Eugene Cho

one of the scariest days of my life

As a parent, having a sick child is horrible – especially because you want to “fix” things but often can’t. As a parent, taking your child to the ER because of a possible life threatening situation is probably the worst.

Yesterday, Minhee and I experienced one of the scariest days of our lives.

Our 11 year old daughter has some pretty bad food allergies since birth: eggs, shellfish, and all nuts. She’s “overcome” the egg allergies but she’ll likely need to deal with the others for the rest of her life.

Yesterday at church, she unknowingly had something that she thought was okay but may of had some walnuts.

And before you knew it, she started to get itchy, her upper lip had some slight swelling, rashes broke out everywhere on her body, and the thing that we dread the most: she started wheezing and subsequently, she  had difficulties breathing normally.

We have carried around an EpiPen since she was couple years old and yesterday, had to use it for the very fist time. Administering the epipen on your child ( basically stabbing your own child) sucks pretty bad. We took her to the ER immediately afterwards to give her some additional medical care…

We’re thankful that she’s on the mend but certainly, one of the scariest days of our lives.

The past week or so has been intense but this really puts everything into perspective.

But seriously, what is up with all the food allergies. Minhee and I eat everything; absolutely no allergies at all. When our daughter was younger, we thought she’d be one of the few kids with food allergies and unfortunately, we were very wrong. It amazes me (in a bad way) how many of her friends are also allergic…to the point that there are actual nut-free sections in her school cafeterias.

Who amongst my blog readers have allergies?  What are you allergic to? Advice?

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34 Responses

  1. gar says:

    2 interesting articles… don’t know if you’ve read them or not:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/62296

    and

    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/nurtureshock/archive/2009/11/16/kids-food-allergies-are-skyrocketing-is-the-spike-real.aspx

    On a teaching related note, when during one my student teaching experiences at the “rich school” there were about 3-4 kids per classroom with food allergies – nut, egg, shellfish. They had an allergy free table at lunch, epipens galore in the nurses’ office and in the classroom.

    Now that I teach at a “low income school”, I’ve maybe only had 2 kids with food allergies, and none severe enough to need an epipen. Strange, huh?

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Madison Cavanaugh, danna cruise. danna cruise said: one of the scariest days of my life « eugene cho: Our 11 year old daughter has some pretty bad food allergies s.. http://bit.ly/07fSqx8 [...]

  3. David says:

    Our 20-month-old daughter has a pretty severe peanut allergy (and a milder allergy to pistachios and hazelnuts) and we have to carry the epipen as well. We’ve yet to have to use it, but the day we found out (the hard way – my wife was home with her and I was at work) is certainly one of my least favorite days ever.

    At least schools and other places are much more educated about this growing menace now. I can’t imagine what it was like for y’all 5 or 10 years ago.

    My wife can eat anything, and ate peanut products all through pregnancy and up until we found out about the allergy (she still nurses some) and our girl never had a problem with that or with things that say “may contain traces…” even though we now have to avoid those things. I can’t eat peanuts, but my docs have told me mine is a food intolerance, more closely related to acid reflux, than an actual food allergy. (That is, no systemic reactions, just a very upset stomach.)

  4. Tony Lin says:

    My wife and I are not allergic to any foods but both of our kids have food allergies. Eggs, dairy, nuts, my daughter to soy and wheat too but she’s mostly outgrown the later two. We’ve had epipens for both of them since they were just a few months old but never had to use it… yet. The scariest part was when they were too young to know what they could and couldn’t eat. It was hard to leave them in SUnday school and stuff. That’s why I’m very sensitive about kids with allergies at my church and preschool.

  5. Phillip Gibb says:

    wow, I know how you feel; my son has excema and I just want to scream. I’ld take it onto myself to spare my son the pain and irritation. I’ve even gotten angry with God.
    I just don’t know where is came from. At least now – from tests – we know that milk can irritate it to a small extent and that Dust Mite contribute big time.

    Phill

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Our daughter had such excessive eczema that we had to tape socks on her hands when she was younger because she’d wake up bloodied – literally.

      Ugh. I still get all emotional thinking about the first 2 years of her life.

  6. your friend says:

    as you probably know I am allergic to mold (mildew) yet had to live in a moldy home for 10 years (due to financial restrictions). I was itching for 4 months each year (humid summer period) so badly that I was bleeding at times. At night I could not sleep and even during sleep kept itching my whole body. My husband woke up when I moved and each time laid hands on me in prayer (which really helped to find relief!)

