'Pollen allergies are probably our most common trigger here'
EUGENE, Ore. - Nina Watkins faced every parent's nightmare June 2.
"It was a routine checkup and I really really thought that we would just be getting another medication that day," Nina recalled of a visit to the pediatrician's office for her daughter's asthma.
But Nina's 4-year-old daughter Mia went from the pediatrician’s office to being directly admitted to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend.
Before they knew it, Mia was on a helicopter bound for a Portland hospital.
The culprit: An allergen-induced asthma attack.
"Pollen allergies are probably our most common trigger here," Mia's pediatrician, Dr. Tamara Barstow, said.
Grass pollen routinely lands Eugene atop Pollen.com's list of the worst cities for allergy suffers each June.
And on June 2, levels of grass pollen had spiked from the moderate reading that morning to the very high concentration recorded the next morning.
By June 5, the grass pollen count had hit 757 - nearly four times the 200 level that marks the start of the very high category.
And Barstow said any asthmatic is at risk of an attack like the one Mia experienced.
Barstow said the key to Mia's survival was that her mom knew when to take her to the doctor.
"She had been taking all of her, correctly taking all of her controller medications but began to need to use her rescue inhaler, her albuterol more and more frequently. And during the day that she got sick she used it up to eight times," said Barstow.
Once in Doctor Barstow's office, Mia was put on a nebulizer.
Signs of a serious asthma attack persisted.
“If it was something we could do in the office was going to help, that would help," Barstow said.
Mia spent four days in the ICU at Portland’s OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
Nina said Barstow ultimately saved Mia’s life.
"We just thought this is a great opportunity to really talk to people and let them know allergies here can get bad really fast," said Nina.
With her doll Lilly in hand, Mia is active and feeling better.
Now both Mia and Nina know the signs and exactly what to do if severe allergies strike again.
"Just have a fabulous laminated treatment plan everywhere we go now so," said Nina.
Barstow said there are a few signs parents should look for to tell if their kid is having a severe allergic reaction.
- Nonstop coughing or wheezing
- Less talking because it’s hard to breath
- Less activity for a typically active child
Barstow also said to prevent kids from having a serious asthma attack parents can make sure kids are taking their preventative medications correctly. Parents can also make sure kids keep up routine visits with their pediatrician.
For Nina, she’s just happy Mia is alive - and hopes Mia will never have to be in this emergency situation again.
"Yeah without our kids we don't have anything," she said. "Brings to light what's really important.”