A California girl died after suffering an allergic reaction to toothpaste. Denise Saldate, 11, suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction to a milk protein found in the toothpaste. Her mother Monique Altamirano is warning parents of children with food allergies.
In an article featured on Allergic Living, Monique Altamirano her daughter’s dentist prescribed a toothpaste to help with spots on Denise’s teeth. On April 4, the dentist prescribed MI Paste One brand toothpaste for strengthening Denise’s enamel and improving the spots.
When Denise was an infant, doctors diagnosed her with an allergy to milk proteins. For years, Monique said she diligently checked toothpaste labels to ensure the product did not contain dairy. Over the years, the mother never found a single toothpaste that contained dairy.
Believing the product was safe for Denise, they began using the toothpaste. Later that evening, Monique said Denise brushed her teeth with the toothpaste. Almost immediately Denise reacted to the toothpaste and started crying.
Her mother said,
“She said, ‘I think I’m having an allergic reaction to the toothpaste,’ and her lips were already blue,” says Monique. “I picked her up and put her on my bed. I ran to the living room,told my daughter – ‘Call 911!’ – and I grabbed the EpiPen.” She administered it, and also gave Denise her asthma inhaler.
“She was saying, ‘Mommy, I can’t breathe.’ I was saying, ‘I love you, yes, you can ….” In desperation, Monique was going to run outside with Denise to meet the paramedics on the street.
Sadly, Denise did not respond to her Epi-pen. Her mother began giving her CPR and waited for an ambulance to arrive. Later that evening at the hospital, Denise died from anaphylactic shock.
After her daughter’s death, Monique realized the toothpaste contained Recaldent. The product is made from milk and helps to strengthen the teeth. The toothpaste contained a warning on the front and back warning individuals with milk allergies not to use the product.
Monique told Allergic Living,
“Read everything. Don’t get comfortable, just because you’ve been managing for several years.” In all situations, she says: “You can’t get comfortable or be embarrassed or afraid to ask and ensure that ingredients are OK. Be that advocate for your child.”
The mother also said she felt like a failure for not checking the toothpaste before her daughter brushed her teeth.
Following Denise’s tragic death, Monique spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle. She reminded everyone to take allergies seriously.
While the death of Denise is tragic, Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist and associate professor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital told CNN the sequence of events leading up to Denise’s death is extremely rare.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard anything remotely like this,” said Stukus, who has been a pediatric allergist for 13 years.
“There are food proteins in many different medications and nonfood products,” he said. “But by and large, the type of food and the amount of food is not nearly enough to cause any reaction in the vast majority of people with food allergies.”
“We don’t want to trivialize this, because we want people to be careful, but we also don’t want them to be afraid to leave their house.”
Additionally, the allergist said that without knowing the full story there is no way of knowing what happened to Denise. He said that deaths from anaphylaxis are generally related to the patient having asthma or lack of or delay in receiving epinephrine.
“We lack the details of this case to really understand truly what happened, but we do know that this tragic case should not immediately be applied to every single person with food allergy,” Stukus said.
A study published by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in Practice in 2017 indicated that deaths from food allergies are extremely rare. The study found that reported deaths associated with food allergies ranged from .003 to .3 per millions of people per year. Individuals most at risk of dying are asthmatics and those that do not receive epinephrine in time.
Her death shatters Denise’s family. Monique told Allergic Living,
“She wasn’t just the light in my life, her smile didn’t just brighten my day, that was just who she was. Multiple kids were saying: ‘She was my best friend; Denise gave the best advice; she helped me get my grades up; she always wanted me to be happy when I was sad.’ That was Denise.”
On Denise’s funeral notice, the family wrote,
“Her family implores those who are aware to share their knowledge and to inform those who are unfamiliar with anaphylaxis of the seriousness of this condition. They hope that in sharing her story, families, caregivers, school staff, and people in general will take this condition more seriously and that all items will be checked for ingredients, even those that may seem irrelevant.”
For more information on keeping your child with food allergy safe at school, visit the CDC.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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