    But at times I thought I am going crazy. I wished I had pain, rather than itching, since pain killers work, but no medication worked for this terrible itch. Only when finally bleeding I got relief.

    I am now in the new home without mold for one year. I thank God every day for this new home. Every day several times.

  7. esther lee chong says:

    i just came across your blog from a friend’s facebook. interesting that i came across it on this topic…

    i’m sorry you had to go through such an experience.

    when my now 4.5 year old daughter was 9 months, we discovered that she may be allergic to dairy. at 12 months that was confirmed and when she was 16 months, she drank out of someone else’s sippy cup at church and to my horror figured out that it contained cow’s milk. she started itching her eyes, breaking out in a rash, and wheezing. i rushed her to the hospital (probably about 7 min away) and i saw her eyes swell shut as i was driving her there. after that, we went to the allergist to find that she was also allergic to eggs, all nuts, and some seafood. she is now outgrown all allergies except for the nuts. we also carry around an epipen and thankfully have not had to use it yet.

    my husband and i are not allergic to anything. our 2nd daughter (26 months), so far, is not allergic to anything. at my daughter’s preschool, the entire school is peanut free.

    are your other children allergic to anything? out of fear of a reaction, we have yet to give our 2nd daughter any nut products.

  8. my husband has a peanut allergy and went to the ER as a child for peanut allergies. now he just avoids them and even though is deathly allergic, has learned how to vomit up his food if it has nuts in it.

    i myself have allergies&asthma too, and i have gone into anaphylaxis before. (i did not have an epipen at the time and i should have) it was THE most horrifying experience of my life (gasping for air). now that i understand the signs and symptoms to look for (wheezing, hives, shortness of breath) i know when to use it.

    so even though the “idea” of using an epipen seems scary, there’s no need to feel that way- you have the ability to save your child’s life. but it may be a good idea to carry more than one in case the first one doesn’t work. (you can ask your doctor what they recommend).

  9. Matt says:

    I’ve been allergic to particular fruits since highshcool. Growing up, I had no real allergies, but always noticed that I’d get some hives coming out of the swimming pool on my stomach and such. All of a sudden, at around highschool, it became more severe, and I found out I became allergic to the cold (of all things…yeah).
    found that out, after my sister’s car died in the middle of the street in january, and I had to push it out of the way. after that, I started wheezing, couldn’t breathe, and fainted.

    After that, then I started developing allergies to fresh fruits with skin you eat(eg apple, pears, peaches, plums). I’ve ‘outgrown’ the cold allergy now, but that fruit allergy still lingers on.

  10. g.song says:

    praise the Lord she’s ok!
    esther: ladder-bay! :D

  11. Eugene,
    We had a similar experience with our daughter our first week in Austin, and she shares the treenut allergy…and has just apparently outgrown the egg allergy. It’s not an experience we want to go through again…glad your daughter is okay!

  12. Rebecca says:

    I’ve lived with horrible allergies all my life. My birth mother actually died of anaphylactic shock-if they had an epi-pen back then she might have lived. My parents carried an epi-pen for me when I was little, although I am fortunate enough to not have nut allergies, and most of my food allergies are not as severe. My biggest struggle is with my skin-excema has plagued me since I was little, and I know exactly what commenter ‘your friend’ is talking about above-the itching, the pain. It an be unbearable at times.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      rebecca. yeah, i remember you sharing that story with me a while ago. goodness gracious.

      you still struggle with skin eczema? i don’t remember seeing it on your hands or face? J has it pretty bad on her hands, knees, elbows, feet…

  13. scary indeed. glad she’s doing better. i’m allergic to dairy and only developed it last year. it’s no fun but it sure is better than how I felt while eating dairy = dizzyness, swelling, fatigue, more prone to illness. also allergic to cats and tobacco but who cares- that’s like being allergic to lava and plutonium. filed under “things i’m hoping to avoid anyway.”

  14. Andy M says:

    My wife has pretty bad allergies, but I don’t have any that I am aware of. I keep hoping that our baby girl will take after me on this.

    I don’t know much about this, but I wonder if it is similar to my understanding about how virus’ are getting worse because of our common use of antibiotics. I can’t even necessarily say that that is true, but that’s what I’ve heard. I think that much of what ails us these days stems from the environment we create for ourselves. But that is hard to prove.

    I’m glad she is doing OK.

