A family is mourning the loss of their 11-year-old daughter who suffered a fatal allergic reaction to a milk-based toothpaste.
Denise Saldate of West Covina, Calif., was diagnosed with a milk allergy when she was 1, according to Allergic Living, after struggling to properly digest breastmilk, dairy, or even soy products.
Parents Monique Altamirano, 43, and Jose Saldate, 43, were given EpiPens, which deliver adrenaline to stop anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that can be fatal. They also habitually read product and food labels, as shrimp, egg whites, peanuts and wheat were possible allergens.
“I cried each time I left Denise in someone else’s care because some people don’t take allergies seriously,” Altamirano told Yahoo Lifestyle.
However, Denise’s parents always made sure their daughter felt included. “We packed her specific desserts to eat at birthday parties and worked with her school on the correct lunch foods,” Saldate told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Altamirano and Saldate had never spotted milk as a toothpaste ingredient, so they allowed her to use MI Paste One, a medicated toothpaste prescribed by her dentist.
“Denise had white spots on her teeth and the toothpaste was supposed to strengthen her enamel,” Altamirano tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She was so excited to use her ‘special’ toothpaste.”
The family did not see the warnings printed on the front-and-back of the tube that the toothpaste contains Recaldent, a milk-derived protein.
On April 4, while she was brushing her teeth with her 15-year-old sister, Denise ran from the bathroom crying. “She said she couldn’t breath and her lips were blue,” Altamirano tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The mom called 911 and administered chest compressions, which she learned in her former career as a school bus driver.
Denise died that night. “The toothpaste was all over her teeth and gums and it cut off her oxygen,” said Altamirano.
Only two weeks after their daughter’s death, Denise’s parents said raising awareness is “the only thing that makes sense.”
Denise, who once convinced 200 students to sign a petition for a slime club, ran her own YouTube channel, and who dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, a news producer and a restaurant owner, was a born leader, according to Saldate.
“We can’t bring Denise back but we can help others in her name,” Altamirano told Yahoo Lifestyle. Denise’s uncle created a GoFundMe page, that has since amassed more than $17,000 in donations, to cover the girl’s funeral services.
“We are so grateful to people who take allergies seriously,” said Altamirano. “Denise wanted to change the world, but it’s heartbreaking how she’s doing it.”
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