In the first post of this series, I shared one of our experiences with our oldest daughter and an allergic reaction to some food I gave her. In that story, I explained how I debated giving the EpiPen® injection, and then decided to use it.
What I didn’t mention in that post, however, was the reaction our five year old had when I got the injector.
You see, our daughter recently had her well-child visit with her pediatrician. Of course, she was due to have her vaccinations, and it was the first time she was old enough to understand (and fear) what a shot was. Perhaps you have experienced it yourself: the crying, screaming, running, and fighting that comes with a young child utterly terrified of getting a shot. I mean, this girl put up a fight. I was also juggling her infant sister at the time, so that doctor’s appointment was loads of fun. 😉 (Actually, we also had a flat tire on the way to appointment, but that’s another story.) You’ve all had days like that, right?
Anyway, after all the drama with her five year old vaccinations, my daughter had a severe allergic reaction a few weeks later. It was all my fault; I confused two plates of leftovers and gave Izzy the casserole with regular cheese, not her dairy-free vegan cheese, by mistake. *Insert massive amounts of mommy guilt here.* When she started to have a reaction and it rapidly escalated, I pulled out the epinephrine.
Izzy was already starting to cry and panic because of her itchy throat and then stomach cramps. She tends to have strong emotional reactions anyway, but in this case, when I got the Auvi-Q® injector she had at the time, she went into full breakdown mode. Izzy screamed that she didn’t want a shot; she cried harder and her breathing got faster and more wheezy. Pretty soon, she was gasping for air but trying to move away from me and push the injector off at the same time.
Of course, I did what you shouldn’t do and felt myself panicking as well. I fought back that fluttering heart feeling and tried to keep my voice calm and level, explaining to Izzy she needed the medicine and would feel better afterwards. When Izzy started trying to kick off the injector between punches and screams, I’m ashamed to say I started yelling at her to calm down (ironic, right?) and was fighting back tears while trying to hold the epinephrine in one hand and pin her down with my remaining limbs. By the way, it is extremely hard to open and use an epinephrine device while trying to hold a 50 pound fighting girl still enough to put a needle in her leg. I couldn’t hold the injector against her thigh for the full ten seconds, so I wasn’t even sure if she got all of the medicine. I’m not fond of that memory.
A New Concern
After that, my husband and I had a new concern; that Izzy’s caregivers (including ourselves) would have a hard time giving her the lifesaving epinephrine she might need, all because of her fear of “getting a shot.” How could we impress upon Izzy that epinephrine is life-saving medicine and help her overcome her fear?
As I scoured books, articles, and my favorite allergy medical resource sites to find advice, I was disheartened to find very little help about how to deal with this problem. Finally, my post to a parent forum at Kids with Food Allergies revealed a few nuggets of information, and yielded some encouragement and confirmation from other experienced parents. Much of the advice we had already heeded, but input from fellow allergy parents helped us know that we were on the right track, and doing what we could.
Tips For Dealing with Fear of the Epinephrine Injector:
- Have your child practice using the trainer with his or her allergist. – You know how kids listen to other adults or authority figures better than they listen to their own parents? Yeah. This makes sense. 🙂
- Have your child role play using the epinephrine trainer on you or on dolls. – Kids like being the one in charge. Let them play doctor and practice with the trainer device regularly, so that it becomes familiar and friendly, not scary. This seems to have helped with Izzy so far. She has practiced a few more times since that incident, and has even asked more questions about her epinephrine. Going forward, I think we’ll make a concerted effort to practice a few times each year with both of our daughters.
- Try a special hold when using the auto-injector. – This is super practical advice from a fellow allergy parent whose allergist taught her this technique. Here’s how it works (up to a certain age, of course):
- Sit your child on your lap and put his or her legs between yours so you can lock your legs around your child’s legs.
- Bear hug your child with one arm while you inject with the other hand closest to his or her thigh.
- Practice this hold with your child and teach it to other caregivers.
- Try using a different type of auto-injector. – If your insurance coverage or budget allows, this may be an option for you. One parent indicated that her child did much better with the Auvi-Q® injector, because it is rectangular in shape and appears less like a traditional shot than other injectors. Also, some claim that this injector does not have the strong thrust that other epinephrine devices do. This makes sense to me, but not so much to my daughter. Izzy was just as afraid of the Auvi-Q® as the Epi-Pen®, and I think the audible voice instructions freaked her out a bit (though that is one of the things I loved about the Auvi-Q)! In our case, our insurance won’t cover the Auvi-Q® this year, anyway, but it may be something you could consider.
- Always talk positively about the auto-injectors, not fearfully. – Be upbeat about having such amazing medicine available. Explain to your child that this medicine will help them feel so much better right away. Epinephrine is a good thing, and a blessing to those with food allergies. If we, as parents, don’t freak out or talk fearfully about using an auto-injector, we can help our children be less fearful, too. Easier said than done, though, I know!
Know that You Are Not Alone!
Finally, be encouraged if you have run into this problem with your kids! After my initial worry, it felt better hearing feedback from other parents who have had their children run from them when epinephrine was needed. If you don’t already, I highly recommend that you join and participate in an allergy forum, like those at Kids with Food Allergies. We allergy-families have to stick together and learn from each other! 🙂
Have you had any experiences with children fearful of their injector? What did you do to help alleviate or solve the problem? Your story may be a blessing to others (like me) who are struggling with this issue!
*** DISCLAIMER: While I strive to find solid information in my research and I share my family’s stories with you to build a community of support & encouragement, I am NOT a medical doctor or professional dietician! Nothing here is meant to diagnose, treat, or prevent a medical illness. If you suspect you or your children have food allergies or have food allergy related medical questions, you should consult your physician. Food allergies are nothing to mess around with! ***