An 11-year-old girl in California has died after suffering an allergic reaction to an ingredient in a toothpaste, the child’s devastated mother said.
Denise Saldate was just 1 year old when she was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy, so her family became vigilant about ensuring the food and products she came into contact with contained no traces of ingredients that could prove deadly to her.
“She was my sunshine, she was the light of my life,” Saldate’s mother, Monique Altamirano, told Allergic Living.
Everything Denise came into contact with was examined beforehand by both her family and, as she got older, herself, including toothpaste. But in all their years of scrutiny, neither Denise nor her mother had ever seen a toothpaste with milk among its ingredients.
So when it was recommended at Denise’s dental office that she start using the MI Paste One brand of medicated toothpaste to help strengthen her tooth enamel, her mother thought nothing of it.
“I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” Altamirano said.
Neither did Denise, Altamirano said, noting: “She was just excited to have her special toothpaste.”
But a milk protein was among MI Paste One’s ingredients, and when Denise used it to brush her teeth April 4, she suffered a fast-moving anaphylactic reaction.
Denise’s older sister, who was with her at the time, rushed with her into their mother’s room.
“She said, ‘I think I’m having an allergic reaction to the toothpaste,’ and her lips were already blue,” Altamirano said.
While Denise’s sister called 911, Altamirano administered an EpiPen and gave Denise her asthma inhaler. Trained in CPR, Altamirano began compressions while waiting for paramedics, who took over trying to save Denise’s life when they arrived.
They worked on her for several minutes before putting her into an ambulance.
Her father, Jose Saldate, and her sisters, were at the hospital waiting for her when they learned she died on the way there.
“Contrary to what everyone’s telling me, I feel like I failed her,” Altamirano said through tears.
She stressed to Allergic Living the importance of always remaining alert in reading labels and ingredient lists. MI Paste One includes on the front of its toothpaste tubes a warning that it contains Recaldent and milk protein. Cautionary wording is also on the back.
“Read everything. Don’t get comfortable, just because you’ve been managing for several years,” Altamirano 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.”
Denise was in the sixth grade and was remembered for her bubbly personality and as a “born leader.”
“She started a petition to start her own slime club at school and to get an umbrella for her table at lunch where she hung out with her friends,” her uncle wrote on a GoFundMe page he created to help offset the costs of her funeral.
“Her goal to make a difference will live on in the form of organ donation as she saves other children's lives,” he wrote. “Her memory will live on in our hearts.”