  15. Tonya says:

    I was the new kid in school in 4th grade. I sat alone a lot during the first few weeks of school. It was painful and alienating and embarrassing. Seattle Public School District rules state that peanuts and nuts are not allowed in our schools. But then my daughter came home to tell me that her friends still can bring Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, Peanut butter crackers and pretzels, nutty bars and other nutty goodness in their homemade lunch. I was shocked that school’s “procedure” for handling peanut foods in Seattle Public School District is to then remove the child who has the allergy and put them at a separate table. I was livid. They were, in my eyes, punishing my child for having this life threatening allergy. And furthermore, if it is a school rule why are parents allowed to repeatedly break it?

    Their response was that they are protecting her from cross contamination by removing her from the contaminated area. And that some parents can’t afford a protein rich lunch and that peanut butter is a readily available cheap protein. I understand all of their points.

    But my point was this – isn’t it easier to put the children with peanut products at the same table? Then the contamination zone isn’t potentially the entire cafeteria, but just one table. Then the children at that table can have access to sanitizing hand wipes so that they don’t leave the cafeteria with their dirty peanut butter covered hands thereby removing the risk of contaminating the classrooms and the playgrounds as well. Although we have learned to live with the schools methods, it doesn’t mean that I agree with them.

    Children with food allergies often have a really hard childhood. They often have eczema on their hands and face that is viewed as contagious disease by other kids. They get picked on for not being able to run or play because of their asthma, and then they get alienated in the cafeteria in a society where relationships are built over food. They don’t get to celebrate birthdays in full, the party will always have a dark cloud over it. The cake, the treats, goodie bag could be full of allergens. They lose over half their trick-or-treating stash right off the bat because they can’t eat most of it. Eating out is a pain. Try asking the serve the ingredients to every item on the children’s menu. We even got a response once at a restaurant, “No, no eggs. Just a little bit on the chicken to make it moist.”

    The difficulties of parenting a child with allergies are due much to ignorance, but the most painful part is due to insensitivity. And the insensitivities do not just go hand in hand with schools. The ignorance is prevalent in all aspects of society. I went to a church once that had a social. To protect my child, I made sure that I asked what allergens were in all the foods at the social and I made tags to go on each of the dishes that stated the allergens contain in each one. People thought it was funny, and began switching them from dish to dish, then they began adding items to the tags that weren’t in the dish at all and then it escalated to people wearing the tags. At that same social, my daughter had an allergic reaction and we had to leave. I have never gone back to that church.

    I will never be able to protect my child fully. She will always be at risk of consuming allergens, but I have equipped her with the tools that she needs to protect herself. She asks questions, and if there is even a doubt, she will go hungry before putting herself at risk. I admire her courage. She smiles and you would never know it hurts her. But I know – because I’ve held her as she has sobbed, heartbroken and asking “Why did God make me this way?”

    • Eugene Cho says:

      J also asks that question all the time.

      I’m sorry about your church experience. I have a feeling it might even be Quest. We’ve had to really communicate to people at our church how serious this is. And what happened yesterday is certainly evidence of that.

  16. Steve says:

    There is a small ministry that has looked into the phenomenon of allergies, etc.

    There seem to be some emotional and Spiritual roots…or at least links.

    http://www.beinhealth.com/public/

  17. Kacie says:

    this isn’t about allergies, but this post mirrored yours with the fear of dealing with emergencies and your own kids:

    http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

    This girl is a young woman, not even out of college, that moved to Africa to take care of orphans. She’s single and has a house full of kids. Her heart is amazing.

  18. As a child I was allergic to anything with red food dye in it – I grew out of it but its still another reason to avoid everything with dye in it. My husband is really allergic to bananas and pine nuts (apparently the entry point for latex allergies), but most people can’t believe he could be allergic to bananas (they swell his throat so he can’t breathe).

    My daughter’s preschool class is totally nut-free. There were some really angry parents at first because of that. I understand that for parents of picky eaters who refuse to eat anything other than PBJ that means that their kid goes hungry at lunch. But I get it. My kids hate PBJ, but we’ve had to cut out hummus which is a sandwich mainstay for us.

    It’s fascinating as to why so many allergies to whole foods have arisen alongside the rise of processed synthetic foods. What are we doing to our bodies?

  19. Jenni says:

    prayed for you guys! i’m SO glad she’d doing better and all is well. i can’t imagine having to “stab” my child. WOW!

    i only have lactose intolerance… and i can’t seem to stop eating cheese. so… i basically just do this to myself.

