The parents of an 11-year-old girl from West Covina who they say died of an allergic reaction to toothpaste containing milk are speaking out to warn others.
Parents Monique Altamirano and Jose Saldate, both 43, told Yahoo Lifestyle they had EpiPens and had always taken great care to avoid anything that might trigger their daughter’s severe dairy allergy.
Vigilant about packing safe meals to take to birthday parties and reading the fine print on food labels, the parents said they had never seen milk in toothpaste before, and allowed her to use a medicated toothpaste prescribed by her dentist, MI Paste One.
“I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” Altamirano told Allergic Living. “She was just excited to have her special toothpaste.”
On April 4, Denise started brushing her teeth with the new toothpaste that was supposed to help her enamel, and she immediately began crying, her mother said.
Altamirano said her daughter’s lips were already turning blue when she got to her mother’s room, and, despite administering the EpiPen and an asthma inhaler, Denise was unable to breathe. Her mother, a former school bus driver, tried to revive her using chest compressions but the sixth grader died later that night after being rushed to the hospital.
What Denise’s family didn’t see was a small warning on the toothpaste tube about the ingredient Recaldent, a milk protein that bonds with the surface of teeth.
Now Denise’s parents are urging other parents of children with allergies to “read everything.”
“Don’t get comfortable, just because you’ve been managing for several years,” Altamirano told Allergic Living. “You can’t get comfortable or be embarrassed or afraid to ask and ensure that ingredients are OK. Be that advocate for your child.”
A GoFundMe called Denise “a loving daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and friend with such an amazing personality” who had her own YouTube channel and “was a born leader.”
Memorial services are planned for April 26 and 27; guests are encouraged to wear bright colors “to celebrate Denise’s bright personality.”