How Our Holiday Almost Ended Before It Began
The Mysterious Allergic Reaction
The colour drained from my face as I watched Corey cough and fuss uncontrollably.
We had just arrived at our hotel in Disneyland Tokyo. Just five minutes ago we were happily exploring our hotel room. Now, the area around his eyes was red and developing a rash that looked suspiciously like hives.
Even though I have been through many allergic episodes, it still surprises me how quickly allergic reactions advance. We went from happy smiles to spluttering wheezing before I’ve had time to process what caused the reaction.
And to make matters worse, I was facing this situation by myself, while the husband went off to rescue our missing luggage (a funny story for another time).
Meds given followed by the longest 30 minutes of my life
As the reaction escalates, my brain had to work fast and cycled through my options.
It was obvious he was reacting, so I quickly gave him a dose of antihistamines and watched closely for any improvements.
After ten minutes, the redness and fussiness came down a notch, but he was still coughing. So I administered a second dose of antihistamines. His breathing improved after this second dose. After another 20 minutes, he was playing happily in the hotel lobby.
disclaimer: I must emphasize that I am only relaying what I did in this situation. This does not in any way reflect a default action plan for every allergic reaction. In fact, on hindsight, I realized mistakes which I could have avoided or done differently which I will explain further.
So What Caused This Mysterious Reaction? House Dust Mites?
I had never seen Corey cough this way before. The high pitched whistling and wheezing were new.
And so scary.
Scarier for me because having had childhood asthma, I knew that horrible weak lightheaded feeling that comes with not being able to breathe properly.
Corey had not eaten anything nor been around food for a few hours before the reaction. I could only hypothesize that it was house dust mites from the hotel room.
Ten minutes before the reaction, the boys had been excitedly exploring this bunk bed in our hotel room.
Our allergist had warned me that Japan has house dust mites. Corey’s house dust mite allergy was diagnosed at the age of one. He said children usually develop dust mite allergies around the ages of 3 and up. So Corey was obviously highly sensitive to dust mites.
Knowing this, I had emailed the Japan hotels in advance about Corey’s condition. I requested for extra cleaning and removal of all down beddings and pillows which the hotel gladly helped with.
Perhaps even these extra precautions were not enough for a highly allergic child.
True to my suspicion, Corey’s coughing resumed with gusto when we re-entered the hotel room later that night.
Between his intermittent coughing and my checking on his breathing every hour, we did not get much sleep that first night.
In fact, we took down the details of the nearest hospital and considered sending him to the hospital the next morning. We even entertained the thought that we may have to cut short the holiday if his condition did not improve.
We dodged a bullet with this reaction
Thankfully, his condition had improved by morning and continued to get better over the next two days.
We were able to continue with our travel plans but it was a truly harrowing first two days in the hotel. He would be fine outside, but once back in the room, the coughing resumed.
So grateful for the helpful and accommodating staff at Hilton Tokyo Bay
When I informed the desk manager at Hilton Tokyo Bay of Corey’s reaction, she immediately jumped into action. She got one of the concierge staff, who could speak fluent English to help translate.
They ordered another round of cleaning for our room and placed another air purifier there. This extra cleaning was ordered for our room for every day we stayed there. And the conceirged called up everyday to check Corey’s condition.
We had two air purifiers in our room and the concierge who could speak fluent English called us every morning to check in on us.
The power of necessity resulted in a creative idea for DIY aerochamber
I kicked myself for having brought out inhaler but not taking the toddler aero-chamber with us.
It was whilst spending a good part of the first night listening to him wheeze that I came up with the idea of making an aero-chamber out of a mineral water bottle.
Thankfully Corey was co-operative and while not perfect, the makeshift aero-chamber worked and gave him much needed relief. That and around the clock allergy meds, saved our holiday.
As with every allergic episode, I am only able to process fully everything that happened after he had fully recovered.
On hindsight, I think we could have done well to take a trip to the hospital. And thinking back, it was a situation that might have been appropriate to use our Epipen. Therein is the complex and tricky difficulty in judging allergic reactions. Every reaction can be very different so it takes a lot of conditioning and learning.
A lot of understanding of your child’s symptoms is required and I urge every allergic parent to work closely with their allergist to learn as much as possible about how to care for your child. Highlight to your doctor that you are travelling and to which country. They know best how to handle an emergency situation for your child, especially if they have been following your child’s progress.
I should have checked and rechecked medicines and creams needed for Corey. You can be rest assured that for future trips the Aero-chamber will not be an item I will forget to pack!
Thankfully Corey responded well to the meds we did have. We watched him like a hawk those first few days. His symptoms improved and were almost gone when we moved to our Tokyo service apartment where his breathing went back to normal.
Plan Ahead and don’t stop planning
The planning never stops when it comes to travelling and highly allergic kids. I should have researched the nearest hospital and check out the travel time needed even before we got there. Again, another item I will file away for future reference.
I know it’s hard to cover ALL the bases necessary when travelling with young kids. But not doing anything will increase the stress by ten fold. So just keep planning! I’ll add a post on all the planning I did in another post, but first, you MUST download the following link if you are travelling to Japan with an allergic child.
Download this extremely useful “Travel to Japan Factsheet”
I found this very useful TRAVEL TO JAPAN FACTSHEET on Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). I urge every allergic parent to print and carry it with you as it contains useful common Japanese phrases for food allergens and also symptoms translation. download it at this link TRAVEL TO JAPAN FACTSHEET
Last but not least, Thank you Tokyo Hilton Bay and especially Matsuda san who was so attentive in making sure we were ok.
It was not easy to help meet the needs for my extremely allergic Corey, but Hilton Tokyo Bay did what they could and my boys and I definitely appreciated it!
Next up, I’ll be posting about a much more light-hearted topic of all the new foods Corey tried in Japan. And he had so many new experiences on this trip!
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