  20. Steve Rose says:

    Our youngest daughter Kenzie (will be 3 in December) has severe allergies to all dairy. We found this out the first time she had formula as an infant…very scary, especially when my wife kept trying to force her to drink thinking she was just being stubborn! Since then she also has been tested to have many other allergies, animal dander being a big one.

    We were told her allergies were most likely a result of her being a preemie. She was born at 34 weeks, after 10 weeks of major difficulties, including 5 weeks of hospital bed-rest for momma. Don’t know if anyone else here had preemies, but that’s what we’re attributing it to as neither of us have allergies, except for some seasonal pollen-type crap.

    We too carry an Epi-pen and a seemingly unending supply of Benadryl for the ‘minor’ incidents. Glad to hear your daughter is doing okay.

  21. pjchris says:

    Please give her our best. I have had to use an epi-pen on myself and while it saves your life (yea!), the after affects are less than pleasant. We’re praying for her (and you and Minhee).

  22. Dale says:

    Praying for your her quick and full recovery. Scary indeed!

  23. Gabs says:

    My mom’s got a life threatening allergy to shellfish. I don’t have any allergies (neither does my husband), but my daughter was diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies at 18 months. She’s five now and has outgrown the tree nut allergy (although we still avoid for fears of cross contamination). Her RAST levels keep going down each year so we’re hoping she might be outgrowing peanut. who knows. Until then you just keep them as safe as possible. School’s a challenge, but we’re working through it. I blog about our experiences if you’re interested. Glad your little girl’s ok!

  24. Kyle Nolan says:

    I’m allergic to bees, which is different from some other allergies because it’s something that can develop over time. I’m not a doctor so I don’t really understand why this is, but I was stung enough times as a child (playing in the woods and stuff) that I developed an allergy. The first time I had a reaction was one of the scariest days of my parents’ lives. A year later, almost to the day (both times on Labor Day) I was stung again. My mother wrote later about her fear that she wouldn’t be able to take care of me in time in one of her college classes, and at some point in high school I found the essay and read about it. I’d never considered before the fear she’d experienced, but I know now how traumatic something like that can be.

    I’ve been stung several times since then, but by the time I was 11 I had had to give myself a shot at least once or twice. If I have advice to give, it’s this: make sure your daughter knows how to use the Epi Pen herself. It’s scary, but when it’s such a serious situation, you get over the fear. And make sure she knows to get some benadryl afterwards. I don’t know about her allergies, but when I get stung, my reaction isn’t completely stopped anymore. I still need to take benadryl afterwards or else I’ll develop hives.

    Praying for you.

  25. Rudy says:

    Glad your daughter is better.

  26. Erick says:

    A friend of mine recently loaned me the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell. It came out in 2006 and speaks to what and how we consume and its long term effects on the body, mind, etc…I only started reading it and I am not sure if it specifically deals with food allergies at any point, but is a rather comprehensive book (from what I’ve read). If any of you want to give it a look through I’d recommend at least that.

    Here’s a link (obviously, the following site is a plug for the book, I’m sure you can look elsewhere for differing views about it)

    http://www.thechinastudy.com/about.html

  27. Monica Yoo says:

    Hi Pastor Eugene,

    I had and still have really bad eczema on my hands since childhood and allergy medicines seemed to help a little. If she already has a topical steroid medication (or you can use hydrocortisone 1% over the counter) she rubs on her skin, place saran wrap over the area so the medication penetrates into the skin and bandage (with coban or bandaging tape) around the saran wrap so it stays in place at night when she sleeps. Eczema is always tough at night…but this method has helped me a lot and was recommended by my dermatologist awhile back. Also, epipens have an expiration date so make sure to keep your stock up to date. Glad to hear she is better.

  28. [...] daughter (food allergies) had a bad reaction and resulted in us doing what we feared the most: injecting her with an epi-pen and the ER when she began to have difficulty [...]

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

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I love my church. So proud of the ways they seek to embody compassion and justice. Some of them were in downtown Seattle this week to demonstrate their solidarity with Ferguson.

I'm in the middle of a 3 month sabbatical at Quest. I'm grateful for this time of rest and rejuvenation...but I miss my church dearly. Can't wait to be back in October. There are some amazingly beautiful churches around the world. Just remember though that true worship begins when you exit the church walls and live out your faith and convictions.

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