This month’s blog post comes from Natalie the Founder of The Allergy Badge. Natalie details an account of delivering an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI).
“You did the right thing Mum, at just the right time…”The first time you administer an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) to your child can be pretty frightening. I was home alone with Ella when she had her first anaphylactic reaction. She was two years old. She swelled up rapidly, her body covered in hives and began struggling with her breathing –– she was soon going blue around her lips. All within just a few minutes. She had eaten just one SMALL spoonful of yoghurt! She seemed so tiny and precious, I didn’t want to hurt her with this ‘scary injector pen’, but something takes over you at that moment and you do what you have to do. We were lucky the ambulance arrived soon after I injected her and although it took a few days of cuddles and aftercare in hospital and on the sofa, I’m so glad to say that she is now okay. I was worried at the time if I had done the right thing, or if I should have waited for the ambulance to arrive first? But her allergic reaction was so fierce and getting worse by the minute. I was in tears, but vividly remember the lovely paramedic putting his hand on my shoulder and saying: “You did the right thing, Mum, at just the right time. Well done!”
That day taught me never to delay administering an AAI if you suspect anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can happen within minutes and time is critical. If in doubt, don’t hesitate and administer. The drug inside is adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, and it won’t cause any harm if it’s a false alarm. It’s always better to be on the ‘safe side’ if you suspect anaphylaxis.
When we were first prescribed AAIs for Ella, the brand we received was EpiPen. I’m not sure we were ever told what they really were and exactly what they do, which now I realise is very worrying. For example, we weren’t told that an AAI is a pre-loaded device that injects adrenaline into the bloodstream to reverse the effects of anaphylaxis. There are a few AAI brands available in the UK, namely EpiPen and Jext. Although they look slightly different and each have their own instructions for use, they do the same job. They should be injected into the middle of the outer thigh and are single-use only. A second pen should be administered if symptoms don’t improve. The patient should always go to the hospital after being administered with an AAI. If you can record the time it was used, that can help the ambulance crew too.
We hope one day Ella’s allergies will improve, but if they don’t, I know I won’t ever delay in using her AAIs. Ella’s life-threatening allergies inspired me to retrain and set up ‘The Allergy Badge’, an accredited training centre. It’s so important to be confident in knowing when and how to use AAIs – the importance of the correct use of these ‘injector pens’ can never be underestimated.
There’s a lot to take in at the point of diagnosis, and everything can feel so overwhelming –– but try not to worry. There is a fantastic allergy community on various social platforms, ours included. We share tips from our training and useful reminders, plus any great ‘allergy food finds’ that might help other families too. It’s certainly made a huge difference to us to realise we’re not alone on what can be a very difficult journey –– where all we want is for our little girl to remain healthy and happy. Please do reach out if you’d like to find out more, are in need of some advice, or would just like to talk to someone who is living it every day. That’s what The Allergy Badge is here for.