Words: Elizabeth Di Filippo
The mother of an 11-year-old girl who died after an allergic reaction to toothpaste is sharing her story.
The family of Denise Saldate, who live in California, US, are in mourning after her sudden death caused by a reaction to a milk protein in prescription toothpaste.
Denise on April 6, just two days after she received a prescription for MI Paste One brand of medicated toothpaste to help strengthen her tooth enamel.
Saldate was diagnosed with a dairy allergy when she was one.
Her mother, Monique Altamirano, said despite being diligent when it came to checking labels and ingredients, she had never seen any milk product present in any previous toothpastes.
“I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” a grieving Altramirano said in an interview with Allergic Living. “She was just excited to have her special toothpaste. Contrary to what everyone’s telling me, I feel like I failed her!”
On the evening of April 4, Saldate brushed her teeth for the first time with her new toothpaste, with her 15-year-old sister in the bathroom. According to the sister, Saldate immediately began crying and ran to her mother for help.
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“She said, ‘I think I’m having an allergic reaction to the toothpaste,’ and her lips were already blue,” Altamirano 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.”
Despite the EpiPen and her asthma inhaler, Saldate’s condition didn’t improve.
‘She was saying, ‘Mommy, I can’t breathe.’ I was saying, ‘I love you, yes, you can…”
Altamirano was performing CPR on her daughter when paramedics arrived. After working on Saldate for several minutes, she was taken by ambulance to hospital with her mother by her side.
Saldate’s father, Jose, and her sisters received the news that she had died when they arrived at the hospital.
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Allergic Living reports that the toothpaste prescribed to Saldate did contain a small warning that it contained Recaldent, a milk-derived protein, as well as a warning on the back of the small tube.
“She was my sunshine, she was the light of my life,” Altamirano said. In the midst of their tragedy, Altamirano is encouraging parents to never stop checking labels when they have a child with food allergies.
“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.”
The eulogy for Saldate’s funeral service also contains a warning written by Altamirano:
“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.”
Saldate’s uncle has set up a GoFundMe page to assist the family in the cost of funeral services.