Julie Ferrier Berghaus was surprised to see that her 3-year-old daughter was “actually very silent” during anaphylaxis

By Julie Mazziotta
March 19, 2019 01:34 PM
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Credit: Julie Ferrier Berghaus

A Texas mom wants parents to know that allergic reactions look nothing like they do on television — they’re much harder to detect.

Julie Ferrier Berghaus brought her 3-year-old daughter, Maren, in to the hospital for a controlled tree nut challenge — where doctors give her small doses of various nuts to monitor her reaction and check for any allergies. Maren had previously tested positive for allergies to all nuts, but she had since tried a few types “and had no reaction,” Julie tells PEOPLE, so the doctors wanted to double check.

“They basically had to verify by feeding her a little bit of the nut to see if it was a true allergy or not,” Julie, 41, says.

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Maren Berghaus

Doctors gave Maren about one-tenth of a cashew and waited for her reaction. After five minutes she just had itchy ears. That progressed into a stomach ache and itching all over, so doctors gave her an EpiPen shot and oral Zyrtec, which worked for ten minutes before Maren developed more intense itching and hives all over her body. They gave her a Prednisolone shot, and after another five minutes Maren started coughing, and a nurse confirmed that she was wheezing and had a fast pulse.

“Amazingly, she was still just playing, and just annoyed with the itchy hives!” Julie wrote on Facebook.

But “it all changed moments later,” Julie said, and Maren started blacking out, going in and out of consciousness for ten minutes as doctors gave her various anaphylaxis medications.

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Julie said that she was shocked to see that an allergic reaction is almost undetectable for a long time.

“It was nothing like we expected to see. It snuck up on us so unexpectedly and quietly,” she wrote. “I expected to see choking, gasping, hear wheezing and see her grabbing at her chest and neck area. I expected the entire ordeal to be very fast and obvious and dramatic. It was actually very silent, and she didn’t show any severe trouble until very late in the game.”

Julie wants other parents — and anyone who ever watches her daughter — to know that they need to act quickly to prevent anaphylaxis.

“If she hadn’t already been given meds before she blacked out, I don’t want to think of how severe it could’ve been,” Julie said. “Please if you are one of the people that cares for my child or spends time with her, be careful what you eat around her, what you give her and DON’T be afraid to [use an EpiPen].”

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Maren Berghaus

Julie tells PEOPLE that seeing her daughter go through an allergic reaction changed her understanding of allergens.

“We’re much more careful because we didn’t realize how severe it was, and we’re much more likely to give the EpiPen as soon as we see a reaction,” she says. “We expected reactions to be like they were on TV where a person just starts gasping for air and their face is huge and swollen. We couldn’t even hear her wheezing and she didn’t even show any signs that she wasn’t breathing well. We definitely avoid things way more than we were.”

  • With reporting by MARIA PASQUINI