A day at Universal Studios Singapore turned into a nightmare when my daughter started swelling and had difficulty in breathing. This happened after she drank 10ml of formula milk.
Baby Rei was a bubbly and smiley eight-month-old girl when we brought her to the crowded theme park on a bright, Sunday morning. She was as cheerful as an 8-month-old (back then) could be, cooing and smiling at everything (Minion figurines and fancy characters included) and everyone (Betty Boobs and random visitors from around the world).
Baby Rei and I were strolling through the park as my elder children were queuing frantically with their Daddy for every ride that they had set their eyes on. I had always been a victim to hunger pangs as a breastfeeding mum and that day, I scarfed down hotdogs, ice cream, and popcorn.
I offered Baby Rei those snacks, which were not appropriate for an eight-month-old, I am fully aware, but I still did. However, she was not keen on those but was happily munching her baby biscuits and feeding on my milk.
Was it the formula milk?
Roughly around the evening, I noticed Baby Rei’s face had swollen up. Her eyelids became so thick that her eyeballs were barely visible and her face was warm to the touch. She was at that point, being very cranky and refusing her solids.
After her evening bath, the swelling persisted. The good thing was that she was giggling and happily splashing water during her bath. My husband and I thought that she might be allergic to the things I ate, as she mostly only had breastmilk (BM) during the day. We didn’t think much of it. Then, we decided to let her try some formula milk (FM) for the very first time.
She started crying after finishing about 20ml or so. She gagged and vomited the milk. We noticed that she started gasping for air. Her her fingers and toes started to swell like a big Ang Ku Kueh – red and warm. I did not even have time to change and was in my home t-shirt and shorts when we rushed to the hospital.
Baby Rei vomited a couple more times – during the journey to hospital and at the waiting area at the Hospital Children Emergency area. Thank goodness it was a short 10-minute wait. When it was our turn, she barely opened her eyes, gasped very heavily for air and was in a very sleepy state.
The nurse rushed her to a treatment room immediately and a team of doctors-on-duty dashed in to check on her. After asking me a couple of questions, their first reaction was “It was a severe food allergic reaction, probably towards her Formula Milk!! We will talk about it later, we need to get her to be awake and ease her airways!!”
The doctors asked me to wait outside the room as they needed to put a drip on her. I was heartbroken upon knowing the little hands that I loved to smell and hold at night would be poked with needles. I waited outside the room with my husband, and I could hear her cry and scream. At that moment, I think her airways must have had opened up.
The procedure took about 10 minutes, and I was asked to go in and be with her. I saw a very drowsy baby, barely opening her eyes. But she caught a glimpse of me, and though she looked tired, she tried to give me her usual two-tooth smile with a tear at the corner of her eyes.
The doctor explained the whole thing to hubby and they concluded that probably milk (rather dairies) was the main culprit. Baby Rei had to be monitored overnight. This was to ensure that she was doing well, as sometimes, a second allergic reaction could appear six hours later. Doctors encouraged me to keep breastfeeding her, as that was the best things for her now.
Her usual self
After the admission, my husband went home. I was left to stay overnight with Baby Rei. Trust me, it is no fun staying at the hospital. I could hear every single step taken by people walking in the corridor. Nurses came in to check on patients at odd hours (kudos to them, though).
Baby Rei wanted me to sleep with her. I must say that with the monitoring devices attached to her big toe and the drip on her hands, it was troublesome to squeeze into her high, steel cot. I had to pat her to ensure that she knew mommy was with her all the time.
Her swelling had gone down by midnight. She was sleeping pretty well, probably due to the medication that had been administered. I was so happy to see her being her normal self.
In the morning, she was an energetic bunny, as she always was. The swelling had almost disappeared, and she was all smiles once again! We were allowed to go home in the afternoon. A group of allergologists or allergy specialists came to give a few words of caution – what to look out for until our next appointment that was a week later.
The experience made both hubby and I realise that allergic reaction in babies (very young children) is far more dangerous compared to that of a bigger kid who can better express themselves.
Some signs to look out for if you suspect your child has had an allergic reaction:
- Rashes or hives
- Swelling of the eyes, lips or tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
Some allergic reactions will disappear on its own after a few hours or days. However, if the symptoms get worse, immediate medical attention is required, especially if there is swelling of the eyes, vomiting, or shortness of breath.
The best way to prevent allergies is to minimise contact with allergens. Food allergies are easier to diagnose with a skin prick test. The procedure is painless. However, an allergic reaction caused by house dust mites, pollen, or smoke are more difficult to determine.
Baby Rei was diagnosed with an allergy to both dairy products and eggs. We have been very careful with what she consumes on a daily basis. Now that she is growing into her toddler stage and more adventurous with food, we hope that she will outgrow her allergies.
Anaphylaxis* was once a foreign word to us, but now we know what it means by heart when the doctors mention them to us during our consultation.
Anaphylaxis* is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to, such as a peanut or the venom from a bee sting.
The flood of chemicals released by your immune system during anaphylaxis can cause you to go into shock. Your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking normal breathing.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting. Common triggers of anaphylaxis include certain foods, some medications, insect venom and latex.
Anaphylaxis requires an immediate trip to the emergency department and an injection of epinephrine. If anaphylaxis isn’t treated right away, it can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
Editor’s Note: Although this incident has passed, it serves as a reminder to all parents that especially for young babies.