Erica Ehm Exposed!


Why My Daughter Always Carries an EpiPen

How It May Save Her Life

by: Erica Ehm
Why My Daughter Always Wears an EpiPen

There is really one rule in my house. My daughter is never, ever, EVER allowed to leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.

I'm not exaggerating. She was diagnosed with severe food allergies when she was eighteen months old after blowing up like a blowfish after eating tilapia. Life for us changed when we learned she is severely allergic to ALL fish, ALL seafood, ALL nuts, and sunflower seeds. It took a while to comprehend that even if anything comes into contact with said allergen, not just food, my daughter's throat can swell, her blood pressure can drop, and she can die. Just writing this makes me well up.

Which is why my daughter is never, ever, EVER allowed to leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.

The EpiPen doesn't prevent her from having an allergic reaction. That's our responsibility. When she was very young we monitored every single thing she ate. Now, at almost 10 years old, Jessie has also learned to question everything before consuming. She knows not to eat anything she hasn't seen the package from. She's savvy enough to be able to help out parents with what she can and can't eat when she has a playdate. In some ways, she's had to grow up and be more responsible than the average kid. But, to me that's a positive side effect of being burdened with allergies.

The reality is, allergies are unpredictable. As careful as we all are, God forbid there is some crazy cross-contamination and BOOM! Suddenly Jessie can't breathe, she breaks out in a rash, feels an impending sense of doom or any other symptoms indicating anaphylaxis. Administering the EpiPen gives us a short window to deal with the reaction with epinephrine and rush her to the hospital because the symptoms can return or worsen. Terrifying, isn't it?

Life is unpredictable. Which is why my daughter is never, ever, EVER allowed to leave the house without wearing her EpiPen.

Around five years ago, my daughter was four years old at the time, we were rushing out the door to meet our best friends for a family bbq. We were late. Halfway there I realized we'd forgotten to bring an EpiPen. Considering these people were very close to us and knew about Jessie's allergies, I decided to "risk it" and go without. An hour later we were sitting in their kitchen snacking on potato chips while the kids were running around outside playing. When the chip bowl was empty, our lovely host grabbed the bag to refill it. And with horror, I happened to notice the chips were made WITH PEANUT OIL!!! I freaked out, shrieking at my girlfriend. She looked shocked, apologizing profusely. "I'm so sorry! I didn't notice!!"  

All I could think was "THANK GOD THE KIDS WERE OUTSIDE PLAYING AND DIDN'T HAVE ANY CHIPS AND WE DIDN'T HAVE OUR EPIPEN!!!!!!!!!" I was deeply shaken and close to tears.

Which is why my daughter never, ever, EVER leaves the house without wearing her EpiPen. 

If we're late and can't find one of the many we have in the house before we leave, we won't leave until we find it. (Now my daughter has insisted we hang hers on the inside of the front door every night). If for some chance we realize that we forgot it because of some confusion, we go right back to get it — no matter how far we are from our home. When travelling, we take THREE EpiPen Auto-Injectors with us. Just in case.

At a recent "mom and daughter" event in a restaurant, I noticed one of my friends' daughters sitting at the kids table with mine. I knew she also had severe nut allergies but didn't see her wearing an EpiPen. I asked the mom if she had one in her purse. She looked embarrassed and said something to the effect of, "Ya, I know I should have one, but I just didn't think of it. I know I have one somewhere." Listen, I'm not judging her. But I almost fainted when she told me. I was thinking "WHAT IF?!!! WHAT IF THE RESTAURANT SCREWS UP AND YOUR DAUGHTER HAS A SEVERE REACTION?"

After years of reminding my daughter to always wear an EpiPen just in case, now she feels naked without it. Every year we buy a new "stylish" holder from Kozyepi so Jessie can wear her EpiPen around her waist. Recently Jessie said to me, "I feel naked without it now, like I'm missing a limb." This makes me happy. Wise words from an amazing kid.

Which is why my daughter chooses to never, ever, EVER leave the house without wearing her EpiPen. 

Better safe than sorry. The alternative is too horrible to consider.

Severe allergies are on the rise in Canada.
We teamed up with EpiPen so you can arm yourself with information and be prepared if a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs.
You can find out more about life-threatening allergies and read stories from other parents on our A Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Kids with Severe Allergies page.