Fatal Reactions

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 3:24am
janfran's picture
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Joined: 08/29/2000 - 09:00

I apologize if this seems morbid.

I had my first reaction to peanuts 30 years ago at the age of 3 -- constricted breathing, increased heart rate, violent vomiting, etc. Until I was 21, I never met another person with a peanut allergy

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 4:21am
Kathryn's picture
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Joined: 02/17/1999 - 09:00

I spoke with my doctor about your question while discussing the recent death of one of her patients from anaphylaxis. The doctor's answer was that emergency treatment and epinephrine were not received quickly enough to counteract the over reaction of the body's immune system. [I also answered in the other forum with more comments of a different nature.]

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 3:54am
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Liz
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Joined: 01/17/1999 - 09:00

I find that a child's death upsets me more than an adult's, usually because the adult had more control over his/her environment.
I haven't heard yet of an adult PA (NO OTHER allergies) who ran into trouble following the sort of precautions that seem elementary to me - no asian food, eat out only at restaurants that you have checked out thoroughly, take your own food camping and don't share.
So I usually shrug and say 'what was the idiot expecting?'
Also, I make sure I know where the nearest (1/2 hour) hospital is to wherever I am. I turn blue very shortly after my reaction starts, so I've never had any difficulty persuading medics that I had something seriously wrong with me. And if I go, I go.
Live with a moderate amount of care, be prepared. Can't do much more than that.
Liz

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 4:10am
Kathryn's picture
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Joined: 02/17/1999 - 09:00

Do you carry epi-pens? It isn't clear from your post. Medical research recently has clearly demonstrated that early, if not immediate, use of an epi-pen does save lives. My adult brother did not carry epi-pens and is alive now only because his last, most serious reaction ever, occurred in a building next door to a pharmacy. Someone ran to get the pharmacist and he used 2 epi-pens on my brother before an ambulance finally arrived to take him to hospital. He had not carried an epi-pen because he hadn't grown up with them and believed that avoidance and quick arrival at an emergency room would be enough. 2 young men in our area died last year because neither of them carried an epi-pen and a child died perhaps because one one wasn't administered as soon as it should have been. An older man died recently on a trip abroad and again he did not have his epi-pen with him. Epi-pens don't always save lives but they are the most important first line of offense so if you don't have one, please, please get one and use it immediately if you have any symptoms at all. I know this sounds strident and lecturing but my almost losing my brother was really scary and the other deaths were all preventable and that upsets me. Take care.

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 4:26am
janfran's picture
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Joined: 08/29/2000 - 09:00

I agree that the death of a child is terribly upsetting and that adults have more control over their environment and therefore responsibility for their situation.
However... "What was the idiot expecting" is useless sentiment to anyone who has experienced anaphylactic reactions to food that apparently had no nuts/legume/tree nuts, nor contact to nuts/legume/tree nuts.
One of my worst reactions was to cake prepared by a friend using slivered "almonds" (which I love and eat plentifully), packaged and labeled as "almonds" that were in fact bleached, flavoured peanuts.
Thankfully few companies would risk such a mistake these days, but never say never.
My question remains: In the case of a fatality, what was the difference in that last reaction?

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 4:36am
janfran's picture
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Joined: 08/29/2000 - 09:00

Kathryn,
Thanks for your reply.
Yes I do carry an epipen (I have 4 -- one in my purse, one at work, one at home and my husband also carries one).
Unfortunately, I've had a very scary reaction to epinephrine at a hospital -- pain so excruciating I thought I actually was dying. (And just read about a member of this site experiencing a heart attack.) Therefore I avoid using the pen if possible.
Also, two of the fatalities I heard of recently both occured after the administration of epipens -- two pens in both cases.
I have always hated the idea of being alarmist and realize that complete avoidance of an allergen in the best medicine, but still...

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 5:19am
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Janfran - The differences in a fatal reaction could be a number of things. Most fatal reactions occur away from home and medical attention isn't found quickly enough. They occur when the Epipen isn't given early enough in the reaction to work. I just read a very depressing quote on an anaphylaxis website stating that sometimes, no matter what measures are taken, death occurs anyway.
You don't mention if you also have asthma. A person with out of control asthma and anaphylaxis has a much higher risk of a fatal reaction. If your asthma is under control, your risk is lower. The fear that you mention as part of your reaction is listed as a symptom of anaphylaxis - anxiety is part of the deal. I would recommend a website I found (not the same one I mentioned above) in Austrailia (!). Although it is aimed mostly at parents who have children with anaphylaxis, it may also help you to understand that you can take control of this allergy, and not let it take control of you. [url="http://www.allergyfacts.org.au/living.html"]www.allergyfacts.org.au/living.html[/url]
Best of luck and let's hope for a cure soon.

