Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Food Allergy Article

Another Food Allergy Article I found. More attention is good.

A matter of life or death?
Diane Ryder
DRyder@News-Herald.com
06/04/2007
Jeff Forman/JForman@News-Herald.com;
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Chardon’s Shawn Neece has an EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector, to use in case of a severe allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions to everyday items can be life-threatening
To Kristine Orban, a balloon can be a deadly weapon. "If it breaks or deflates, it can cause a real problem," the Painesville resident explained. "Under the right circumstances, it could be fatal." Orban, a family practice nurse with Lake Hospital System, developed a severe allergy to latex. "I noticed mild skin problems about 10 years ago, after using the gloves," Orban said. She has worked as a nurse for 37 years. Gradually, the skin irritation worsened."It was horrible itching," she said. "And I started coughing. Then, about a year and a half ago, I couldn't breathe."She likened her reaction, anaphylactic shock, to a severe asthma attack - a panicky, helpless sense of drowning, as the air doesn't reach the lungs. The more a person struggles to breathe, the more the throat closes up."It's not the way I'd choose to die," she said. A co-worker recognized Orban's symptoms as an allergy attack, but she was still clueless about the source. An allergy specialist found that the culprit was latex. Which was everywhere in the hospital. "Somebody could be walking by and snap their gloves off," she said. "Once, someone had a birthday celebration at work and brought in balloons. I thought they wouldn't be a problem unless they popped."I walked into the room next to where the balloons were and immediately started coughing. One of the doctors told me to get out of there. One of the balloons had spontaneously deflated." Orban has been hospitalized several times with allergic reactions. Her worst attack, in December, left her unable to work for months. She is hopeful a new treatment strategy will solve her problem. She carries three "EpiPens" - shots of epinephrine, a form of adrenaline, to combat anaphylaxis - wherever she goes. She hopes her workplace becomes latex-free by the time she returns. Why the severe reactions? Health care experts are now in tune to the fact that, to a small but growing number of people, exposure to items that are harmless to most folks can cause anaphylaxis, a closing of the throat that can be fatal if not treated immediately. In some people, exposure to certain materials sensitizes their bodies gradually, building an allergy.An allergy is an over-reaction of a person's immune system. The body responds as if it were being invaded, releasing antibodies and causing inflammation. Antibodies normally work to protect the body from toxins, viruses or bacteria. In extreme cases, the body's reaction includes releasing an antibody called immunoglobulin E, or IgE. As IgE circulates, it may stimulate the body's mast cells to release histamine, a chemical that causes itching, swelling, and fluid in the lungs. About 1 percent of the population is allergic to latex, but an estimated 5 percent of health workers have developed the allergy through constant exposure. Orban said most hospitals, including LHS, are working on making their facilities latex-free. The deadly kissThe 2005 death of a Canadian girl who had kissed her boyfriend hours after he had eaten a peanut butter sandwich brought the issue of severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock into the spotlight. Although the cause of the girl's death was ruled as a lack of oxygen to the brain, the story drew worldwide attention to the severity of some allergies, especially food allergies. Despite the fact that a small percentage of people suffer from extreme allergies, schools, public facilities and airlines have taken steps to help the severely allergic avoid exposure, and possibly life-threatening anaphylaxis, by banning peanuts from airplane flights and keeping life-saving epinephrine on hand.

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1 comment:

Sue said...

That's a good article. It's the first I've read about such a sensitive and deadly reaction to latex. I agree, any life-threatening allergy exposure is good exposure.