), we always carry enough epinephrine for two emergency doses per child, and we avoid foods with vague labels. Something with 'spices?' No way - those spices could be anything. Something with 'natural flavors?' Nope. Those flavors can be derived from anywhere, and could contain enough allergenic protein to trigger an allergic reaction - same goes for natural colors, glucose made from grains, and on and on. It's the gray zone, in which you don't know if something is unsafe, but you also don't know if it is. Considering the choices, we choose caution. When we choose otherwise, inevitably one of the boys takes it upon themselves to remind us why we should not. So, then, we're cautious.
But occasionally something goes wrong. A miscommunication (I thought you said that was okay), an assumption that one of us has evaluated an item (oh. I assumed you'd spoken to the company and approved this) - rarely, but sometimes, sometimes this happens. It happened on Tuesday.
A yogurt that I had not explicitly examined or consulted the company over, and which contained three red flags in the ingredients, was offered with the best of intentions. The Man accepted, and fed it to the Toddles. The Toddles ate it, vomited and had his face decorated with hives. Sensing a cue, the Eldest was whisked off to synagogue by a wise grandfather, who walked along mentally reviewing epinephrine use. (Once at services, the grandpapa settled himself and the Eldest right behind a local EMT, and then prayed. Heartily.) Perhaps feeling like he'd understated the matter, the Toddles emphasized the point, improving the size of the puddle, and was taken upstairs to the bath.
My nose is all full! said the Toddles with some annoyance. I smiled at him and his newly congested nose, and rubbed soap into his hair. Noses are small potatoes in the realm of allergic reactions, and I was just fine with this one. Then, my tummy feels sloshy, he told me, and I popped him out of the bath just in time for another wave. This time, the hives renewed themselves on his face, marching south to his groin. We cleaned him up again, mopped another floor and as the Toddles began coughing, I looked at my splashed pajamas and realized that there was no time for a shower.
The Toddles coughed periodically, unenthusiastically while I packed a bag, planning to have the Toddles observed at an ER - biphasic, or two-wave allergic reactions should be observed, saith the allergist - but here we were on grandparental territory and unclear on how to get to a hospital. Thoughtfully, the Man called an uncle with a good mental map and caller ID (and the wits to consider that we'd call only for an emergency on a Jewish holiday). But no sooner had the Man called, than the Toddles' coughing began to escalate. Scared, the Toddles began to wail.
Little bear, little one, I said gently, I'm going to give you the EpiPen. It's going to hurt, but then it will make you feel better. Crying, the Toddles nestled his face into my chest and nodded. One jab later, he raised his head. All done! he informed me, emphatically. No more. I agreed. No more, indeed. Moments later, the uncle arrived. I considered the options, and six minutes later we pulled into the ER, having driven at speeds that left me breathless.
The Toddles, clutching the EpiPen case and merrily offering to poke anyone in need, was admired by the ER staff. When a third wave of hives appeared, the staff was impressed - but I watched the Toddles' calm face and steady breath, and was unconcerned. Four hours later, hyper on steroids, he was released. I crawled into bed to shake a bit, and curled around a tired, sleeping child. Two days later, I sat down to write an email.
To Whom it May Concern,
I am the parent of a child who is allergic to .... On this date, he ate this product, with this serial number, lot number and use-by date. He experienced this reaction, and required this degree of medical care. Can you tell me what, precisely, was in these ingredients?
Time to go back to basics: if you don't know what's in it, don't give it to them. No matter what. Seems simple enough, no?