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 7:28am
Tina H.'s picture
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Joined: 10/13/1999 - 09:00

JanFran...
I have a couple of questions for you. You mentioned that over the years, your reactions have gotten more severe. My daughter has had only one reaction, which I believe was quite severe. Immediately after tasting peanut butter at one year of age, she developed hives on her face and neck, her face got red and swolen, and her eyes swelled shut. By the time the ER saw her, almost one hour later, the symptoms were almost gone without medications. From your experience, is this more similar to your early reactions or your more recent reactions? In other words, do some people have many reactions before they become as severe as my daughter's or does this sound like a milder reaction? Thanks for any input on this!

Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2000 - 7:32am
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Liz
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Joined: 01/17/1999 - 09:00

"slivered "almonds" (which I love and eat plentifully), packaged and labeled as "almonds" that were in fact bleached, flavoured peanuts."
Which is why I or my friends prepare any nut containing foods, including the nuts, right from scratch. Which usually means shelling, blanching, slivering, roasting etc. NEVER trust the package.
I also try to obtain nuts etc directly from the producer, before processing - so, since I'm in a hazelnut producing area, I eat a lot of hazelnuts.
I also carry epipens, antihistamines and I have a paranoid husband, all of which contributes to a certain peace of mind while I am out and about. Also, I don't have any complicating conditions - when I have a reaction that's all I have (which is quite enough, thanks).
I leave the hyperventilating panic to DH, and normally remain far calmer than the people treating me. After 40 years, either I will survive or I won't, and all I can do is maximize the odds in favour of survival by being honest about which stage the reaction is in and exact about the amount of difficulty I am having breathing etc.
Since everyone's severity of reaction is different, you are the one who has to determine your own comfort level of paranoia about exposure. Being upset about someone else's demise due to the same allergy is a lot like being upset about a fatal car accident on a route you regularly travel. You'd still go that way, and you might take a little more care in that intersection, but I doubt you'd stop driving altogether.
Liz

Posted on: Wed, 08/30/2000 - 12:30am
janfran's picture
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Tina H.
Since finding this site and reading about others' experiences I feel I've learned so much about my own reactions. But, every reaction is slightly different, so I never know exactly what to expect in terms of severity (which is one of the reasons I originally asked the question).
I have never experienced crippling anxiety or fear, but those around me often panic. I like to know as much as possible about what to expect so that I remain calm myself.
I don't know if this helps...
When I was very young, like many people, I immediately experienced the strange sensation in my mouth, my lips would swell within moments of contact and I would vomit violently (usually within 5 minutes). Most of my swelling was internal. After vomiting, my nasal passages would completely close, my breathing became labored and I would have trouble swallowing.
As I got older, I stopped vomiting. Then the external swelling started. Swollen eyes and face, etc. within 10-15 min. It was on such an occasion that I was first administered epinephrine (what a miracle!). In the past 15 years, I've had only a handful of incidents. In most cases I did not actually ingest (ie. spitting out before swallowing or environmental contact only), but still ended up in the hospital. Also I've had DELAYED reactions which I find the most disconcerting.
What I have noticed over the years is that less and less contact will cause more of a reaction. (I once wore the full-body lifejacket provided on a whale watching boat. I guess someone who wore it before me had eaten nuts. My entire body became one big hive, I couldn't open my eyes and my windpipes became constricted.)
The life-threatening nature of this allergy was only brought to my attention in adulthood. I had always felt that I understood what was going on and could control it. Learning this was not true made me want to gain better understanding from the experience of other people.
I would think that what might change for your daughter if she's exposed in the future is the length of the reaction. When I was young I also could end up playing happily within an hour or so after exposure.
Also I have noticed that epinephrine and benadryl both can give the illusion that the reaction is over when in fact it might recur when the drugs wear off. I have always assumed that by that time, the threat is lower, but based on the recent accounts I've heard I'm not so sure... (anyone?)

Posted on: Wed, 08/30/2000 - 1:17am
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Does anyone know what the chances are of having fatal reaction when everything is done right (Epi-pen and benadryl administered early/immediate emergency room care)?
I live in constant fear that even if I do everything right during my son

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