Denise Saldate was allergic to dairy, but her family had no idea that a dentist-prescribed toothpaste contained a milk protein that would ultimately kill her
Denise Saldate’s family has always been adamant about checking labels to ensure products contained no dairy before giving them to the 11-year-old, who is allergic. Now, the West Covina, California, family is mourning Saldate’s death after she suffered a fatal allergic from a product they never suspected would be harmful: toothpaste.
A dentist suggested Saldate begin using MI Paste One, a medicated toothpaste, to help strengthen her tooth enamel, the family told Allergic Living. Having never worried about dairy ingredients in their toothpaste, the family was shocked when Saldate suffered anaphylaxis while brushing her teeth on April 4.
“She said, ‘I think I’m having an allergic reaction to the toothpaste,’ and her lips were already blue,” Saldate’s mother, Monique Altamirano, told the publication. “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.”
Altamirano added of the frantic moments: “She was saying, ‘Mommy, I can’t breathe.’ I was saying, ‘I love you, yes, you can …’ ”
Altamirano administered chest compressions to her daughter, telling Yahoo! that “the toothpaste was all over her teeth and gums and it cut off her oxygen.” Saldate died two days later, according to her obituary.
“She was so excited to use her ‘special toothpaste,’ ” Altamirano told Yahoo! of her daughter.
As it turned out, the medicated toothpaste contains Recaldent, which is derived from a protein found in cow’s milk.
“I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” Altamirano told Allergic Living. “Contrary to what everyone’s telling me, I feel like I failed her!”
The product contains at least two warnings on the label, notifying users of the milk component. Now, Altamirano is urging parents to always read the ingredients, no matter how harmless the product may seem.
“Read everything. Don’t get comfortable, just because you’ve been managing for several years,” she told the publication. “You can’t get comfortable or be embarrassed or afraid to ask and ensure that ingredients are OK. Be that advocate for your child.”
RELATED VIDEO: New Jersey Boy, 11, Dies from Apparent Allergic Reaction Seemingly Prompted by Smell of Cooking Fish
GC America, the company that sells the toothpaste, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. The family has set up a GoFundMe to help cover funeral expenses.
“Denise Alyna Saldate was such a loving daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and friend with such an amazing personality. She could light up a room and make you smile even when you’re down,” the page reads.
“Through all of her struggles with allergies she always remained so happy. She took everything like a champ! Her presence brought an undeniable grace that was impossible to ignore. Her perspective on life was to always look on the bright side. She wanted to make a difference in the world, and we knew one day she would change the world.”