Her daughter was just excited to use her "special" toothpaste. But an allergic reaction to it took the life of the 11-year-old.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 31, 2019. It has since been updated.
As a mom, ensuring that your child has their hygiene, eating and essentially good habits are in place is a priority and that is what Monique Altamirano was doing with her 11-year-old daughter Denise Saldate. The only extra step Monique had to take was to make sure to check labels so that she could avoid products with dairy in them as Denise was allergic to it.
However, tragedy struck when Denise suffered a fatal allergic reaction from a product they never thought could be harmful - toothpaste. And it was a reaction that caused the untimely and devastating passing of the young girl, reports People.
Denise had been diagnosed with a milk allergy when she was a year old and ever since then, her entire family worked towards keeping a close eye on the ingredients in the products that she used to make sure she was safe.
“I cried each time I left Denise in someone else’s care because some people don’t take allergies seriously,” Monique told Yahoo Lifestyle. Naturally, Denise's parents always ensure their girl was taken the utmost care of. “We packed her specific desserts to eat at birthday parties and worked with her school on the correct lunch foods,” Jose Saldate, Denise's father told the news outlet.
On April 4th, Monique took her daughter to a dentist who had recommended that Denise use an MI Paste One toothpaste which would help strengthen her tooth enamel. "Denise had white spots on her teeth and the toothpaste was supposed to strengthen her enamel,” she said.
Since the mother had never seen milk being one of the key ingredients in a toothpaste before, she didn't deem it necessary to check the label. “I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” she told Allergic Living. “She was just excited to have her special toothpaste.”
However, that is when things went downhill. This particular brand of toothpaste contained an ingredient called Recaldent, which is derived from a protein found in cow’s milk. It was mentioned on the label and had a cautionary warning on it.
So when Denise brushed her teeth with it, she had an instantaneous allergic reaction to it. “She said, ‘I think I’m having an allergic reaction to the toothpaste,’ and her lips were already blue,” Monique said. “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 was saying, 'Mommy, I can't breathe.' I was saying, 'I love you, yes, you can'."
Until the paramedics arrived, the panicked mother began CPR on Denise. Once the ambulance got to the house, Denise was transferred into it. Sadly though, her body was unable to handle the allergic reaction and she succumbed to it shortly after. "The toothpaste was all over her teeth and gums and it cut off her oxygen," Monique said.
“I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” she told Allergic Living. “Contrary to what everyone’s telling me, I feel like I failed her!”
Now, the shattered mother wants parents of children with allergies to avoid making the same mistake. She warns them to check everything and to never make assumptions about what is safe for them.
“Read everything. Don’t get comfortable, just because you’ve been managing for several years," she said. “You can’t get comfortable or be embarrassed or afraid to ask and ensure that ingredients are OK. Be that advocate for your child.”
In the eulogy she has written for her daughter’s funeral service, Monique notes: “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.”
“We can’t bring Denise back but we can help others in her name,” Monique told Yahoo Lifestyle. Denise’s uncle started a GoFundMe page which has gotten more than $17,000 in donations to cover her funeral services. “We are so grateful to people who take allergies seriously,” said her distraught mother. “Denise wanted to change the world, but it’s heartbreaking how she’s doing it.”
However, Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist and associate professor at Nationwide Children's Hospital, states that the way in which Denise suffered is very rare, reported CNN. "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."
Adding to that, he said, "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."